The A-Z of baby skin conditions – the signs every parent needs to know (and tips to treat them)

IT can be scary when your baby comes up in a rash, bump or lumps.

Most of the time, skin conditions that affect babies are harmless and easily treated.

They are also extremely common, as little ones have very sensitive skin which is still developing.

This A-Z skin bible, created by WaterWipes, gives the rundown on what to expect when you take your baby home.

A: Acne

You would think acne isn’t something that hits until teenage years.

But baby acne is common and is thought to develop because hormones that aggravate skin glands are passed from the mum to baby via the placenta.

The baby’s own vomit and saliva can also aggravate the skin.

It usually develops on babies’ cheeks in the first few months of life. You might notice spots on your baby’s neck, back or chest.

In most cases the acne resolves on its own without treatment.

B: Birthmark

From port wine stains to blue-grey spots, birth marks can come up anywhere and are usually nothing to worry about.

See your GP if one develops near the nose, eye or mouth; gets bigger, darker or lumpier; or is sore or painful. 

You should see a doctor if your child has six or more cafe-au-lait spots or a large congenital mole from birth.

C: Cradle cap

If a thick, crustly, oily or scaly patch covers your baby’s scalp, they may have cradle cap.

The harmless skn condition doesn’t bother your baby. But could be there until they are a toddler.

It’s not catching. But there are some things you should avoid doing, including picking the crust, using adult shampoos, soap, peanut oil or olive oil.

Baby and vegetable oil are suitable, as well as unperfumed baby shampoo and body washes.

D: Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis causes the skin to become itchy, blistered, dry and cracked. Lighter skin can become red, and darker skin can becomes dark brown, purple or grey. 

It is most commonly caused by irritants such as soaps and detergents, solvents or regular contact with water.

Depending on what is causing it, there are steps you can do to manage it. See your GP to find out more.

It can lead to eczema.

E: Eczema

Baby eczema often appears in the first year, and looks like patches of red, scaly skin that feel quite rough. It causes the skin to become itchy, dry and cracked.

The patches are often on the backs of the knees, elbows, cheeks, forehead and scalp.

Some things you can to help calm eczema include avoiding overwashing your baby (no more than three times a week), wearing cotton clothing, and avoiding perfumed products.


F: Face scratching 

It is normal for babies to scratch their faces and not something to worry about, unless there is a condition such as eczema. 

To try and reduce them catching their skin, keep their nails trim, as they can grow quite fast.

You can use baby nail scissors or a nail file.

G: Grazes

As babies start to move around more, it is very normal for them to get grazes and cuts.

As you would do with a child or adult, stop the bleeding, clean the wound and cover it with a plaster. 

Speak to your GP if you have any concerns.

H: Hives

Hives are a sign of an allergic reaction. In babies, this could be to a certain food or an insect bite.

In babies and young children, up to four in five cases are triggered by an infection, such as a cold or flu

Hives cause raised red patches, which may be less noticeable on darker skin.

It’s usually not serious. But call 999 if other symptoms are present including difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips and/or mouth, a rapid heart rate or clammy skin.

I: Impetigo

Impetigo is a skin infection that's very contagious, causing blisters and sores.

But it’s not usually serious and often gets better within 10 days with antibiotics. 

You can help in the meantime by covering the sores with loose clothing or bandages, avoiding touching the sores, and keeping surfaces and shared toys or materials clean.

J: Jaundice

Jaundice sounds like a scary condition but is actually quite common in babies (60 per cent) and is usually harmless.

It causes yellowing of the skin and eyes.

This is due to a buildup of bilirubin, a yellow substance, in the blood. 

Bilirubin is produced by red blood cells – and newborns have more red blood cells.

A newborn will be checked for jaundice within 72 hours of birth and about five days lateral

K: Keratosis pilaris

This condition causes small bumps to appear on the skin, also seen in adults.

Keratosis usually presents as patches of small bumps on the arms, thighs or bottom, but they can appear in other places where hair follicles are. 

It is a long-term skin condition, but with many people, the bumps go away as they get older.

L: Lumps

Lumps are quite uncommon in babies and could be either a verruca or wart.

You can buy creams, plasters and sprays from pharmacies to treat warts and verrucas. But they may take a few months to clear up.

Warts do not cause any harm, but if your baby has one they may find it itchy and uncomfortable in some cases. Verrucas, also known as plantar warts, are more likely to be painful. 

Other lumps in babies, include caput succedaneum which refers to swelling of an infant's scalp that appears as a lump or bump on their head shortly after delivery.

M: Milk spots

Nearly half of all newborns will have milk spots, which are tiny yellowish or white spots on the face.

