Caring for your baby's skin

A newborn baby’s skin is much thinner and more sensitive than adult skin. These practical tips will help you care for your baby’s skin.

Keep it simple

You will notice a lot of skincare products designed for babies in the baby aisle of any supermarket. But most experts recommend you use plain water when washing your baby for the first 4 weeks or so. The chemicals and fragrances found in many baby skincare and bath products can irritate your baby’s skin.

Common skincare concerns

Shampoo

You do not need to use shampoo in most young babies’ hair. Use a baby comb or brush to gently remove flakes of skin from your baby’s hair.

Laundry

Use non-biological detergent when you are washing your baby’s clothes. Non-bio detergents contain no enzymes, reducing the risk of irritating a baby's skin.

Dry skin

Once your baby is 4 weeks old, you can use an emollient (moisturiser ingredient) cream on any dry patches.

Read labels on lotions carefully. Make sure any products you use are free of colours, perfumes and alcohol. Look for hypoallergenic products that do not have dyes or fragrances.

If your baby was premature, wait at least 6 weeks before using any products.

Cradle cap

Your baby may get a build-up of dry skin and natural oils on their scalp. This can cause a yellow crusty appearance on your baby’s scalp. This is known as 'cradle cap'. It will usually go away on its own.

When your baby is a few weeks old (around 6 weeks), use mild baby shampoo to help reduce the build up of scales on the scalp. The reason to use baby shampoo instead of adult shampoo is that they should be tear-free and cause no irritation to the eyes. Read the label to make sure you are buying a 'tear-free' product. Together with soft brushing, this should remove the scaly skin.

Small amounts of natural baby oil rubbed on the scaly parts can help soften them and make them easier to remove. Apply natural baby oil and leave overnight. Then shampoo in the morning to remove scales.

If these methods do not work, speak to your pharmacist or your public health nurse for advice.

Nappy rash

To prevent skin irritation, change your baby’s nappy often. Allow your baby to have some time with their nappy off. This can be messy but is great for their skin.

Always wash your hands before and after changing your baby’s nappy. Use cotton wool and water to clean your baby’s skin. Try not to use baby wipes until your baby is 2 to 4 weeks old. Read all labels on lotions carefully. Look for hypoallergenic products that do not contain dyes or fragrances.

You can use a petroleum-based cream to protect against nappy rash.

Nappy rash

Vernix

Your newborn baby may be born with a white coating on their skin known as vernix. This protects your baby’s skin. This will absorb naturally during the first week.

Concerns about your baby's skin

If you are worried about your baby’s skin, talk to your GP, your public health nurse or your pharmacist.

Always get skin rashes checked by your GP, particularly if your baby is unwell.

Bathing your baby

How to change a nappy

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.

Page last reviewed: 30 September 2022
Next review due: 30 September 2025