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The Best Diaper Rash Creams to Come to the Rescue

A sensitive, irritated baby bottom is no match against these diaper creams and ointments.
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profile picture of Kathleen Harris
Updated September 21, 2023
mother putting diaper rash cream on baby
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There are so many things that parents can bank on in their baby’s first few years (both good and bad), from sleep regressions and tell-tale teething signs to fledgling-walker falls and first-time runny noses. Another inevitability? Diaper rash.

If you change baby’s diaper around the clock, wash their bottom often and haven’t seen a single splotch of red (as of yet), consider yourself lucky. But one day—in the not too distant future—you’ll probably find yourself wondering where those red, angry cheeks came from. Before you go down a rabbit hole of self-doubt when your little one—who’s usually an angel on the changing table—starts tensing up, don’t fret. Diaper rash happens, even when your diaper-changing diligence is top notch.

Odds are that baby will experience their fair share of diaper rash flare-ups until around the age of 2 (when potty training starts). And the best defense against diaper rash is a good offense—meaning that protection and prevention is top priority. “Frequent diaper changes and thick barrier creams are generally the mainstay of treatment for this,” says Britt Craiglow, MD, a Fairfield, Connecticut-based pediatric and adult dermatologist. Of course, choosing a diaper cream from the pharmacy shelf can be overwhelming ( so many options!) Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the best diaper cream for your kiddo’s tush.

Types of Diaper Rash Cream

With so many diaper rash “remedies” on the market, from creams and butt pastes to ointments and balms, it’s no surprise that worried parents feel overwhelmed by the choices. But Phil Boucher, MD, a board-certified pediatrician and father of six, warns parents not to get caught up in the too-many-choices confusion. Finding an effective diaper rash solution isn’t an exact science, and every baby is different (with regard to unique skin sensitivities and tolerance levels), so diaper rash may very well not clear up straightaway. The important thing to remember is that “diaper rash is entirely normal, expected and manageable,” reminds Boucher. You aren’t doing anything wrong, even if it takes a few product trials to find what works for your little one!

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A lot of diaper rash cream consideration comes down to a simple matter of preference, but experts agree that a barrier agent—one that effectively blocks damaged skin from further irritation by pee or poop—is what you’ll want to have on hand. Zinc oxide creams or pastes and petrolatum (petroleum jelly) ointments are among the most common and reputable barriers.

Zinc oxide-based products

Great for treating moderate to severe diaper rash, zinc oxide has some healing anti-inflammatory and cleansing antiseptic and astringent qualities (to stop the growth of bacteria or other microorganisms); it also creates a sort of waterproof layer on the skin to lock in natural moisture and hydration (preventing the area from getting too dry and chapped), while repelling moisture from a wet or dirty diaper. Concentrations in products can range from 10 to 40 percent, with higher concentrations reserved for more intense rashes.

Petrolatum-based products

Ideal for protecting against diaper rash, petrolatum (or petroleum jelly) products are thick and glassy-looking. Composition is oil-forward, so it works as a barrier between baby’s skin and the diaper, repelling moisture and preventing bacteria from getting in. Ointments with petroleum jelly as an active ingredient are better used to prevent diaper rash than heal it. The formula doesn’t absorb readily into the skin, it just keeps out the bad stuff, but you can find options enhanced with ingredients like lanolin that can help heal chapped or chafed skin. All in all, if you’re looking for a daily-use preemptive measure for baby’s tiny tush, a jelly-like petroleum-based ointment may be your best bet.

What to Look for in a Diaper Rash Cream

Diaper rash, though common and highly treatable, is always a cause for concern when your typically-happy tot is in extreme discomfort. We asked experts to share some of the most important criteria to inform your shopping decisions, and here are their pro tips for what to look for in the best diaper cream.

Thick formulations

Keeping the skin barrier in mind, a thicker product lends itself to a better seal between the skin and moisture from pee and poop in the diaper. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends applying a thick layer of cream or ointment on baby’s affected area(s)—as if you’re frosting a cake. “For babies with frequent diaper rashes, thicker is better, and zinc-based preparations and ointments are going to provide the best barrier protection,” advises Craiglow. Thicker formulations also usually stay on better, which is important when you want to keep that skin barrier intact.

As few ‘extras’ as possible.

Sometimes, less-is-more—with regard to the ingredient load, that is. Products with zinc-oxide and petrolatum as active ingredients get thumbs up across the board, but beyond that, the ingredient list should be lean and mean. Craiglow says that “creams with long lists of ingredients, fragrance and botanicals should be avoided, as these can cause more irritation.” And Boucher shares the sentiment, explaining that extra ingredients designed to improve the smell of a soiled diaper (or make poop less likely to stick on baby’s butt) can exacerbate irritation to baby’s skin.