Milk spots should clear up on their own, without treatment, in a few weeks. However, it's a good idea to keep your baby's face clean with warm water and gently pat dry the affected skin, don't rub.

N: Nappy rash

Nappy rash is very common and occurs because the material of the nappy rubs on the skin around the bottom and legs.

Make sure you are changing your baby’s nappy as soon as it becomes soiled or wet, and ensure their bottoms are cleansed well when changing. 

But visit your GP if there are signs the rash is severe, including if it spreads beyond the nappy area or if there are sores that bleed.

O: Oral thrush

Oral thrush is a yeast infection that often appears as white creamy spots or patches that coat your baby's mouth, tongue and gums. 

While it is only a mild infection, it can be uncomfortable for your baby and they could pass it on to the mum’s nipple.

If your baby is over four months old and has oral thrush, speak to your local pharmacists. But if your baby is under four months, speak to your GP first.

P: Premature skin

A baby born before 37 weeks is premature, and their skin may be more sensitive.

Even full-term babies have a weak skin barrier, so premature babies are likely to spend some time in hospital.

It is important to avoid chemicals, including fragrances, instead of choosing gentle products with minimal ingredients.

Q: Questions

When you take home your baby, you’ll be full of questions on how to care for it.

When it comes to skin, avoid any ingredients that may irritate the skin, like harsh soaps or cleansers.

Stick to baby-friendly products.

R: Rash

A rash could be caused by chicken pox, teething, prickly heat, measles, or hand foot and mouth disease.

Most of the time, rashes are not something to worry about.

However, they can be the sign of something very serious.

If you notice your little one has a rash that spreads or they have other symptoms (such as a high temperature), difficulty breathing, or limp limbs you should call 999 or go straight to A&E.

If the rash doesn’t fade when a glass is pressed against it, this could be meningitis.

S: Sensitive skin 

Babies have thinner skin than adults. This means it's more prone to irritation.

This can be worsened by changes in the weather, heating in your home, fragranced products, or excessive washing.

Don’t wash your baby more than 2-3 times a week with warm water, and only for around five minutes.

T: Teething rash 

A rash can come up when your baby is teething because they drool.

Typically the cheeks, chin and neck are affected – and your little one may rub its ears.

The best way to treat this is to keep your baby’s skin clean and dry by gently wiping or patting the saliva away.

Teething usually starts at around six to 12 months old and by three years old your little one should have all their milk teeth. 

U: Umbilical cord

When you take your newborn home, it will have an umbilical cord stump.

For the first few weeks, it’s important to keep the area dry, before it falls off naturally, usually after two to three weeks.

It will then take another week or so for the belly button to form.

There may be some blood – but don’t panic, just wipe it away. If there is a lot of blood or yellow pus, see your GP.

V: Vitiligo 

Vitiligo is a long-term skin condition where patches of skin lose their colour permanently. The patches are different in everyone. 

It is most common on the face, hand, genitals and chest. It can also cause the hair or eyelashes to turn white or grey.

If your little one is under six months, they should not wear sun cream and should be kept completely out of the sun, kept in the shade and should wear hats/loose fitting clothes to protect their skin.

W: Wipes

Wipes will come in handy for all sorts of things as you care for your baby – cleaning their face, wiping surfaces and your own hands.

But don’t use any old wipes, as they could be full of harsh chemicals.

WaterWipes recommend their own product which has minimal ingredients, and therefore is delicate on the skin.

They are “purer than cotton wool and water”, the firm claims.

Founder Edward McCloskey created them when his newborn daughter suffered with severe nappy rash.

X: eXpert advice

Who do you turn for when you need advice on your baby and their skin?

The NHS website has a wealth of information. You can also speak with your GP, a pharmacist, a health visitor or midwife.

Your midwife is your key point of contact during pregnancy and directly after the birth, followed by a health visitor.

Y: Yum

A baby’s journey to eating solid food, and how they move food around their mouth, chew and swallow, can be a messy experience.

Weaning is when you start to introduce your baby to solid foods at around six months old.

Introducing new foods can also sometimes trigger allergies in babies, so introduce common allergy-trigger foods slowly and one at a time. 

These include cow’s milk, eggs, nuts, seeds, soya, shellfish, fish and gluten-containing foods. 

Z: Zzzz

There are many ways to keep your baby cool and calm as they sleep.

Make sure that the room is at a good and safe temperature (between 16 -20°C), and that your little one is wearing cotton clothing.

If it’s hot, open the window or use a (clean) fan.

If your little one has sensitive skin or has baby eczema, a sleepsuit that has scratch mitts may help prevent them scratching in the night.

Lastly, newborns like to be swaddled. But make sure you do it safely: Read advice from the Lullaby Trust.

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