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Newborn skin and rashes

27 Nov, 2023

When your baby is born, their skin will usually be soft and smooth however, as the days or weeks go by you may notice that they develop a rash. Most babies will have a rash or skin irritation at some point in the first few months. Many rashes are harmless, do not have any other symptoms, and disappear on their own. Others can require medical treatment.

Newborn acne

Some babies get acne on their cheeks and nose in the first few months of life. Newborn acne looks like little pimples or whiteheads on the face and generally clears up within a few weeks. It is thought to occur because of hormone levels that are passed from mum to baby during pregnancy. Some mums like to put breastmilk on the acne, as breastmilk has many anti-bacterial properties.

Erythema toxicum

Many newborns develop a reaction called erythema toxicum – it sounds scary, but it is harmless and very common! Up to 50% of babies will develop erythema toxicum in the first few days after birth, and it usually disappears within a week.

Blotchy red patches on the skin can appear anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after birth. The red patches or bumps often appear on the face first and then spread to the rest of the body. They also have a small white spot in the middle of the red area. Erythema toxicum is not infective and will resolve in time.

Nappy rash

Nappy rash is common, with almost all babies developing irritation at some point. The main cause of nappy rash is irritation from moisture. Some baby's skin is more sensitive than others, which can mean they are more prone to nappy rash.

Nappy rash usually resolves with a few simple measures. Change nappies as soon as they are wet/dirty, have some nappy-free time to allow air to circulate around their bottom, and apply a barrier cream with every nappy change to repel moisture from the skin. It is recommended to avoid using talcum-based powders as these can cause breathing issues if inhaled by your baby. I recommend taking your baby to the GP if their nappy rash does not improve within one week of treatment.

Cradle cap

Cradle cap usually looks like a scaly yellow crust on your baby’s head, although it can sometimes be on their forehead or eyebrow area. Cradle cap happens when your baby’s skin makes too much sebum (oil), which then causes the dead skin to build up on their skin. It can also happen if your baby’s immune system overreacts to the presence of normal yeast on their skin. Cradle cap is not dangerous or infective and generally improves within a few weeks or months.


Eczema is a long-term condition that can appear when babies are only a few months old. It has a genetic link so often runs in families, and children with eczema may have other inflammatory conditions like asthma. Eczema is itchy, scaly, red patches of skin – often on the cheeks, or elbow/knee creases. You should take your baby to their GP if you think your child might have eczema for the first time to ensure they receive the correct diagnosis and treatment.

When to seek help

Many babies develop a skin rash in their first days or weeks as their sensitive skin adapts to a new environment. Most rashes are harmless and go away on their own, but if your baby seems unwell, has a fever or you are concerned, you should see your doctor. They can advise about the cause and whether treatment is necessary. Occasionally a baby may develop a rash as part of an illness, which is why it is important to check in with your GP.

Article written by PBC Expo Midwife

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