Baby Skin 101: Smart Tips For Protecting Your Little One’s Skin

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Other than feeding, burping and sleeping, possibly what is most on parents’ minds when they have a newborn is the condition of their baby’s skin. Is it too damp, too dry, is that a rash? Rest assured, here at Westchester Health Pediatrics, we’ve helped thousands of parents learn how to take care of their babies’ skin, and also what to do when something seems not quite right.

Check out these tried-and-true definitions and tips so that your baby’s skin can be healthy and you and your baby can be happy:

Newborn Skin: What To Expect

Dr Peter Richel, Westchester Health Pediatrics

Peter Richel, MD

Starting with the first days of life, it is common to see dry peeling skin on your newborn baby, especially around the ankles where the hospital bands may have been. In that area, the skin can even crack and bleed. Thankfully, babies are not bothered by this…we are! No treatment is medically necessary, but feel free to moisturize with any hypoallergenic lotion or cream. If you don’t, the grandparents will question you!!

Infant Skin Conditions And How To Treat Them

Heat Rash

Rashes are common in infancy. Heat rash (tiny red dots anywhere on the body) occurs if you overdress your infant. Remember: infants need one, maximum two, layers more than we do in any season. More layers than this will cause them to sweat and then become rashy, which is uncomfortable for them. Treatment for heat rash is simply to keep your baby cool and dry, once you realize the cause of the rash. For this, air conditioning and fans work well.

Diaper Rash

Also very common, diaper rash occurs in more sensitive babies and is caused by exposure to the frequent moisture of their urine and stool. This most often looks like a chafing or mild burn, pink in color, in the diaper area, and it is quite uncomfortable for babies when you are wiping and cleaning them several times a day. The best treatment is a thick barrier every diaper change so that the skin will be protected and can heal beneath the barrier as your baby continues to make urine and stool daily. The barrier can be just about anything, including products like Desitin, Triple Paste, Aquaphor, A&D ointment, zinc oxide or Vaseline.

Yeast Dermatitis

A rash in the diaper area may also be caused by a fungal infection from Candida Albicans (also called Monilia). Although uncommon, it appears as a red rash that merges together, often beginning in the skin creases and spreading outward with small dots along the edges called “satellite lesions.” Yeast breeds in the moist environment of the diaper area, usually until a baby is out of diapers. The usual barriers used for diaper rash will not work. If you suspect your baby has Candida Albicans, you need to see your pediatrician for an evaluation and possibly an anti-fungal medication.

Eczema

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a common skin condition, often seen in infants whose parents have atopic issues such as eczema, allergy or asthma. It runs in families, and there is also a higher incidence in infants and children who are fair in coloration. This will present as a dry patchy area which may or may not be pink, and it can be irritating and itchy.

Eczema can occur anywhere on the body, and the treatment is to moisturize daily, especially after bathing, when your baby’s skin is still moist. This will trap the moisture in the skin, which is what we’re after (versus clean but dried out skin). After using a hypoallergenic liquid baby wash (the Eucerin or Aveeno lines are good), apply a cream/emollient that is labeled to be good for eczema. (You can never go wrong with Aquaphor ointment). Trying several brands will help you determine the one that works well for your infant, since each one is different and may respond differently. Feel free to apply more than once a day.

Seborrhea

Seborrheic dermatitis, or “cradle cap,” is a common inflammation of the skin of the scalp and eyebrows. This presents as scaly, patchy areas that can be mild, or it can increase to become thick and off-white or yellowish in color. If thickened, this can be irritating and cause babies to scratch, which may lead to a secondary infection. The treatment for this is to wash with a medicated shampoo 2-3 times per week with gentle massage using a brush. Products that work well are Tea Tree shampoo or Head and Shoulders. My Italian grandmother advocated using olive oil and picking off scales with a comb, but I found this messy and my babies smelled like a salad!!

 By Peter Richel, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics

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About the Author: ML Ball