Baby Acne and Beyond: How to Treat Common Newborn Skin Conditions


Your little one is home from the hospital, fresh, clean, and snuggled up on the sofa with you. But, as you study your sweetheart, you notice some strange red spots and patchy skin.

Is it baby acne, heat rash, baby eczema or something else?

What should you do about it? 

Peeling skin, red spots, and even baby rashes are incredibly common, especially in newborns. Below are a few newborn skin conditions to be aware of and how to treat them at home.

Remember, mums, if you’re ever in doubt or concerned, contact your doctor. It’s always best to have a medical opinion before treating bubba at home.

Newborn skin conditions

[mc_block_title custom_title=”1. Peeling skin”]

There is a super scientific name for this – desquamation, but we prefer to simplify things and just call it ‘peeling skin’ because who has time to say “desquamation” every time you notice baby’s got a bit of dried skin??

Dried, peeling skin is one of the most common baby skin conditions and most babies will have a few peeling patches, especially within the first week or two after birth. Don’t fret – it’s completely normal.

How to treat it: Apply a baby-made moisturiser such as Cetaphil Baby Daily Lotion. It’s gentle enough to use on newborns and is suitable for everyday use too.

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Peeling skin is very common in newborns so don’t fret.  Source: Adobe Stock

[mc_block_title custom_title=”2. Cradle cap”]

Cradle cap is a crusty, greasy scalp rash that often looks yellow or even brown. It’s not pretty but it’s also completely harmless and fairly common. It’s simply caused by a build-up of sebum (oil produced by the glands of the skin).  Most babies get it on their scalp but it can also occur around the neck and underarms.

How to treat it: Apply a mineral oil such as coconut oil or baby massage oil and gently massage baby’s scalp. Or, you can also leave it and it should clear up on its own. Check out our article on how to get rid of cradle cap for more info.

how to get rid of cradle cap
Cradle cap is very common in babies. Source: Bigstock

[mc_block_title custom_title=”3. Milia – Milk pimples”]

Another skin condition with a proper name – Milia – are little white bumps on baby’s face. They look like itty bitty baby whiteheads but are actually super small cysts filled with sebum and keratin.

How to treat it: Don’t worry – they go away without treatment.

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Milia skin (milk pimples) is very common and will go away on its own. Source: Adobe Stock

[mc_block_title custom_title=”4. Baby rashes – heat rash or prickly heat”]

One of the most worrying newborn skin conditions is any type of rash. However, a baby rash is actually quite common, especially for summer-born babies. They are usually caused by the heat. Baby heat rash looks like small red bumps, even little blisters, that appear on bub’s chest, back, neck and underarms. Another name for this type of baby rash is Miliaria.

How to treat it: The best treatment is prevention – keep bubba at a cool, comfortable temperature. If you do notice your baby has a heat rash, you can apply a cool compress to the affected area and pat the area dry.

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Baby heat rash (also known as prickly heat) can easily be treated. Source: Adobe Stock

[mc_block_title custom_title=”5. Erythema toxicum”]

Another type of baby rash is erythema toxicum, which is a rash of small red dots. It usually appears in the first few days after birth, most commonly on bub’s chest, back, face and arms.

How to treat it: It will go away on its own.

[mc_block_title custom_title=”6. Baby acne”]

Yup, even babies get acne. Baby acne is incredibly common (40% of babies get baby acne) and caused by pesky mother and baby hormones. It normally clears up on its own.

How to treat it: Your best defence is a clean, dry face. Try a mild baby wash such as Cetaphil Body Wash. And whatever you do, don’t squeeze the baby acne!

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Source: Bigstock

[mc_block_title custom_title=”7. Baby eczema”]

If your baby has more than just a patch or two of dried skin, it could be atopic dermatitis (eczema) – a condition that makes skin red and itchy. It is actually quite common in babies and children. There is no cure for eczema but there are treatment options.

How to treat it: Cetaphil Pro Eczema Prone Body Moisturiser* is a good daily moisturiser to help soothe baby’s skin when faced with a mild flare-up. See our article on baby eczema for more treatment options.

When using this product, ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS FOR USE. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.
Baby with eczema, rash or allergy on face
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a skin condition that makes skin red and itchy. Source: Bigstock

[mc_block_title custom_title=”8. Allergies”]

One of the common signs of allergies in babies in a skin reaction such as a red, itchy rash. Often it is hard to distinguish between heat rash and an allergy rash. However, if your baby seems unsettled and has other allergy symptoms, such as swelling around the face and mucousy poops, then ring your doctor to get it checked out.

How to treat it: If you suspect allergies, contact your doctor.

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Source: Bigstock

[mc_block_title custom_title=”9. Birthmarks”] 

There are several types of birthmarks your baby could be blessed with including stork bites (salmon-coloured birthmarks that often appear on the nape of the neck), strawberry hemangioma (strawberry-red, soft, raised birthmarks) and port-wine stains (purple-red birthmarks, typically found on the face)

How to treat them: Check with your child’s doctor just to be safe. While most birthmarks do not need treatment and will fade in time, it may be a sign of a medical condition. A doctor will need to check.

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Source: Bigstock


Protect your baby’s skin

The chances of noticing a patch of dry skin, a bit of baby acne or the occasional heat rash on your newborn are pretty high.  They are common and usually nothing to worry about.

We recommend the Cetaphil Baby range, including the Cetaphil Baby Daily Lotion, to help nourish baby’s delicate skin. You can pick up the range at Woolworths, Coles, Priceline or Chemist Warehouse. 

However, if you are ever concerned about your newborn’s skin, always contact your health professional.

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What to read next

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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