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Baby skin conditions

27 Nov, 2023

Your baby’s skin is very sensitive. It is not necessary to use shampoos, powders, oils, baby solutions or baby soaps. Some products may contain perfumes and other ingredients that can irritate your baby’s skin. Simple is best. All you need is water, a lotion containing sorbolene and glycerine or an organic chemical free product for dry skin, low irritant baby wipes for cleaning baby’s bottom, and a thick cream containing zinc and castor oil or an organic chemical free product for protecting baby’s bottom.

Tips for skin care:

  • Use a lotion containing sorbolene and glycerine for bathing instead of soap
  • Wet your baby’s skin with warm water, take a small amount of lotion in your hands and gently massage over baby’s body. Rinse off in the bath and pat dry
  • If baby’s skin is especially dry, you may want to apply some sorbolene and glycerine lotion to the dry areas after bathing as well
  • You might like to take this opportunity to give baby a soothing massage.

Some skin conditions that you may experience with baby are:

Cradle cap

Cradle cap is a form of dermatitis, caused by inflammation of the oil glands in the skin. This results in a build-up of natural oils and dry scaly skin, which can cause redness and form a yellow/brown crust on baby’s head, eyebrows or behind the ears. It most commonly affects babies under 3 months. However it is not infectious.

Note: Scaly patches on baby’s face or other parts of the body are not cradle cap and should be checked by a health professional (see ‘Eczema’ details below).

What to do:

To remove the crusts, you could massage sorbolene and glycerine lotion or olive oil into the affected area twice a day for a few days.

Then gently wash the affected area with warm water to remove any loose scales (do not pick them off). Use a soft towel to dry baby’s head (this helps loosen the scales too).

Consult your Child and Family Health Nurse or pharmacist if it doesn’t clear after a few weeks, if the skin under the scales is red and weeping, if it seems to be spreading to other areas of the body, or if it continues after the age of 3 months.

Every day, wash and massage your baby’s scalp and gently brush their head, even if they don’t have much hair.


Eczema is a skin irritation that appears as patches of dry, red, scaly skin, which may become moist. It most often appears on baby’s face, behind the ears, around their neck, behind their knees and on the inside of elbows.

The causes are unknown, but it can run in families and may be linked with other allergic diseases.

What may aggravate eczema?

  • Rough, scratchy, tight clothes
  • Woollens and synthetics (carpets, car seats, furniture)
  • Frequent use of strong soap for bathing or washing clothes
  • Perfumed creams and lotions
  • Dust mites
  • Overheating
  • Dry air
  • Sand, pollen or grasses

What to do about it

  • Dress your baby in light, soft, loose, smooth cotton clothes — don’t overdress
  • Use lukewarm water in the bath
  • Avoid soaps and bath lotions — use sorbolene and glycerine lotion instead of soap at bathtime and at nappy changes
  • Moisturise your baby’s skin with sorbolene and glycerine lotion
  • If your baby scratches their face, use jumpsuits which have a fold over cuff which acts as a mitten
  • Wash your baby’s clothes in pure soap liquid laundry detergent for sensitive skin and rinse well – don’t use fabric softeners, wool mix or laundry powders
  • When putting your baby on the floor to play, place your baby on a cotton sheet, not the carpet
  • Regularly vacuum the house
  • If the eczema does not get better, ask your doctor for a referral to a paediatric dermatologist

Avoid soaps and bath lotions — use sorbolene and glycerine lotion instead of soap at bathtime and at nappy changes.

Nappy rash

Preventing and managing nappy rash

  • Change your baby’s nappy after each feed at the very least
  • Clean baby’s bottom with chemical-free, alcohol-free baby wipes, or dry wipes and warm water every time you change the nappy. Pat dry with a soft towel
  • Give baby some nappy-free time several times a day. You could let them kick for a few minutes without a nappy at nappy change time – but don’t leave them unattended on the change table
  • To protect baby’s bottom, you could apply a thick layer of zinc and castor oil cream, or a natural product such as paw paw ointment, a few times a day, especially before long sleeps – or at every nappy change if their bottom is slightly red. If this doesn’t improve then see your pharmacist or Child and Family Health Nurse
  • If using ‘modern’ cloth nappies, follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding cleaning
  • If using disposable nappies, use good quality nappies as cheaper ones may irritate the skin

To protect baby’s bottom, apply a thick layer of zinc and castor oil cream, or a natural product such as paw paw ointment, a few times a day, especially before long sleeps.

Find out more about Children's Panadol here

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