Dermatology Pediatrics / Children's Health

What can you put on a newborn’s dry skin?

Newborn babies often have dry, peeling skin. Most of the time, newborn skin peeling is normal.

Most people expect newborn babies to have soft, flawless skin, and new parents or caregivers often express concern if their newborns have imperfect skin. However, it should not usually be cause for concern.

Sometimes newborn skin peeling occurs as a result of conditions that require treatment. In this article, we look at the causes of newborn skin peeling and provide 10 home remedies and treatments.

What causes newborn skin peeling?

Newborn skin peeling because of vernix caseosa
While in the womb, a baby develops a thick waxy coating to protect their skin.

Newborn skin peeling is usually a natural consequence of pregnancy.

Newborn babies have just spent 9 months surrounded by amniotic fluid. Due to this, their skin does not exfoliate as adults’ skin does. Instead, a newborn’s skin may look dry and begin to peel off.

The following factors may affect the likelihood of newborn skin peeling:

Vernix caseosa

When a baby is in the womb, a thick waxy coating called vernix caseosa, or vernix, develops on the baby’s skin to protect it from the amniotic fluid. According to the American Pregnancy Association, vernix begins forming around the 20th week of pregnancy.

If people avoid washing the vernix off the baby immediately after birth, this natural biofilm may also help the baby’s skin to adapt to life outside the womb.

Full-term birth

The extent of the skin peeling will vary according to the baby’s gestational age at birth. Babies who are born prematurely or before 40 weeks are likely to have less skin peeling than babies born closer to term, or after more than 40 weeks.

Babies who spend more time in the womb tend to have less vernix on them at birth, meaning that their skin has had more exposure to amniotic fluid. This can lead to increased skin peeling.

Other causes

While a newborn’s exposure to the amniotic fluid is the most common cause of newborn skin peeling, there are other possible causes.

These may include:


Ten home remedies and treatments

Humidifier can prevent a newborn skin peeling
Using a humidifier will help to prevent dry, itchy skin.

There are many home remedies that people can use to help protect a newborn’s skin. The following 10 methods may help to prevent or treat dry, cracked, or peeling skin.

1. Reducing exposure to cold air

Cold air is often quite dry and can cause the skin to dry out in turn. This can lead to cracks in the skin and peeling. Limiting a baby’s exposure to cold air can help to prevent this.

2. Using a humidifier

When moisture is present in the air, it helps to prevent dry, itchy skin. A humidifier will increase the amount of moisture in the room.

3. Limiting the amount of time in the bathtub

Baths can have an adverse effect on a baby’s skin. Prolonged periods in bathwater can wash away naturally occurring oils, leaving the baby more susceptible to peeling skin. A parent or caregiver should limit bath time to a maximum of 10 minutes and avoid using harsh soaps.

4. Using lukewarm water to clean the baby

Lukewarm water is ideal for washing a baby’s skin. Water that is too hot can dry out the skin. It can also be beneficial to apply moisturizer immediately after a lukewarm bath.

5. Trying an oatmeal bath

Research shows that colloidal oatmeal reduces inflammation and itching, which may prevent the baby from scratching any damaged, peeling skin and making it worse.

Oatmeal bath treatments are available in many drug stores, natural food stores, and online.

6. Moisturizing the skin

Moisturizer can help a newborn skin peeling
Apply baby-sensitive moisturizer two to three times a day.

Parents and caregivers can buy moisturizers that are particularly suitable for a baby’s sensitive skin. They should choose a hypoallergenic moisturizer and apply it two to three times a day.

7. Keeping the baby hydrated

Another way to prevent peeling skin on newborns is to ensure that they do not become dehydrated. Breast milk or formula should be sufficient to hydrate babies up to 6 months in age.

8. Avoiding unnecessary chemicals

A newborn’s skin is very sensitive. If the skin comes into contact with chemicals, such as perfumes or soaps with fragrances, it can become irritated.

9. Choosing appropriate clothing

In addition to washing a baby with fragrance-free soaps, parents should clean a baby’s clothing in detergents that do not contain unnecessary fragrances. This can help to prevent secondary exposure to these chemicals.

People should also choose soft, loose-fitting clothes made of natural materials for babies as these are less likely to irritate or put pressure on the skin.

10. Keeping the baby comfortable

Part of the treatment for the newborn’s peeling skin involves keeping the baby as comfortable as possible. This may involve soothing them and helping them to find positions that avoid putting pressure on the peeling skin.


When to see a doctor

Peeling skin is a common occurrence in newborns. In most cases, it should not be necessary to seek medical advice.

However, parents and caregivers should look for additional signs and symptoms. They should take a baby to see the doctor if the skin is:

  • red
  • cracked
  • itchy
  • swollen

If the baby is running a fever, medical attention will be necessary.


Takeaway

Peeling skin on a newborn baby is quite common and not usually a cause for concern. Treatment is usually possible using home remedies, and medical intervention is rarely necessary.

If a baby’s skin appears to be cracked, itchy, or swollen, it is best to take them to see a doctor. Otherwise, the methods above should help to protect the skin and prevent a reocurrence of the peeling skin.

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