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Dr. Mia Armstrong is an ABMS board certified pediatrician and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Healthline spoke with her about how to care for your baby’s skin and common skin care mistakes she sees parents make.

Many people think they need to use products that smell good when caring for their babies’ skin. Skin care products should be gentle, unscented, hypoallergenic, and contain the fewest ingredients.

A baby’s skin is very sensitive, and chemicals and dyes can cause irritation. There’s no one perfect option, so it’s best to find what works best for your baby’s skin.

Babies don’t need to smell like flowers — they just need to smell clean. Clean, moisturized, protected skin using simple products is the best goal.

Caregivers should also avoid frequent swapping between products because too many exposures to different products can make it difficult to identify which may be causing irritation if it occurs. I recommend Eucerin, Cetaphil, or Aveeno cleansers and creams. Generic versions are also fine.

Remember to moisturize the skin and use sun protection with clothing or sunscreen when outdoors. The skin is the largest organ, so it has the most exposure to environmental irritants and moisture losses.

The skin acts as a large protective barrier, which is why skin care is so important. Newborns have been inside a neutral environment throughout the pregnancy and exposed to harsh irritants after birth.

Newborns don’t yet have the typical skin-protective factors that develop with exposure to new environments, so they are at greater risk for infection.

Babies have sensitive skin and will experience various rashes. Your baby’s skin can change on a daily basis. Some rashes can be quite shocking in appearance, but most are not harmful and resolve with time.

Erythema toxicum is a benign rash with a scary name that is common in newborns. It consists of small red bumps or pimples that can cover the entire body (these bumps may appear less red on darker skin tones). Diaper rashes are also common, but you can help prevent them with frequent diaper changes and a barrier diaper rash cream.

Peeling or shedding is also common as newborn skin matures. Certain skin conditions and dryness cause flaking, so it’s important to keep their skin moisturized.

The most common skin conditions in babies are diaper rash, heat rash, newborn acne, cradle cap (seborrheic dermatitis), and eczema.

Diaper rashes develop from contact with urine and stool. It’s important to use a barrier diaper rash cream with every diaper change — I recommend using one containing zinc oxide.

Heat rash, usually located within skin folds, is common in warm climates and resolves with cooling down. Newborn acne develops commonly on the face.

Seborrheic dermatitis, frequently seen as cradle cap with yellow, crusty flakes on the scalp, can spread to the face, neck, and body. Eczema causes dry, flaky, and sometimes itchy patches on the face and body.

I recommend using products with the simplest and shortest ingredient list. Key words to look for are:

  • “noncomedogenic” — not clogging pores
  • “hypoallergenic” — not causing allergies
  • “unscented” — without fragrances

I also recommend using products without parabens and phthalates, which are common chemicals in plastics and skin care products like cosmetics. These products are ingested or absorbed through the skin and are associated with harmful medical conditions.

Products specifically branded for “baby” are widely available but are often more expensive because of the targeted population. Sensitive skin products, in general, are safe options.

Full baths don’t have to occur daily, especially for newborns. However, skin folds and creases like the neck and groin, as well as visibly soiled areas do need to be cleaned daily to prevent smells and buildup of old skin cells. Generally, a bath every 48–72 hours is fine — after the umbilical stump has fallen off.

Water can dry out the skin by removing the natural oils, so it’s important to replace moisture with mild skin care products.

Scented soaps and bubble baths are not needed, as the chemicals in these products can irritate the skin and be even more drying.

Also, bath time doesn’t have to be prolonged. As babies grow and develop, more regular cleaning is needed as their skin becomes soiled with food and outdoor play.

Eczema is a type of inflammation of the skin and certain products may cause irritation. Parents and caregivers may be bathing their little one too frequently, which can be drying for the skin. It’s important to find a bath routine that helps keep the skin clean but maintains moisture.

I recommend quick baths — even just wiping off the skin with a soft wet cloth, not immersing in water — and immediately applying an unscented moisturizer. It’s important to use hypoallergenic products to help prevent allergic reactions.

Loose, natural-fiber clothing, like cotton, is helpful to allow air circulation around the skin and prevent overheating/sweating, which can worsen eczema.

Any rash that is not improving, causing pain — which is shown as “fussiness” or irritability in babies — or affecting feeding, should be evaluated.

Your child’s pediatrician can help initially and determine whether you need to consult a skin specialist known as a dermatologist. If there are signs of infection, such as fever, swelling, increased warmth of the skin, pain, blisters or open sores, or spots that drain fluid, a medical professional should evaluate the rash as soon as possible.

Any rash around the eyes or inside the mouth should be evaluated, as some rashes can be caused by infections that can affect sight or feeding.