Newborn Basics

Q&A: Caring For Newborn's Skin?

My newborn's skin is kind of dry, and I see a lot of marks. Is something wrong? How should I take care of it?

You'll have to hold out until around month four for that soft, airbrushed, magazine-baby skin. Newborns' skin (especially the face) is prone to peeling and irritation, and isn't quite as beautiful as it will be in a few months.

At birth, your baby's skin will appear to be dry. In fact, it's in the process of peeling off an entire waterproof layer of sorts. Skin starts out very translucent, so you'll be able to see lots of birthmarks. As your baby grows and her skin gets thicker, those marks will seem to disappear. In fair-skinned babies, we often see a red mark between the eyes (an "angel kiss") or on the back of the head (a "stork bite"), which also becomes less noticeable over time. Next time your boss or husband gets mad, look closely — you can still sometimes see these marks in flushed or angry adults.

Around month one, you may see baby acne on her face or neck. This is very similar to teenage acne, but won't leave scars. Acne is a response to changing hormones, and a normal skin transition. All you need to do is gently wash her face once a day with a mild cleanser. It's also fine to use a moisturizer if her face seems dry. And don’t worry — baby acne doesn't predict more skin problems once she's a teen!

In general, a baby's skin doesn’t need much specialized care... just a lot of TLC. A mild cleanser is safe, though many people recommend just plain water. These days, baby wipes — especially ones for sensitive skin — are so gentle that they're generally safe from the one-month period on. Babies' faces and genitals can use daily cleaning, especially in urban areas (like Manhattan, where I practice), for obvious reasons. Your baby's face takes a lot of abuse (just think of all that spitting!), so do your best to keep it clean. If your baby's skin seems excessively dry, irritated or itchy, or if you notice a rash or breakout, consult your pediatrician.

By Dr. Vicki Papadeas