Baby Skin Care


Is anything more perfect than your baby's skin? You can't help but touch and caress it. Go right ahead! Your baby loves this as much as you do.

Protecting delicate skin from harm is an important job for a parent. Here's what you'll need to know and do.

The Soft Touch

While your baby's skin is famously soft and smooth, it is also strong and resilient. The skin is the body's largest organ — a group of cells stacked together to form a thin but tough barrier. Skin constantly renews itself throughout life, and the renewal process begins even before birth.

Still, many a newborn's skin is anything but perfect at first. Don't be alarmed by considerable peeling, redness, or flaking in the first few days after birth, especially around the wrists, knees, and feet. This is all normal. Use a gentle skin ointment to help lubricate and heal cracked or bleeding skin. Your baby's skin will fill out and get smoother very soon.


To keep your baby's skin healthy, you need to maintain its natural softness and strength. Even if your baby's skin isn't peeling, it may benefit from using moisturizers.

You can get fragrance-free products with ingredients such as mineral oil or petrolatum. If you need a recommendation you can speak to your healthcare provider. Whatever you choose, stick with it so your baby's skin won't have to readjust to the different blends of ingredients in various products.

Infant Sun Protection

Babies of all ages should stay out of direct sunlight. A baby can get sunburned in as little as 10 to 15 minutes, even on cloudy days. Avoiding or minimizing sun exposure is always best, along with covering your baby's skin and head with clothing and a hat.

  • On warm days, dress your baby in lightweight clothing that covers her arms and legs. The best choice is sun protective clothing rated UPF 50.

  • Make sure she wears a wide-brimmed hat for every outing.

  • Try to avoid going out when the sun's rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

  • When outside, try to keep your baby in the shade.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently restated its policy on babies and sunscreen. It now says there is no evidence that small amounts of sunscreen on young babies pose many risks. Still, don't rely on sunscreen as a substitute for protective clothing or sun avoidance. Use it to cover your baby's exposed face, hands, and feet.

Baby Nail Care

Your baby's tiny fingernails are very thin and sharp and grow surprisingly fast! You may need to trim them as often as twice a week. This is important since newborns can scratch their faces with their own nails. Here are some nail care tips:

  • Use a soft emery board, baby nail clippers, or baby nail scissors for trimming. This task may be easier to do when your baby is asleep.

  • To avoid snipping the fingertip skin as you trim the nail, hold her finger firmly and press the finger pad away from the nail as you cut.

  • Toenails grow much more slowly and are usually very soft. They don't need to be kept as short as fingernails — a trim once or twice a month is enough.

  • While her toenails may appear to be ingrown, babies seldom have ingrown toenails. Call your healthcare provider if the skin around the toenails gets red, inflamed, or hard.

Penis Skin Care

Caring for your newborn son after a circumcision isn't difficult if you know what to do. For the first week after the procedure, the penis may look quite red and develop a yellow scab. Keep the area clean using mild soap and water after each diaper change. Coat the head of the penis with petroleum jelly to protect it, and cover it gently with a gauze dressing. Your healthcare provider will tell you how long to keep the dressing on. If you suspect an infection at any time, notify your provider.

If your son is not circumcised, bathe his penis with a mild soap and water just like the rest of the diaper area. Don't try to pull back the foreskin — it will gradually retract on its own, usually by his third birthday.

Baby Laundry Tips

Your baby's skin may be sensitive to chemicals in new clothing and to soap and detergent left on clothes after laundering.

  • Wash all new clothes and linens before your baby uses them.

  • For the first few months, do your infant's wash separately from your other laundry.

  • Use a gentle detergent and a thorough rinse cycle.

About Lauren Heimall

Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Philadelphia, PA

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