Directing additional irritants away from an infant or toddler’s sensitive skin is paramount, since even the diapers themselves can trigger allergic reactions. “Natural” and “organic” are certainly good buzzwords to keep on your radar, but Craiglow notes that even plant-derived additives can pose risks to babies with sensitive skin. Veronica Rutt, DO, a board-certified dermatologist, adds that she cautions against using products with essential oils and botanicals, as they can aggravate a broken skin barrier and cause allergic contact dermatitis. That said, it’s fine to use them as long as baby doesn’t have an active rash.

Finally, look for diaper rash products that are hypoallergenic and free of fragrance, parabens, phthalates and sulfates

Hygienic containers and applicators.

Diaper rash creams, pastes and ointments usually come in tubes or jars. Both are easy to use, and jars are commonly less expensive overall (you get more bang for your buck!), but they may also pose contamination risks. Wash your hands before each diaper change, and avoid double dipping, so you don’t introduce bacteria into the container, advises Craiglow.

Best Diaper Rash Creams

While the best diaper rash cream is whichever one you’re happy and comfortable using, there are a lot of options that tackle specific needs. To help narrow your search, we’ve asked The Bump community—real parents, just like you—to tell us about the diaper rash creams they use in their homes. Check out their thoughts below, alongside our picks of the best diaper rash creams to treat every little bummed-out bottom.

Overall best diaper rash cream

Desitin Daily Defense
Box of diaper rash cream
Image: Walmart
What We Love
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Inexpensive and highly accessible (available everywhere)
  • Comes in tubes and jars of every size
Things To Consider
  • Some parents say that the thick cream is hard to remove from baby’s butt when baby poops

Desitin is a bestselling diaper cream for several reasons. First and foremost, the creamy white formula is a cinch to put on baby, and it easily wipes off your own hands. (That might not sound like a big thing, but when you’re smearing it on baby’s bottom and washing your hands up 10 times a day, you’ll want to get it on them and off you as soon as you can.) The hypoallergenic and fragrance-free formula is safe for babies, and extremely effective due to its active zinc-oxide composition and barrier protection. According to a clinical study, 90 percent of babies with diaper rash had noticeable relief within 12 hours of using Desitin’s Daily Defense Cream.

Size: 4 oz. | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide

“Desitin is effective! I like that it comes at a decent price and in different size options.” – Brittany, mother of a one-year-old

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Best preventative diaper rash cream

Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment Advanced Therapy Skin Protectant
Tube of Aquaphor baby ointment
Image: Target
What We Love
  • Can be used daily to treat and prevent
  • Goes on smooth, with minimal mess
  • Fragrance-free, it’s a great choice for sensitive skin
Things To Consider
  • Aquaphor has multiple diaper rash cream and ointment options, so confusion is possible

“Aquaphor is what I’ll have parents stick with and turn to when they come in to see me for diaper rash that won’t improve,” says Boucher. The super simple, plain emollient protects against irritation from pee and poop without causing additional chemical irritation. It acts as a protective barrier that shields baby’s skin from irritation, so diaper rash can be a thing of the past.

Size: 7 oz. | Active ingredients: Petrolatum

“I always come back to this one. It’s affordable, effective and easy to use.” – Susan, mother of a one-year-old

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Best maximum strength diaper rash cream

Desitin Maximum Strength Original Zinc Oxide Paste
Tub of baby diaper rash ointment
Image: Target
What We Love
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Strongest over-the-counter treatment available
  • Thick, protective coating stays put and works magic overnight
  • Inexpensive
Things To Consider
  • Best for acute treatment, not daily use

Zinc oxide diaper cream formulas range in concentration from 10 to 40 percent. This option is formulated with the maximum level of zinc oxide available—without a prescription, that is—so it creates an exceptionally rich barrier to the skin. It’s also infused with lanolin and beeswax that work to heal and hydrate chapped or chafing skin, and prevent bacteria from entering the body through the broken skin barrier. You won’t want to use this option at every diaper change; save it for extreme cases of diaper rash. One option: Use it overnight and wait to see the undeniable results in the morning. Desitin claims that the paste is so powerful that “diaper rash starts to disappear in hours.”

Size: 16 oz. | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide

“Desitin makes diaper rash and even open sores go away so quickly.” – Olivia, mother of a one-year-old

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Best natural diaper rash cream

Babyganics Diaper Rash Cream
Tube of diaper rash ointment
Image: Walmart
What We Love
  • Cruelty-free—never tested on animals
  • Made without parabens, phthalates, sulfates, synthetic fragrances or dyes
  • Can be used on adults (many moms say that they use it for rashes under their breasts/in their thigh creases)
  • Cloth diaper-friendly
Things To Consider
  • The list of ingredients is long and hard to vet

If you’re in search of an option with plant-based ingredients, Babyganics could be the best diaper rash cream for you. Not only is this all-natural cream easily found in drugstores, baby boutiques and big-box retailers, it’s not much more expensive than its non-plant matches. In addition to the 15 percent zinc oxide that keeps wetness at bay, this cream is purposefully made with Babyganics’ NeoNourish Seed Oil Blend and other skin-soothing natural ingredients, like aloe leaf juice and Vitamin E that can treat and protect chafed skin.

