Baby Skin Care Basics to Keep in Mind

Laughing baby

Baby skin care is a bit different from that of older children and grownups because a newborn's skin is very thin and delicate. It's also still adjusting to life outside the womb. As your baby gets older and nears her first birthday, her skin care is more likely to resemble yours. In the meantime, taking proper care of your little one's skin keeps it healthy and helps prevent conditions that can make her uncomfortable.

Day to Day Skin Care

Many things go into caring for your baby's skin from day to day and you'll need to keep a few essentials on hand to get skin care tasks done. You might be wondering how much time it will take. Rest assured that most skin care steps are natural and won't take you more than a few minutes. It's not difficult to care for your baby's skin either, so don't worry that you're doing it wrong. With time, your baby's skin care will come as naturally as your own.


The experts at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital say that newborns don't necessarily need lotion to keep their skin moisturized. On the other hand, massaging a bit of lotion into your little one's skin after a bath can be relaxing, and it enhances the bond you have with your baby.

If you do choose to use lotion on your baby's body, avoid adult products, which often contain allergens and irritants that could affect your baby's delicate skin. Opt instead for a natural baby lotion, which is less likely to contain ingredients that aren't recommended for baby skin. California Baby is an ideal company to buy from because its products are allergy tested, many are fragrance free and are non-allergenic and non-comedogenic.

Diaper Rash

When you have a baby, diaper rash is inevitable. Some babies suffer from it all the time, while others only experience it on occasion. In either case, you want to provide relief for your little one, while also keeping the rash from getting worse.

Proper skin care while diapering your baby is the best way to prevent and treat diaper rash. The condition is caused by wet or soiled diapers that rest against a baby's skin for long periods of time. Checking and changing your baby's diaper often is an easy way to keep diaper rash at bay. Skin products that contain allergens and irritants can also factor into the development of diaper rash. Should it occur, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends:

  • Using a warm washcloth to wipe your little one's skin, rather than a wet wipe
  • Applying a barrier cream that contains zinc oxide to keep moisture away from your baby's bottom
  • Allowing the air to circulate over your baby's tender skin for a minute or two during each diaper change

Following these steps will help the diaper rash clear up quickly.

Laundry Soap

Another given when it comes to parenting a baby is the increase in laundry. This is especially true once you begin offering solid food purees. It's important to consider the detergent you use when you're washing his tiny pants, shirts and socks. A detergent designed to wash baby clothes is less likely to contain irritants.

You can also use a free and clear formula, which is generally recommended for sensitive skin. Add an extra rinse to the cycle when you're laundering your little one's clothing. The Honest Company is a great resource for finding detergent that is hypoallergenic and non-toxic.


Even if your little one is born without much hair, caring for the fuzz that is there is important, not only for clean hair, but for a healthy scalp. However, you don't want to use shampoo designed for adults on your baby's tender and delicate skin. The Mayo Clinic suggests choosing a specially designed baby shampoo. Most of these products are gentle on baby's scalp and don't burn tiny eyes in case the soap mistakenly runs down his face.

At the same time, their gentle formulas are less likely to cause skin reactions and irritations. Johnson's Baby gives you lots of sweet-smelling options that are gentle on delicate skin.

Baby Powder

According to the American Association of Pediatrics, it's actually best to skip baby powder. This is not because it's likely to harm your baby's skin, but because your little one can breathe it into his lungs, which can cause breathing difficulties. If you still want to use baby powder, the experts on the Baby Center website encourage you to choose cornstarch-based products, which are much safer.

Rather than dousing your baby in the powder, shake a small amount into your hand, then apply it to the diaper area. Be sure to wash any powder build up from his skin each time you change his diaper. Burt's Bees offers a delicious smelling, but talc-free, cornstarch baby powder you're sure to love.

Baby Wipes

There's no doubt that baby wipes can be a godsend for new parents. These handy products make quick work of even the most soiled diaper. However, for babies with sensitive skin, the soap that is used in the wipes, although it's very mild, can cause irritation, and might even exacerbate diaper rash or eczema.

If this seems to be an issue for your little one, warm water on a washcloth is the perfect substitute. Although this option is messy and increases your laundry load on a daily basis, it will decrease the irritation on your baby's skin if he seems intolerant to wipes. However, if you're set on using wipes, consider Burt's Bees chlorine-free wipes, which are non-irritating and gentle.


The fabrics that come into contact with your baby's skin are an important thing to consider, particularly if you plan to hand make blankets, wraps, and clothing. Baby skin is very thin and delicate, so rough fabrics can make him uncomfortable and can exacerbate some skin conditions, such as eczema. Health Guidance recommends cotton fabric. It's breathable and gentle on your little one's body.

