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There’s nothing quite like the soft, delicate skin of a baby. And nothing like a cranky infant irritated by diaper rash, cradle cap, or another skin condition. While your baby is perfect, your baby’s skin may not be. Many babies are prone to skin irritation in the first few months after birth. Here’s how to spot and treat common baby skin problems.
The good news about your newborn’s rashes: Most cause no harm and go away on their own. While caring for baby’s skin may seem complex, all you really need to know are three simple things: Which conditions can you treat at home? Which need medical treatment? And how can you prevent baby from experiencing skin problems to begin with?
If baby has red skin around the diaper area, you’re dealing with diaper rash. Most diaper rashes occur because of skin irritation due to diapers that are too tight; wet diapers left on for too long; or a particular brand of detergent, diapers, or baby wipes. Avoid it by keeping the diaper area open to the air as long as possible, changing your baby’s diaper as soon as it’s wet, washing with a warm cloth, and applying zinc oxide cream.
Baby “acne” is not really acne, like the kind teenagers get. In fact, recent research suggests that it may be related to yeast, not oil production. Pimples on baby’s nose and cheeks usually clear up by themselves in a few weeks. So you don’t need to treat baby acne or use lotion.
Lots of babies have birthmarks — more than one in ten as a matter of fact. Birthmarks, areas of skin discoloration, are not inherited. They may be there when your baby is born, or they might show up a few months later. Generally birthmarks are nothing to worry about and need no treatment. But if your baby’s birthmark worries you, talk to your pediatrician.
Eczema is an itchy, red rash that may or may not occur in response to a trigger. It is common in children who have a family history of asthma, allergies, or atopic dermatitis. Eczema may occur on baby’s face as a weepy rash. Over time it becomes thick, dry, and scaly. You may also see eczema on the elbow, chest, arms, or behind the knees. To treat it, identify and avoid any triggers. Use gentle soaps and detergents and apply moderate amounts of moisturizers. More severe eczema should be treated with prescription medicine.
You probably shouldn’t worry if your newborn has peeling, dry skin — it often happens if your baby is born a little late. The underlying skin is perfectly healthy, soft, and moist. If your infant’s dry skin persists, talk to your baby’s pediatrician.
Cradle cap can show up during baby’s first or second month, and usually clears up within the first year. Also called seborrheic dermatitis, cradle cap is caused in part by excess oil and shows up as a scaly, waxy, red rash on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, the sides of the nose, or behind the ears. Your pediatrician will recommend the best treatment for cradle cap, which may include a special shampoo, baby oil, or certain creams and lotions.
Showing up as small pinkish-red bumps, prickly heat usually appears on the parts of your baby’s body that are prone to sweating, like the neck, diaper area, armpits, and skin folds. A cool, dry environment and loose-fitting clothes are all you need to treat prickly heat rash — which can even be brought on in winter when baby is over-bundled. Try dressing baby in layers that you can remove when things heat up.
Babies can inhale the very fine grains of talcum powder or the larger particles of cornstarch, which could cause lung problems. So it’s best to avoid using them on your infant.
As many as one in two newborns get the little white bumps known as milia. Appearing usually on the nose and face, they’re caused by skin flakes blocking oil glands. Milia are sometimes called “baby acne,” but baby acne is related to hormonal changes. In this case, baby skin care is easy: As baby’s glands open up over the course of a few days or weeks, the bumps usually disappear, and need no treatment.
Remember, newborn skin is soft and sensitive. Keep baby’s skin hydrated by bathing in warm water for only three to five minutes. Avoid letting your baby sit or play or soak for long in soapy water. Apply a baby lotion or moisturizer immediately after bath while skin is still wet, and then pat dry instead of rubbing.