Size: 4 oz. | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide

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Best medicated diaper rash cream

Triple Paste Zinc Oxide Medicated Diaper Rash Ointment
What We Love
  • Free of fragrances, parabens, preservatives, phthalates and dyes
  • Available in a number of sizes, tubes and tubs
  • Safe and gentle for daily use
Things To Consider
  • Not the best option for cloth diapering

Triple Paste is a parent-favorite and one of Craiglow’s go-to options when it comes to treating moderate to severe diaper rash. The thick paste-like product goes on baby’s skin and doesn’t budge, as it soothes, treats and prevents red, irritated skin without the use of harsh chemicals or unnecessary ingredients. While its concentration of zinc oxide is just over 12 percent, Triple Paste’s proprietary formula contains soothing oat extract and beeswax for barrier protection, and other ingredients, such as white petrolatum and corn starch (read: not talc) for helping sealing the skin barrier and then healing red, raw-looking skin.

Size: 2 oz. | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide

“We chose this because it’s free from a lot of additives, has no fragrance and doesn't seem to irritate our baby’s skin.” – Laura, mother of a one-year-old

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Best organic diaper rash cream

mini bloom Toot Toot Balm
Packaging for diaper rash balm
Image: Maisonette
What We Love
  • Non-toxic, and formulated without parabens, phthalates, dyes and fragrances
  • Has a non-greasy feel
  • Tube is eco-friendly and easily recyclable
Things To Consider
  • Expensive option
  • Only available in a 2-oz. tube

You’ve got to love a diaper rash cream with an adorable name (parents need to have some fun!). Mini bloom’s ultra-rich formula calms irritated skin and provides a thick barrier of protection against diaper rash.⁠ Zinc oxide (20 percent) is the main player here, and it’s combined with other handworking occlusives, like shea butter, coconut, jojoba and sunflower seed oil, to provide enviable barrier protection.

Size: 2 fl. oz. | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide and jojoba oil

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Best diaper rash cream for sensitive skin

California Baby Super Sensitive Diaper Rash Ointment
Tube of diaper rash ointment
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
Amazon|$19.99
What We Love
  • Super concentrated (no water) formula means a little goes a long way
  • Company is super eco-sustainable (it runs on solar energy!)
  • Cloth diaper-friendly
Things To Consider
  • Lanolin can be an allergen, says Rutt—but this one is ultra-purified
  • Expensive option

Babies have very sensitive skin, but some little ones are even more prone to diaper rash—and that’s where California Baby’s Super Sensitive Diaper Rash Ointment really shines. Not only is the ointment free of added fragrance, common allergens and harsh chemicals, it’s also made from mostly plant-based ingredients. Coconut oil and licorice are some other “nice to have” ingredients that make this (12 percent) zinc oxide ointment a multi-purpose must-have. There’s also no water in the formula, which means it’s completely preservative-free. You really can’t get much more hypoallergenic than this 100 percent bio-based buy.

Size: 2.9 oz. | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide

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Best soothing diaper rash cream

Weleda Calendula Diaper Rash Cream
What We Love
  • Works quickly to soothe diaper rash
  • Enhanced with both lanolin and zinc oxide to keep dampness out of baby’s diaper
  • Free from parabens, phthalates, synthetic preservatives and fragrances
Things To Consider
  • Formula is entirely derived from flower, fruit and root extracts, minerals and essential oils which can be irritating to some babies with sensitive skin
  • The packaging/cap can be faulty and leak

This nearly 100-year-old European company uses its signature ingredient—calendula—in its creamy diaper rash cream. And yes, it’s truly heavenly—so much so that many parents who use it call it a “miracle cream.” The 12 percent zinc oxide formula with almond oil, fair-trade beeswax (instead of mineral oil) and sesame seed oil works to soothe sensitive dry skin. Calendula, also known as Marigold, possesses botanical soothing properties, plus it’s anti-inflammatory and pain-alleviating. It also happens to smell like a high-end hand lotion, so when you’re cleaning baby up, you can inhale to your heart’s content.

Size: 2.8 fl. oz. | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide

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Best spray diaper rash cream

Mustela Diaper Rash Sprayable Cream
Spray bottle of diaper rash cream
Image: Mustela USA
What We Love
  • Safe and gentle for infants, even newborns just out of neonatal care
  • Dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free
  • Comes in a recyclable bottle to support the planet
  • Touch-free application
Things To Consider
  • Some parents say the formula isn’t as thick and effective as the traditional Mustela diaper rash cream
  • May irritate babies with an active rash

This European brand prides itself in going above and beyond with research and development, resulting in some highly evolved diaper rash creams. This one might just be our favorite though, because it’s a touch-free, spray formula (how cool is that?!). Non-nano zinc oxide is paired with the brand’s signature ingredient (avocado perseose) to strengthen baby’s skin barrier. When baby needs changing, all you need to do is shake the bottle and spray the cream directly onto their clean and dry skin. No touching or rubbing necessary!

