How to Care for Baby's Skin, According to Experienced Parents

Moms share their tried-and-true skin care tips and advice.
profile picture of Elena Donovan Mauer
ByElena Donovan Mauer
Contributing Writer
Jul 2020
baby taking a bubble bath
Photo: Yakobchuk

Newborn skin has a reputation for being, well, “soft as a baby’s bottom.” But if you’ve got a little one at home, you know that’s not always the case. Babies commonly get dry skin, rashes, cradle cap and other woes—and it’s up to you to help clear it up. That’s why we’ve mined the parent hive for the best tricks and essential products to care for baby’s delicate skin. Read on for the tips and tactics experienced parents swear really work.

Don’t Overdo Baths

You might think baby needs to be superclean, but they don’t need as many baths as you assume. “Honestly, I never bathed my babies more than two times a week, especially in the winter,” says Amy in Manlius, New York, whose kids have dry skin. She’s on to something. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends bathing babies under a year old around three times a week, since they don’t sweat or get that dirty (other than the bum, of course, and you’re cleaning that at diaper changes). More frequent baths could dry out baby’s skin and remove protective natural oils.

Seek Gentle Products and Fabrics

To keep baby’s skin moist and free of irritation, use gentle products without fragrances. For bathtime, look for a mild and tear-free cleanser, like Aquaphor Baby Wash & Shampoo. But caring for sensitive skin goes beyond skin care products to things like fabrics and laundry soap. “I felt every single onesie and PJ sleeper before purchasing,” says Jessica in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “If it didn’t feel soft and super comfortable, then it was a no from me. And I washed everything before my baby wore it in a gentle detergent.”

Deal With Diaper Rash

Diaper rash is extremely common, and moms have learned some effective methods to help heal it. “I recommend nudity,” says Ashley in Omaha, Nebraska. “Going diaperless is scary with babies, but letting things air out for about 20 minutes before putting a new diaper on always seemed to help the rash clear up faster.” (Try placing baby on a pile of blankets or a waterproof pad…just in case.) But when it’s time to put the diaper back on, you’re going to want an effective diaper rash treatment too. We love Aquaphor Baby 3-in-1 Diaper Rash Cream for mild-to-moderate cases. For more troublesome rashes, bring out the big guns with Aquaphor Baby Fast Relief Diaper Rash Paste, which has 40 percent of the active ingredient zinc oxide. If you suspect you’re dealing with a more severe case or a yeast diaper rash, see baby’s pediatrician for personalized instructions.

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Make Moisturizing Fun

The National Eczema Association (NEA) recommends applying lotion within three minutes of getting out of the bath to lock in moisture before skin can dry out. “Living in Las Vegas, lotion is a lifesaver,” says Carrie, who has perfected moisturizing a squirmy baby. “I give my kids a mini-massage and sing a song to make it fun,” she says. "It’s a made-up song where I sing their name and the body part I’m lotioning.”

Help a Flaky Scalp

Up to 70 percent of babies get a flaky scalp, known as cradle cap (essentially, baby dandruff). Thankfully, the condition probably doesn’t bother your baby so long as it’s mild or moderate. But there are some at-home remedies to remove the flakes and keep baby’s cradle cap from getting out of control. “It worked for us to apply moisturizer—we used coconut oil—in the hair for about 15 minutes, gently comb out the flakes, and wash the hair normally with a very gentle shampoo,” says Ashley. If the cradle cap doesn’t seem to be clearing up with at-home treatment, check with baby’s doctor. “A prescription shampoo worked for my daughter,” says Jené in Rotterdam, New York.

See the Doc for Serious Scenarios

Visiting baby’s doctor is a good idea if any skin troubles are persistent or become severe. The advice in those situations may be much different than it is for other babies. “One of my girls has severe eczema and the best advice I can give is to ignore all of the myths and actually listen to the doctors,” says Jennifer in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York. “Bleach baths are often thought of as scary, but they are highly effective at controlling [my daughter’s] eczema.” The NEA recommends occasionally adding one-quarter cup of bleach to a half tub of water to decrease inflammation and reduce risk of infection for babies and toddlers with eczema. But this can be irritating for some kids, so definitely get the go-ahead from your pediatrician before trying it.

Choose Multitasking Products

In dealing with many skin care woes, you might find yourself tempted to stock up on tons of products for your changing table or diaper bag. But the truth is, if you choose the right items, you’ll probably be able to streamline your stash and use them for multiple skin care needs. “I use Aquaphor [Baby Healing Ointment] for almost everything—scrapes, rashes, chapped lips,” says Jenna in Brooklyn, New York. The multipurpose ointment can help protect baby’s cheeks from the cold, soothe dry skin and drool rash, and even help prevent diaper rash before it starts. Check out more of our favorite products for keeping baby’s skin snuggle-ready.

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Prepping for life as a new parent? See more tips and tricks about caring for a newborn from The Bump and Aquaphor® Baby.

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