Common baby rashes

You may expect your baby's skin to be flawless, but rashes and other skin conditions are common at this age. Most often baby rashes can be managed by careful attention to bathing, moisturizers and the baby's environment.

But no matter what you do, baby rashes can still show up. Here are a few of the most common baby rashes and how to manage them.

Starting at the top: Cradle cap

Cradle cap appears as scaliness that may be red on white skin or a lighter patch on darker skin. In some babies, cradle cap looks like dandruff, or it might be a crusty patch that seems thick or oily.

These patches are common from birth to a few months after and usually clear up without special treatment. But talk to your baby's healthcare professional if you notice that:

  • The patches aren't going away.
  • The scalp looks more inflamed.
  • New patches show up on other parts of the baby's body.

You might need a medicine to help clear the skin condition.

In the meantime, wash your baby's hair with mild baby shampoo and loosen the scales with a small, soft-bristled brush. For stubborn scales, rub a few drops of mineral oil onto your baby's scalp, wait a few minutes, and then gently brush and shampoo your baby's hair.

Photo of cradle cap

Baby face bumps: Milia

Many babies are born with tiny white bumps that appear most often on the nose, chin or cheeks. These bumps are called milia and they usually go away on their own.

Washing a baby's face once a day with gentle soap can help clear up milia. But don't try to squeeze these bumps or use any skin products on them. That may be painful and cause skin irritation.

Photo of milia

Teenage preview: Baby acne

Baby acne appears as red or white bumps on a baby's upper body. Pimples may be seen on the back or chest, as well as commonly on the cheeks and forehead.

These spots often show up within the first month after birth. The acne most often goes away on its own after a couple of months. It typically doesn't leave any scarring.

To help get rid of the acne, wash your baby's face once a day with water and a mild soap. Just as with other forms of acne, never try to pop the pimples. If the acne doesn't go away after a few months, bring it up at your baby's well child visit.

Photo of baby acne

Temperature rising: Heat rash

When a baby overheats, due to the temperature or fever for example, you may see a rash on the baby's upper body. The rash may appear quickly and show up as clear or red raised bumps on your baby's skin.

Once the baby cools down, the rash usually disappears on its own.

In general, babies aren't very good at sweating yet so they can overheat more easily than an adult. To prevent heat rash in hot weather, dress your baby in cool, lightweight clothing.

In cold weather, dress your baby in layers so that you can remove items if the temperature rises.

Photo of heat rash

Itchy skin: Baby eczema

Patches of skin that are dry, scaly, itchy, and red or purplish, depending on skin color, may be a common type of skin rash called eczema.

In babies a common form of eczema affects the face, scalp, and the arms and legs.

To treat baby eczema, keep the skin from drying out and avoid things that irritate the baby's skin:

  • When bathing, use a gentle soap and pat the baby's skin dry.
  • After bathing and regularly, use moisturizing products made for sensitive skin. This is especially important during cold weather.
  • Avoid chemicals or fabrics that cause irritation. Examples are soaps, detergents or types of fabrics, such as wool or synthetic materials.
  • Keep the baby's room cool and make sure there's good air flow.

Talk to your baby's healthcare professional if the rash doesn't improve or gets worse. Medicines can treat eczema, but often the first thing to try is moisturizing.

Baby eczema

Ending at the Bottom: Diaper rash

Diaper rash appears in the area covered by a diaper and where the diaper sits on the baby's thighs. The rash is usually red or purplish, depending on skin color, and may be tender or itchy. In serious cases, the skin can look eroded, like a sore.

Diaper rash is often caused when a baby's skin is in contact with urine or stool for too long. A rash in skin creases, where skin touches skin, may be from contact with stool or urine, or may be due to a fungal infection.

The rash is more likely if the diaper doesn't fit well and rubs the baby's skin. Diaper rash also is more likely if you use wipes or lotions that dry out the skin. Babies who have loose stool are at a higher risk as well. And some babies just are more prone to diaper rash regardless of how often they're changed.

To treat diaper rash, air out your baby's bottom. When you wash the area, use warm water and a soft cloth. Pat the area dry to avoid irritating the skin even more.

Diaper rash creams or ointments may be used at each diaper change. If you use one of these products, really cover the area thickly.

And you need to remove only the soiled layer of cream during diaper changes to avoid rubbing and further irritating the skin.

To prevent extra irritation, avoid products with ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction, such as fragrances. And make sure to buy a product made for babies. It will be less likely to contain ingredients that might cause health problems such as salicylates, phenol, benzocaine, camphor or boric acid.

Avoid powders such as corn starch, talcum, baking soda or boric acid. These powders can cause problems if breathed in or if the baby's skin absorbs the powder.

Talk to your baby's healthcare professional if the rash doesn't improve or gets worse.

To prevent diaper rash, change your baby's diaper frequently, let your baby go without a diaper for short periods of time, and clean your baby's diaper area with water and a soft cloth.

Photo of diaper rash

Caring for your baby's skin from top to bottom

The common baby rashes are all part of your baby getting used to the world. But a baby's skin requires a bit of extra care. Babies don't sweat as well as adults. And a baby's skin is thinner and more likely to get a sunburn. For these reasons, a baby's skin is more likely to react than adult skin to things such as heat, skin products or chemicals in clothing.

One of the most important ways to help your baby's skin is to find safe products. The ingredients in any skin product will be absorbed through the baby's skin. It's a good idea to use as few products as possible and read the ingredient labels.

March 29, 2024 See more In-depth