Cotton knits, terrycloth and flannel are other ideal options. Read labels when you choose fabrics and clothing for your baby, but if anything seems to be irritating his skin, stop use and find an alternative.


Baby bathtime

As a first time parent, the prospect of giving your slippery newborn a bath can be daunting. Fortunately, you don't have to bathe your little one everyday. After all, he isn't getting all that dirty since he can't even move around yet. A bath every other day is ideal for babies because it keeps them clean, but it also helps prevent dry skin. You can also follow these tips to keep your baby's skin in tip top shape:

  • When you bathe your baby, use lukewarm water. This prevents burns, but is also helps keep his skin from getting dried out.
  • Use hypoallergenic soap designed for babies, though newborns likely only need water, says the Mayo Clinic.
  • It's not as harsh on sensitive skin, but helps keep your baby clean at the same time. Avoid products with added scents and colors, which can irritate a baby's skin.

Once your baby is clean and sweet-smelling, be sure to thoroughly dry his skin. Gently wipe all surfaces, including in his skin rolls, behind his ears and under his arms. This helps prevent rashes that crop up on moist skin.

Protection From the Sun

Don't forget that your little one's skin is very sensitive, and she can sunburn easily. In the past, the American Academy of Pediatrics did not recommend using any sunscreen on babies younger than six months in favor of limiting sun exposure to avoid sunburn.

While it is still recommended that parents keep infants out of the sun as much as possible, most pediatricians now agree that it is acceptable to apply a little sunscreen with at least SPF 15 to a baby's face and the back of his hands. It's best, however, to keep your baby covered with light-weight clothing, including a hat that shades his face, ears, and the back of his neck.

For babies older than six months, the AAP recommends avoiding outdoor play during peak sunlight hours, which occur between 10 o'clock in the morning and 4 o'clock in the afternoon. When you do venture out into the sunshine, apply a generous amount of SPF 15 or higher sunscreen and be sure to reapply every two hours, or sooner if your baby is playing in the water or is sweating.

  • Babyganics Mineral-Based Baby Sunscreen Lotion is easy to swipe on baby's skin. It's SPF 50 mineral-based and doesn't contain PABA, phthalates, parabens, fragrances or nano-particles, and it's water-resistent for up to 80 minutes. The cost runs just under $10.
  • Honest Sunscreen is SPF 30 and contains all natural ingredients. The formula is non-greasy and water resistant. From $13.95.

Skin Conditions

Baby with eczema on face

Babies aren't exempt from skin conditions, and in fact, may suffer from acne and eczema from birth and beyond. If your baby has pimples, whiteheads, red scaly patches or an oozy or crusty rash, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends talking to your baby's pediatrician for a diagnosis. Some skin conditions might require special creams or other types of treatment to alleviate symptoms.


Eczema is often treated with corticosteroid creams, which help keep your little one comfortable and helps prevent an infection that can occur when your baby has open sores or cracks on his skin. Eczema can occur or be worsened by contact with irritating skin products or clothing. In some cases, it's the result of food allergies.

Cradle Cap

If your little one has greasy, yellow and scaly patches on his scalp, chances are he has cradle cap. The condition usually clears up by 6 months of age, notes the Mayo Clinic. In the meantime, wash your baby's scalp with a gentle baby shampoo and loosen the scales with a soft bristled brush. For stubborn patches, rub a bit of petroleum jelly or mineral oil into the scalp, allow it sit for a couple of minutes, then gently wash and comb your baby's scalp to loosen the scales.


Maybe you thought your child wouldn't have to suffer with acne until the teen years. The truth is that many babies are born with acne or develop it at some time during the first months of life. You'll probably notice white or red bumps on your baby's face. Wash your little one's face with warm water and mild soap. Contact his pediatrician if the condition worsens or doesn't respond to treatment.


Milia are tiny white facial bumps that many babies are born with. According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition is fairly common and is nothing to be concerned with. The bumps are likely to disappear in the weeks following birth, but you can gently wash them with warm water and baby soap until they do.

Best Skin Care Possible

No matter what skin care issue you face when your child is a baby, having the right products and accurate knowledge at your fingertips makes it infinitely easier to do the best job you can. That doesn't mean you won't have questions, but time and experience will leave you with expertise that will serve you well as your baby gets older and it gives you the tools you need to teach your child proper skin care as she gets older.

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Baby Skin Care Basics to Keep in Mind