Tips to help erase baby spots and rashes
The last thing a proud new mum wants to see is bumps and rashes on her beautiful baby's skin. But, says Anjana Gosai, with a little insider know-how you can help solve the problem
Don't believe everything you see in the TV ads – it's a myth that babies naturally have soft and smooth skin. In fact, for the first 18 months of their lives infant skin is extremely sensitive, as it learns to adapt to a different environment. And because of this, it's vulnerable to all sorts of reactions and rashes.
'Newborn skin is very thin, weak and absorbent, which means it is at higher risk of skin infections and reactions to germs, chemicals, detergents and fragrances,' explains paediatric dermatologist Dr Hiva Fassihi of European Dermatology in London.
Whether it is prickly heat or eczema, seeing breakouts on your baby's skin is an alarming sight. But many of these skin irritations are relatively common and can be prevented or remedied. 'Most infant skin rashes can be treated at home, and often they disappear spontaneously without any treatment, as your baby's skin matures and develops its protective barrier,' Dr Fassihi says.
Here's how to spot and treat the most common baby skin conditions:
You'd be forgiven for thinking acne wouldn't be an issue until your child hits their teens, but at three to four weeks (and sometimes from birth), tiny pink bumps can appear on their face and chest.
'It could be down to the retention of the mother's hormones in the baby's body, which can cause the child's oil-producing glands to produce excess sebum and form spots,' explains Dr Fassihi.
Unlike teen acne, a new baby's acne needs no special care. 'It should resolve after a few weeks. As the skin heals, keep it clean by gently cleansing with water,' says Dr Fassihi. Steer clear of oils or lotions, which can aggravate it. If the spots persist, see your GP, who may prescribe an antibiotic lotion.
If your little one has a red and sore bottom, the chances are it's nappy rash. The combination of excess moisture, warmth, contact with wee and poo – plus friction from rubbing – makes the nappy area a difficult environment for a baby's delicate skin. Nappy rash can develop quickly, appearing as red patches, swelling or raised fluid-filled bumps, which may feel warm to the touch.
Keeping on top of nappy hygiene can help prevent it. The longer your baby sits in a dirty nappy, the more prone to irritation they will be – so change them regularly, and always after every feed.
You can treat the rash at home and it usually disappears within three to four days. 'Gently but thoroughly clean the area with cotton wool and water, but don't use baby wipes for the first month, as some can aggravate a sore bottom,' warns midwife and baby skincare specialist Sharon Trotter.
'Once clean, pat the area dry and let your child roam nappy-free for a few minutes, to let the bottom area breathe, then apply a thin layer of barrier cream to protect against chafing,' she adds.
'Whenever I notice my baby has a sore bottom,' says Jo, mum to Monty, nine months, 'I change his nappy more often and particularly as soon as it's soiled. I try to give him a bit of nappy-free time before his bath too. I apply a barrier cream every night, but when he has nappy rash I use it at every change, and his bottom heals in no time!' Try Sudocrem Care & Protect (£5.99, Boots), which is designed for daily use, and soothe tender bottoms with new Tushi Stick – inflammation- reducing calendula oil, plus soothing jojoba and apricot oils in a handy stick applicator.
This red, raw rash can develop in skin folds and is triggered by heat and excess moisture. It's especially common around the neck – where drool tends to collect, creases in the thighs – which are prone to chaffing from nappies, and under the arms – where sweat can build up.
'It can be uncomfortable, but some babies may not notice it. Prevent it by drying all skin folds well after bathing and using baby powder to keep the areas dry,' advises Dr Fassihi.
If managed correctly, the inflammation should improve within a few days. Meanwhile, applying Vaseline (£1.50, Superdrug) or Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment can ease discomfort and aid recovery.
Many babies have a run-in with this skin condition before they are one. Contact dermatitis is identified by red, scaly and sometimes itchy bumps caused by a reaction to something they may have come into contact with. Anything from indoor flowers and outdoor plants to fragranced baby products, toys made from latex and even their own drool can spark a reaction.
The rash should clear up by itself, but it is important to identify the irritant and prevent further contact.
'Relieve irritation by using a cold, wet compress on the affected area. Creams containing calendula or the homeopathic remedy arnica can also ease inflammation,' says Sharon. Bathing your child in water that's been infused with porridge oats (add the oats to a sock, tie it up and hold under the running water) can also be soothing. If the rash is itchy, consult your doctor who might recommend a suitable antihistamine.
You may want to keep your baby warm and cocooned, but if they become overheated, it can trigger prickly heat, also known as miliaria.
'The immaturity of the sweat ducts in newborns can result in sweat being retained in the skin, and this shows up as tiny, red, inflamed bumps on the face, neck and upper back,' explains Dr Fassihi. As babies aren't as good at regulating their temperature as adults are, anything that makes them overheat – hot weather, central heating or snug clothing – can cause this reaction.
Keeping your baby out of the heat can prevent a flare-up, but if prickly heat does strike, it's important to cool them. 'Get your child out of the heat and dress them in lightweight, cotton clothing,' advises Dr Fassihi. 'The rash should subside within two to three days – try patting the affected area with a cool flannel or give them a cool bath to speed it up,' she advises.
Devin, mum to Quincy, 11 months, says her son is particularly prone to prickly heat: 'He started getting heat rash on his body from around two weeks,' she says. 'He's naturally a very warm and sweaty child and he still gets it whenever he becomes too hot. Now, if I notice him looking flushed, I take off any extra layers of clothing and keep him as cool as possible.'
These thick, yellow scales, medically known as seborrhoeic dermatitis, often appear on the scalps of babies under six months, but can extend to cheeks, chest, neck and behind the ears. It may be another condition caused by the mother's hormones, making her baby's sebaceous (oil- producing) glands more active so old skin cells stick to the scalp.
It may look unsightly, but cradle cap is relatively harmless and should clear up on its own. 'If necessary, apply a bit of olive oil to the scalp and leave it on overnight, then gently comb the loosened skin flakes off in the morning,' Sharon advises. This is what mum Kerry did. 'Andrew had cradle cap for three months after he was born,' she says. 'I tried a specialist shampoo but it didn't help. In the end, I combed his hair with a baby comb after every bath, and it soon cleared.'
Eczema is common in babies, because their skin isn't good at retaining moisture; it also affects tots from a family with a history of skin irritations and allergies. It often starts between two and six months, appearing on the forehead or cheeks as red, dry and scaly patches that may become sore and itchy.
'Control it by keeping your baby's skin moisturised,' says Dr Fassihi. Bathe them in a gentle bath oil, then apply a fragrance-free moisturiser. This helps lock in moisture, improve the skin's barrier function and calm irritation.
Try Oilatum Junior Bath Additive followed by Pure Potions Skin Salvation Ointment (from £7.99, Pure Potions). For the face, Weleda's new Baby Derma White Mallow Face Cream (£9.95, boots.com), relieves and protects. Eczema can be distressing for babies. Stop it worsening by dressing them in soft cotton, keeping them cool overnight and avoiding harsh soaps and detergents or fragranced skincare. Also keep their nails trimmed (easier after a bath). Karen, mum of Ewan, three, says, 'We also switched to natural household cleaning products and removed all the carpets. His skin is now perfect,' Eczema tends to improve in time and will often clear up before school age. 'If it's very itchy, see your doctor who may prescribe a corticosteroid ointment,' adds Dr Fassihi.