A new baby’s skin is very sensitive.
As soon as they are born, there are number of skin conditions and rashes that can occur for many different reasons.
You don’t always need to panic if your baby has a rash or their skin does not look like you think it should. There are quite a number of skin conditions that are very common in newborn babies.
However, of course, this article does not replace actual medical advice, so if you’re worried about any aspect of your baby’s health then you should contact your health care provider as soon as possible.
5 common skin conditions and rashes in babies
Babies can get acne—sometimes called ‘milk pimples’. This is usually because of the leftover pregnancy hormones in their body. Baby acne will usually go away about 6 weeks after birth—when their hormones regulate.
- Pink, or skin coloured bumps on the face, and sometimes back and shoulders.
- These bumps can have a white head like pimples.
- They won’t be itchy, scaly, or flaky—so if you think your baby’s skin is irritated, it may not be baby acne.
- The skin around these bumps can sometimes become inflamed and red.
How to treat
- There is no real treatment for baby acne—it will go away in time.
- It is not caused by dirt—so don’t bother with an acne treatment and don’t try to scrub the pimples away—this can lead to further skin issues.
- Avoid oily lotions or moisturisers that could exacerbate the problem.
- Just wash your baby’s face and skin with water every day, and pat dry rather than rub dry.
Nappy rash occurs when your baby’s skin becomes irritated after it reacts with the urine in their nappy. Nappy rash sometimes occurs regardless of how well the baby is cared for—so don’t be too hard on yourself if your baby gets it. The best thing to do is change your baby’s nappy as often as it needs to be, and if they get nappy rash, just try to treat it as quickly as possible.
- Inflamed skin: skin in area looks red and weepy
- Blistering: the skin may blister and peel, leaving raw patches (ulcers)
- Ulcers may appear on the healthy skin near the rash, and the rash can sometimes spread to the tummy and legs.
How to treat
- Change your baby’s nappy more frequently and apply a barrier cream for extra protection on their skin.
- Try disposable nappies, which can be better at absorbing liquid away from the skin.
- Avoid using adult wipes—as opposed to baby wipes—as they usually contain alcohol which can irritate a baby’s skin. Also make sure your baby’s soap or bath wash is safe for baby skin.
- If you use cloth nappies, make sure you change them very regularly, and do not put plastic pants over the top of them. When washing, ensure these nappies are totally rinsed of chemicals or detergents, and preferably tumble dried as this makes them softer on baby’s skin.
- Clean your baby’s bottom with plain water every time you change them—if this does not appear to help, try using a soothing, nappy rash cream to help heal the area.
- If the rash doesn’t clear within 2-3 days, ask your GP to have a look. It is possible that your baby may have developed a fungal infection and need an antifungal cream to be prescribed.
Cradle cap can happen when there is some leftover hormones in the baby’s body after being in the womb. These hormones make the glands in the baby’s scalp produce more oil—then when dead skin cells fall off the baby’s skin, they stick to the oil and stay on the scalp. These oil secretions will normally clear up after the hormones normalise.
- Looks like dandruff
- Red area on baby’s scalp with greasy, yellow, scaly patches
- The scales can become flaky and fall off with bits of the baby’s hair in them.
How to treat
- Wash their hair/scalp with a mild shampoo and use a very soft brush to loosen up the flakes.
- Rub a mild oil (baby oil, olive oil, almond oil) into their scalp, leave it overnight to loosen the flakes, the brush of the flakes and wash their hair/scalp with a mild shampoo.
- Do not pick at the scaly patches as this could cause germs to get into the skin and cause an infection.
It’s hard to know what might cause a baby to have eczema—there are so many possible causes that it is often hard to pinpoint what has caused your baby’s eczema. It could be a food allergy, a reaction to something that contacts the skin, and is often exacerbated by heat, and stress. Eczema sometimes goes away as your child grows up, but sometimes it is a lifelong condition.
- Itchy, dry, rough skin.
- Most often on baby’s cheeks or in the creases of their joints.
- Can have little bumps that ooze when scratched—if this happens you need to see your GP as these areas can become easily infected and need to be treated.
- Excessive scratching can lead to scarring on the skin.
How to treat
- Moisturise. Moisturise. Moisturise. Ask your doctor to recommend a good moisturiser.
- Don’t over-dress them with clothes or blankets—heat irritates and makes it worse
- Bath your baby in lukewarm water—too hot and it might irritate the baby’s skin.
- Help them to not scratch—trim nails, or put mittens on their hands (socks work well too).
- Only use mild, fragrance-free soaps, moisturisers, and washing detergents.
- Only use soap where you baby is dirty—try to only use water otherwise.
Heat rash is common in the hottest months, or when a parent accidentally overdresses a baby they think is cold. The sweat glands in the skin can become blocked and swollen, causing some itchiness. It isn’t harmful, so don’t stress—heat rash is very common during summer and won’t cause too much discomfort for your baby.
- Small, red, raised bumps in the skin creases where sweat gets trapped. This will commonly occur on their back as they lie on their back but may extend to their trunk and their neck as well.
How to treat
- Let the skin breathe by taking off some clothing or blankets so your baby’s skin is in the air which dries it.
- If you see a rash, try to cool it straight away with a cool compress on the skin.
- Avoid using oils or lotions as this can block the glands further.
- Try to keep your baby’s skin as dry as possible to avoid the problem altogether.
- See your GP if the blisters fill with yellow or green pus and/or the rash doesn’t clear within three days.
These conditions and rashes are not serious if you catch them early and treat them well—though they can become severe if left completely untreated or if they become infected. If you are worried that your baby’s skin condition or rash is not behaving as described, or if your baby has symptoms not described, such as a fever, a cold, or strange colouring to the rash, do not hesitate to see your doctor.