Size: 3 fl. oz. | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide and avocado perseose

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Best budget-friendly diaper rash cream

Boudreaux’s Original Butt Paste
Packaging for Boudreaux’s Original Butt Paste
Image: Target
What We Love
  • Formula is free from dyes, preservatives, parabens and talc
  • Inexpensive option
  • Great for mild to moderate diaper rash flare ups
Things To Consider
  • Thick formula works best with an applicator
  • Paste is hard to squeeze out, which makes quick changes challenging

Nearly 40 years after a Louisiana pharmacist and father of four invented Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, it still gets hundreds of five-star reviews, with thankful parents touting its many benefits. Zinc oxide and castor seed oil work to create a healthy, protective skin barrier and keep baby’s skin smooth and supple. True to its name, it’s more like a paste than a traditional cream or lotion, and a little bit goes a long way. It’s one of Boucher’s favorites: “With my own kids, we mostly used simple Vaseline (it’s cheap and widely available!), but for a zinc oxide-based one, if we wanted to get fancy, we’d go with Baby Beaurdaux’s Butt Paste, because it smells pretty good!” That’s right, fancy for a really cost-efficient price.

Size: 4 oz. | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide

“Great product—we tried a few different ones before our pediatrician recommended Boudreaux’s, and we never looked back!” – Margot, mother of a one-year-old

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How to Apply Diaper Rash Cream

Ready to get your hands dirty? (You know what we mean.) Here’s how to apply diaper rash cream in a swift, efficient and effective way. Change dirty or wet diapers as soon as possible. Gently cleanse the diaper area. Rutt says it’s important to “avoid vigorous scrubbing or wetting the area, as repetitive wet-dry conditions can dry out the skin and cause more irritation.” If you prefer to use a baby wipe, stick with an alcohol- and fragrance-free option that won’t aggravate the skin. Otherwise, you can use a soft wash cloth and warm water to wipe the area clean. If a rash is already present and inflamed, use a squirt bottle to spray some water on the soiled area and pat dry. Let baby go diaper-free and air dry until they’re no longer damp Apply a thick and liberal layer of your barrier cream of choice, and then put baby in a new diaper. As for any remnant cream in place at the next change? Boucher says not to sweat it. “Diaper cream doesn’t get absorbed as much as it simply sits on the skin and breaks down over time. If there is additional cream present and things aren’t too messy with pee or poop, you don’t have to start from scratch.”

How Fast Do Diaper Rash Creams Work

Even the most frustratingly fiery rashes should clear up within two to three days of regular diaper cream treatment, but you can really give yourself a grace period of up to a week to start seeing signs of improvement.

If after a week, things haven’t returned to normal, it may be time to contact your pediatrician or a board-certified dermatologist, urges Rutt. This is especially true “if your child develops open sores, blisters, is experiencing significant pain or discomfort and/or if you’re growing concerned that it might be an infection.” She says that signs of an infection include—but aren’t limited to— the presentation of redness, pus, bumps, warmth to the touch, drainage and/or fever.

Diaper rash isn’t enjoyable for anyone, but with the right cream or ointment, diaper changes will be pleasant and smooth again soon—just like your baby’s bum!

How We Chose the Best Diaper Rash Creams

We get it—babies require a ton of care, and it can be hard to find the products that best fit your family’s needs. To streamline your decision-making process, our goal is to do the bulk of the research for you, so you don’t have to spend hours scrolling through online retailers.

To decide which products are the best options on the market, we leverage our familiarity with leading baby brands to make sure items are from reliable manufacturers. We read user reviews and surveyed our readers to get the low-down on how these products work for families, and typically don’t consider anything with less than an average four-star rating. And since many of us are also parents, we rely on our writers’ and editors’ experience using these products with their own families.

Interested in learning more about our editorial process? Read about how our team develops and reviews all articles here.

Sources

Britt Craiglow, MD, is double board-certified in both dermatology and pediatric dermatology. She authored over 60 publications, and is regularly invited to speak at national and international conferences. She received her medical degree from the Yale School of Medicine.

Phil Boucher, MD, is a pediatrician at Frontier Pediatric Care in Lincoln, Nebraska. He’s also a father of six.

Veronica Rutt, DO, is a board-certified dermatologist and Fellowship Trained Mohs Surgeon. She specializes in surgical, medical, and cosmetic Dermatology. She earned her medical degree at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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