Baby health

Baby skin problems

When to treat baby’s skin problems at home, and when to see a doc

By Rhea Seymour
Baby skin problems

Babies seem to have such perfect skin. But soggy diapers, chemicals in laundry soap or lotion, and simply being sensitive can all lead to painful irritation. The good news? “Babies have incredible healing powers,” says Briana Peddle, a naturopathic doctor in Vancouver. “Their bodies react well to treatments, and some simple changes can make a big difference.” Here’s what you can do to help your baby cope with these common skin conditions:

Cradle cap

Treat it at home Wash with baby shampoo, brush with a soft toothbrush and apply 0.5 percent hydrocortisone cream (available at drugstores), advises Richard Haber, head of the University of Calgary’s dermatology division.

Prefer a natural remedy? Peddle suggests a mixture of 2 tbsp (30 mL) of olive oil with 3 drops of lavender essential oil, which smells nice and helps heal the skin. Rub it on before bed, then wash it off in the morning, gently brushing out the loose flakes.

See a doctor If it doesn’t improve or it gets more severe or itchy, your child’s doctor may recommend prescription-strength hydrocortisone.

“Avoid picking the rash,” says Peddle. “This can cause bleeding and possible infection of that broken skin.”

Diaper rash

Treat it at home Change diapers frequently, apply a barrier cream, such as zinc oxide, to repel moisture, and let your baby enjoy some diaper-free time to air-dry the skin, says Haber. For a yeast rash, try applying calendula cream or an antifungal ointment, such as clotrimazole (the brand Canesten is one example).

See a doctor If diaper rash persists, your baby may need a prescription hydrocortisone ointment.

If you suspect a yeast infection and it is your baby’s first, see a doctor, who may recommend a combination of antifungal and hydrocortisone creams.

Baby acne

Treat it at home Little red bumbs that appear in the few weeks after birth usually go away on their own. For mild blackheads, whiteheads and lesions, Peddle suggests washing baby’s skin with cooled camomile tea, which is anti-inflammatory.

See a doctor For more serious cases, Haber recommends you see a dermatologist. It’s not medically necessary to treat, but lesions can leave permanent scars. Benzoyl peroxide or topical and oral antibiotics may be prescribed to reduce the inflammation and prevent scarring.


Treat it at home Hydrate baby’s skin with daily baths, then moisturize with petroleum jelly. Avoid irritants, such as wool clothing, bubble baths and fabric softener. Try topical steroid ointment, available over the counter at drugstores in 0.5 percent strength.

See a doctor If home treatments don’t work, and the skin crusts or oozes, your baby may need a stronger topical steroid and/or anti-inflammatory medications that are available only with a doctor’s prescription.

This article was originally published on Sep 20, 2002

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.