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Baby skincare

Mum putting cream on a baby in a nappy
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If you’ve just had a baby, there are lots of things to think about. You might wonder how you should bathe your baby, whether you should use scented products, and how to take care of your baby’s skin.

This article will look at:

  • Skincare for babies
  • How to treat baby eczema
  • Umbilical cord care
  • Milia and acne in babies
  • Nappy rash
  • Skincare brands for babies

Skincare for newborns

New babies have thin and easily damaged skin, and it takes a few weeks to build a natural protective barrier. It’s generally advised that you don’t use any skincare products on your baby in the first four weeks. When they’re first born, your baby will be coated in vernix. This sticky, white substance acts as a natural moisturiser and protects against infection. Some parents prefer to leave this on the skin to absorb naturally.

For the first month, wash your baby with water and use a baby comb to clean their hair and scalp if needed. This will help to avoid disturbing the delicate pH of their skin. When they’re first born, babies’ skin becomes more acidic to defend against bacteria and other micro-organisms. After one month, you can use some mild, unscented soap when you’re bathing them, but avoid lotions and cleansers.

It's also a good idea to avoid using baby wipes, and instead use water, until they are at least two weeks old. When you start using wipes, choose a mild, unscented and alcohol-free option like WaterWipes or Huggies Pure Baby Wipes.

If your baby experiences a nappy rash, use a nappy rash cream like Sudocrem or Bepanthen to treat it.

Skincare for premature and overdue babies

Premature babies have delicate skin. Babies born on their due date have a stratum corneum (the outer layer of the skin) of 15 to 20 layers, compared with just 2 to 3 layers in babies born prematurely.

If your little one comes early, you’ll need specific skincare advice from hospital staff. If your baby arrives late, their skin might be dry and cracked. This might look sore and itchy, but don’t be tempted to try creams or lotions. Instead, wait a few days for the dry skin to peel away. The skin underneath will be soft and healthy.

Learn more about getting to know your newborn.

Skincare for babies older than one month

Over the first month after birth, your baby’s skin will develop and mature, forming its protective barrier. When your baby is over one month old, you can start using skincare products in their bathing routine.

Skincare products for babies older than one month include:

When choosing products for your baby, look for something mild that’s specifically made for their age.

Your baby has slightly acidic skin, and alkaline products (e.g., conventional bar soap) can disrupt the skin's pH and cause irritation. It’s usually best to look for a pH-balanced product, as this will be slightly more acidic and closer to the natural pH of your baby’s skin. It’s also best to look out for products that are alcohol-free and fragrance-free. Alcohol can dry out the skin, and perfumes can irritate it.

Skincare brands that make baby skincare products

Lots of skincare brands make products specifically for babies, including Oilatum, Aveeno, Childs Farm and Johnson's. Which you choose will depend on what kind of product you’re looking for, as well as your personal preferences and budget.

Whichever you choose, read the description first to ensure it doesn’t contain irritants like alcohol or strong fragrances. And remember, even if a product says it’s suitable for newborns, the NHS advice is still to stick to water in your baby’s first month.

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How to treat baby eczema

Eczema is a condition that affects the skin, making it dry, red and itchy. It’s common in babies and children. Eczema can cause patches of red or darker, irritated skin that looks paler around their elbows and knees. Eczema in babies may go away as they get older. In the meantime, you can treat their symptoms using emollients and medicated creams. Find out more by reading our eczema in babies article.

Image of baby eczema

Umbilical cord care

Your baby's umbilical cord stump will take about a week to dry and fall off. You should keep it clean and dry during this time. If you notice any bleeding or discharge from the umbilical cord, talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP. This could be a sign of infection.

Milia and baby acne

Spots are common in newborn babies and often disappear by themselves. If new spots are associated with a change in your baby’s behaviour, such as not feeding or being sleepy, talk to your doctor.

Milia are small spots on babies’ faces that appear when they’re a few days old. They may be yellow or white. Milia usually goes away by themselves over several weeks and do not need special treatment.

Baby acne is also known as erythema toxicum. It can appear as red, yellow or white raised spots on the face, body, upper arms and thighs. The rash can come and go. It usually gets better after a few weeks without treatment. Don’t be tempted to pop any of the spots.

Image of baby acne

Nappy rash

About 1 in 4 babies and toddlers who wear nappies have a nappy rash at any one time. Nappy rash can look like red patches or spots, or the whole area can be red.

Nappy rash can be caused when:

  • The skin is irritated by a wet nappy
  • Nappies don’t fit properly
  • Soap, detergent or bubble bath
  • Alcohol-based baby wipes

Most nappy rashes can be treated at home. If there is anything you’re worried about, you should talk to your GP, midwife or health visitor.

How to treat nappy rash

You can usually treat nappy rash yourself. Some things you can do to make the nappy rash better include:

  • Apply barrier cream at every nappy change
  • Don’t delay changing a wet or dirty nappy
  • Clean the area thoroughly with alcohol-free wipes
  • Bath baby every day and dry gently them afterwards
  • Allow baby some nappy-free time on a towel after bathtime
  • Make sure your baby’s nappy fits correctly

If the rash doesn’t improve with these simple steps or starts to develop red or white spots, talk to your GP, health visitor or midwife for advice. Many nappy rash products help relieve rashes and make your baby feel comfortable.

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A final note on baby skincare

The first months after your baby is born can be a magical time. There are many things to learn about, from sleeping to feeding and looking after your baby’s skin. Babies can get a variety of rashes, such as eczema or nappy rash. Most will go away with simple steps to care for their skin. Your healthcare team and local pharmacist are on-hand to help if you have any concerns.

References

www.researchgate.net/publication/353661836_Evidence_Based_Skin_Care_in_Preterm_Neonates-_A_Short_Review
www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/after-the-birth/getting-to-know-your-newborn
www.nhs.uk/conditions/atopic-eczema
www.nhs.uk/conditions/rashes-babies-and-children
www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/caring-for-a-newborn/nappy-rash