Expert advice on baby skin conditions
Do babies get acne? Is bathing bad for eczema? There’s a ton of newborn skin care info out there to fuel parental anxiety, so we checked in with the experts for a calm, clear heads-up.
The skin around your baby’s bottom is constantly put in contact with urine and poo, so it can easily become sensitive and a rash can appear. The advice is to keep the area as clean as you can, moisturise and use a barrier cream between nappy changes, and allow your baby to have plenty of time with no nappy on (with floors or furniture suitably protected) so that air can get to the skin. If the rash is sore, use gentle wipes and a recommended, natural nappy cream until it clears up.
It’s not just teenagers who are affected by acne. We found out that babies are too, with around 40 percent of them having spots appearing from around their second or third week. It can go on for a while, sometimes into their sixth month. It’s thought that the hormones in your body, which your baby absorbed in the womb, are to blame, and that they stimulate oil glands, producing little red bumps. While they are not attractive, there’s nothing to worry about and they should disappear eventually. Don’t be tempted to pick or squeeze them, as this can leave scars and never treat with adult acne products.
Similar to baby acne, Milia are the little white spots that often appear soon after birth and usually affect a baby’s face. They will clear up within a couple of weeks and they don’t need any specific baby skin care treatment.
This dry, itchy skin condition, ectopic dermatitis, is not contagious. Dermatologists don’t really know why some babies are affected, nor why some seem to grow out of it. In severe cases, it can bleed and become infected. It can affect all parts of the body but can be worse in the creases of the arms and legs.
It’s important to get moisture into the skin to ease the symptoms, though bathing your baby too often can actually make it worse. Your GP can offer emollients, creams and lotions that soften the skin and keep it moisturised, which can be put in the bath or on the skin. When the condition is more severe, a steroid cream can be prescribed for limited use – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says it should only be used once a day. Some parents find that different creams work for their baby, such as those containing aloe vera, calendula or oats and it may be trial and error to find what works for you. For more information, visit the National Eczema Society here.
It turns out that babies are no different to adults when it comes to having dry skin, which can be worse in dry and cold weather. In fact, they can be affected more badly because their skin is so sensitive. Advice is to make sure you use a good quality hypoallergenic body lotion after baths and during changes and look for one that’s as natural as possible, with no nasty chemicals in it.
Hydration is as important on the inside too, so make sure your baby is having plenty of feeds, and water if the weather is hot. Avoid soap and if the air is dry, consider a humidifier for your baby’s sleeping area. If the condition gets worse and the skin starts to crack, itch or bleed, speak to your midwife or GP about a specialist cream.
Again, it’s not known why some babies get this and others don’t. Cradle cap is a scaly, flaky condition of the scalp (more properly called seborrheic dermatitis) and you’d know it more readily as dandruff in older children. It can affect little ones in their first three months and can continue as long as a year. It’s caused by overactive sebaceous glands trapping dead skin cells beneath a layer of oil. It may look unsightly, but you really don’t need to do anything about it, except perhaps a gentle massage with some oil to loosen the flakes. Never pick at it, as you might go too deep and cause pain, or worse still, a skin infection.
Sometimes, a sudden outbreak of a scabby blister appears on your child’s skin and this is usually a highly infectious condition called impetigo. It can spread swiftly to other body parts and the cause is two types of bacteria, streptococci and staphylococci, which enter the skin through a cut or graze.
There are two types of impetigo: bullous, which has fluid-filled blisters that leave a thin brownish yellow crust when they burst, and non-bullous, which is characterised by thick, crusty yellow scabs with red patches around them. If you suspect impetigo, visit your GP at once, as a cream can quickly clear it up.
Babies can get sudden rashes and of course parents always worry that it’s something contagious, or a severe condition such as meningitis*. However, most rashes are a response to something temporary; it may be an allergy to a particular food, to a cream or lotion you’ve used, to clothing or to heat. Speak to your doctor if you’re in any way concerned and if it is not anything to worry about, keep the rash covered and avoid scented products that might block pores.
Warning: *Meningitis is a severe condition that requires immediate medical attention. If you suspect your baby might have meningitis, take them to hospital immediately or call 999. For more information, read the meningitis advice from the NHS.
There are several types of birthmark, which are darker red or brown marks on your baby’s skin and most are completely safe. Some appear after birth, especially ‘strawberry’ marks, and some fade. Most need no treatment but if you think there may be a problem, speak to your GP about it for more advice or referral to a dermatologist.