When we imagine babies, we often picture them with perfect, cherub-like skin, just like in those glossy magazine ads. But in reality, our adorable little ones can have various skin issues, just like us grown-ups. And you know what? They’re still just as adorable! As parents, it’s beneficial to understand what’s normal for baby skin so that we can identify anything that might need a closer look. In this discussion, we’ll explore common skin conditions in babies, such as baby eczema, acne, cradle cap, diaper rash, and other types of rashes.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Table of contents
- Baby Acne
- Cradle Cap
- Dry Skin
- Scaly Skin (ichthyosis)
- Diaper Rash and Other Rashes
- How Do I Know If My Baby’s Rash Is Serious?
Eczema will show up on your baby as red, itchy patches of skin. It usually appears on the cheeks or scalp in infants first, but it may spread to other parts of the body. In babies with eczema, the skin barrier is not as strong as it should be, and so it is easily irritated and inflamed. This means that it is more prone to infection, so keeping the skin clean is important.
How can I treat my baby’s scalp eczema?
Cleanse baby’s scalp with plain water or a gentle cleanser. While adults may use medicated shampoos to treat eczema, you should not use anything on your baby. If eczema is causing your baby pain or discomfort, discuss it with his doctor. They may be able to suggest additional treatment options or recommend a dermatologist.
There are actually several different conditions that fall under the category of baby acne (plus one that might look like acne but actually isn’t.) Read on…
These tiny white bumps that appear on a baby’s noses, cheeks, and chins aren’t acne at all. It is actually just a protein (keratin) under the skin. It is best to leave them alone — picking or scrubbing can cause irritation and even infection. There is nothing you can do to treat them, but they will likely disappear within a few weeks.
Neonatal Acne (baby acne before six weeks old)
Some babies are born with or develop acne within the first few weeks of life. White or red bumps appear on the cheeks and chin, but may also show up on the nose, scalp, neck, back, and chest. There are a number of factors involved, but it is mostly due to hormone production in the baby and/or mom. It is harmless and will go away on its own in a few weeks or months.
Infantile Acne (baby acne appearing after six weeks old)
If your baby develops acne after the first six weeks, they likely have infantile acne. This type of acne is usually more inflammatory and can sometimes cause lasting damage. Baby should see a dermatologist who can rule out any possible health concerns related to the acne such as infection, underlying health issues, or a possible reaction. They may prescribe an oral or topical medication to treat the acne. Most infantile acne will resolve by age 4 or 5, but it may last longer, sometimes continuing into puberty.
In the first few weeks, your baby may begin to develop scales and redness on his scalp, known as cradle cap. Sometimes it will also spread to the neck, armpits, and ears. It is not serious, and there is nothing you can do to prevent it. Luckily, cradle cap doesn’t seem to cause any discomfort for the baby, and it will go away on its own in a few weeks or months. You can use a soft brush to gently loosen the scales. Be careful not to scrub or scrape the scalp, as it may hurt your baby’s skin.
Wash the scalp or other areas more often to keep out bacteria and check the affected skin regularly for red, raw, or itchy patches. This may be a sign that your baby has an infection. Talk to your doctor if you suspect that this may be the case. Otherwise, just wait it out and it will clear up on its own.
Does Cradle Cap Lead to Eczema?
Both cradle cap and eczema appear as red, flaky skin. However, they are different conditions with no direct link to each other. A baby who has cradle cap is not more likely to have eczema or to develop it in the future.
You may notice your baby’s skin peeling in the weeks following her birth. This is a normal process as your baby’s skin begins adjusting to a new environment outside of the womb. There is no need to worry. Your baby will shed this outer layer of skin, and a new layer of healthy skin will reveal itself within a few weeks. If your baby continues to have persistently dry skin, talk to your doctor, as they may have a more serious skin condition like eczema.
Scaly Skin (ichthyosis)
Scaly skin is a build-up of skin cells, resulting in thickened, dry, scaly areas of skin. There are many forms of this condition with varying degrees of seriousness. In the most common variation, Ichthyosis vulgaris, you will see dry, scaly skin, especially on the belly, back, buttocks, and legs. You may also notice a thickening of the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. Oftentimes the scales and roughness worsen in dry or cold conditions. You can minimize any discomfort by keeping the dry areas as moisturized as possible.
Diaper Rash and Other Rashes
Most babies get diaper rash at some point, but fortunately it is common and usually easy to treat. It happens when moisture and/or stool sits on your baby’s skin. This along with friction from their diaper cause the skin to become inflamed and eventually break down. Be sure to change wet diapers frequently, clean the area with gentle baby wipes or plain water, and apply a diaper cream to heal and protect the skin from further damage. Most rashes will go away with these simple treatments. If your baby’s diaper rash isn’t going away or gets worse after a few days, call your doctor.
Heat rash happens when your baby gets hot and sweaty, but the openings to the sweat glands are blocked. Little red bumps form around the gland openings. You will see these bumps in areas that tend to be moist, such as folds in the neck, armpits, arms, legs, and diaper area. To prevent it from happening, try to keep your baby’s skin as cool and dry as possible.
- Dress your baby in light, breathable, loose-fitting clothing
- Wash their skin with cool water to keep it clean and cool
- Use a fan or air conditioning when possible
- Avoid using ointments in the heat, as they keep your baby from sweating
- Leave vulnerable areas open to the air
Common Baby Rash (toxic erythema)
This kind of rash is very common, with almost half of all newborns affected. It consists of a combination of flat red patches of skin, small red bumps, and pus-filled bumps. Bumps are harmless and usually erupt and disappear over the course of a few days. It usually starts on the face and may spread onto the body and limbs of the baby. This rash is harmless and doesn’t require any treatment. If it doesn’t disappear or looks painful or infected, contact your doctor, as it may be something more serious.
What Does an Allergy Rash Look Like on a Baby?
Hives are the most common allergy-related rash on people of all ages. Hives are red, itchy, raised areas on the skin. They can cover a small area, large area, or multiple areas. The hands, feet, and genitals are the most common areas to see them. They usually go away on their own in a few hours, days, or weeks, and sometimes the cause isn’t known. If your baby develops hives, call your doctor and see if they’d like baby to be seen. Once the doctor has determined that it is, in fact, hives, you will likely be told to just keep an eye on it. Follow your provider’s recommendations if they advise any other action or treatment.
How Do I Know If My Baby’s Rash Is Serious?
Most skin conditions that affect babies are harmless and clear up on their own. Resist the urge to pop pimples, scrape away scales, or use any products other than plain water and gentle baby cleansers as these can make skin conditions worse or introduce infection. If you have any concerns about anything you see on your baby’s skin, consult his or her doctor for guidance.
Call Your Doctor If a Rash:
- persists for a few days
- reappears frequently
- is accompanied by vomiting
- is on multiple parts of the body
- started after contact with food
- is accompanied by fever or other flu-like symptoms
Seek Immediate Medical Care if a Rash:
- is accompanied by wheezing or breathing difficulty
- is accompanied by faintness
- comes with a fever in a baby under three months old
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