Infant skin is still developing in the first few
months of life. The skin is thinner, more fragile and more sensitive. It is also less
resistant to bacteria, irritants and allergens that may
penetrate the skin and cause irritation.
Good skin care practices will help maintain the
integrity of the infant skin barrier and may help prevent skin problems in the
future. This includes appropriate cleansing, moisturising and sun protection.
Care at home
Bathing your baby
your baby in warm tap water for 5-10 minutes every few days or as needed. Frequency
of bathing and time of day is based on individual need. Use a mild, soap-free
cleanser as required.
products that are free from fragrance, botanicals and antibacterial agents, as
these can be irritating. Bubble bath may remove natural oils from the skin and
is best avoided. After the bath, pat the skin dry, paying attention to skin folds.
Using baby powder or talcum powder is not recommended.
Moisturising your baby
a thick, non-fragranced moisturiser all over daily at the first sign of
dryness. Thicker creams are more effective than lotions. Apply moisturiser more
often if the skin always seems dry. Avoid moisturisers containing botanicals,
food and fragrance as these may disrupt the skin barrier.
contamination of your moisturiser. Avoid double dipping into the container by
spooning creams out or using a moisturiser in a pump pack.
your baby's skin is very dry and red, they may have eczema. See our fact sheet on
Care for the nappy area
nappy area is exposed to constant moisture, occlusion and rubbing which may
irritate and damage the skin causing nappy rash. To prevent this:
- Change your
baby's nappy frequently
disposable nappies so the moisture is absorbed quickly, leaving the skin dry
and less susceptible to breakdown
- If you prefer to
use cloth nappies, make sure you use an absorbent nappy insert
- Avoid baby
wipes. Cleanse with lukewarm water and soft disposable towels or cotton wool. A
pH neutral soap free cleanser may be used as needed
Apply a barrier
cream containing zinc in a thick layer at every nappy change
- Do not use
Allow your baby
as much nappy free time as possible
rash fact sheet for more information.
your hands before handling the cord stump. The newborn cord should be kept
clean and dry. Clean the area using plain water and cotton buds. A pH neutral
cleanser may used as required. There is no need to use antiseptic or alcohol
wipes, as this will increase how long it takes for the cord to separate.
the cord to air as much as possible, and try not to cover the cord stump with
the nappy. If the area around the cord is inflamed or has an offensive smell,
see your GP. Cord separation usually happens in seven to 10 days.
Clothing your baby
loose, soft clothing and bedding made of cotton is best. Take care not to
overdress your baby. Avoid coarse prickly fabrics coming in direct contact with
your baby's skin.
wash your baby’s clothes, use a mild detergent that is fragrance free. Avoid antibacterial
skin is sensitive to the harmful effects of UV light. Babies less than 6 months
of age should be kept away from direct sunlight. When outdoors, light clothing,
hats, sunshades on prams and shade is the best protection against harmful UV
rays from the sun.
the UV index level reaches three or above, a broad spectrum sunscreen SPF 50+
should be applied to exposed areas of skin. Choose a sunscreen suitable for
babies or those with sensitive skin.
find out the UV levels, visit the Bureau
of Meteorology or use the free
sunscreen 15–20 minutes before going outside, and reapply every two hours. If the
sunscreen causes a reaction on your baby's skin, stop using the product.
UV levels are less than three, a small amount of direct UV exposure is considered
safe and healthy for infants.
more information, see our fact sheet Safety: Sun
Hair, eyes and nails
babies' hair does not require shampooing. If needed choose a gentle, pH-neutral
product. A soap free wash is usually appropriate.
eyes continue to develop over the first year of life. The blink reflex is not
fully developed, increasing the risk of washing products entering the eyes.
Your baby’s eyes can be gently cleaned as needed with a cotton ball and warm
water. Clean the eye by gently wiping the cotton ball from the inside corner to
the outside corner. Use a clean cotton ball for each eye.
of newborn babies are often very soft and may not require cutting for the first
few months. You can gently trim your baby's nails with small baby nail clippers
or file them with an emery board if needed.
cap is a common condition that affects a baby's scalp (and sometimes the
eyebrows). It is caused by a build-up of natural oils and dry
skin. Your baby's skin may appear yellow or red and scaly, but
not itchy. Crusty patches may appear.
cap usually clears by itself after a few months. If it is not going away
without treatment, the waxy crust can be removed by massaging your baby's scalp
with a light moisturising cream and leaving on for a few hours before the bath
or overnight. When the crust is soft, gently lift the crust off. If your baby's
skin becomes itchy, inflamed or weepy, see your Maternal and Child Health Nurse
or GP. See our fact sheet Cradle
When to see a doctor
See your Maternal and Child Health Nurse, GP or paediatrician if:
- Your baby has a persistent rash and is unwell
- Your baby's skin is itchy
- Your baby has persistent nappy rash
- There is redness, inflammation or swelling once the cord stump has come off
- The area around the cord is inflamed or has an offensive smell
- The cradle cap treatment is not effective – your baby may need an antifungal cream
Key points to remember
- Do not use soap or bubble bath. Use a pH neutral soap-free wash if needed
- Apply a non-fragranced moisturiser all over when the skin is dry
- Change nappies frequently
- Try not to overheat your baby – use light cotton fabrics for clothing and bedding
- If your baby has cradle cap that isn't going away, soften the crust with moisturiser and gently remove
For more information
- Kids Health Info fact sheet:
- Kids Health Info fact sheet: Cradle cap
- Kids Health Info fact sheet: Eczema
- Kids Health Info fact sheet: Sun safety
- See your GP or Maternal and Child Health Nurse.
Common questions our doctors are asked
My baby has a rash. What should I do?
Rashes are common in babies and often nothing to worry
about. There are many reasons why your baby might have a rash. It could be due
to hormone changes, scratchy clothing, being too warm, or having irritated skin
caused by perfumed moisturisers or soaps. If your baby has a dry, red rash,
this may be eczema. Many common viruses can cause a rash in babies. If your baby
has a temperature, is not feeding or if you are concerned at all, see your GP
or Maternal and Child Health Nurse.
My baby has spots all over her face. It looks like acne.
What is it?
Infantile acne (also known as milk spots) is common in
newborn babies. It is due to overactive oil glands (called the sebaceous
glands). You don't need to do anything about the acne – it won't harm your baby
and isn't itchy. It should get better on its own in a few weeks. If it seems to
be getting worse after a few weeks or you are worried about your baby's skin,
see your Maternal and Child Health Nurse or GP.
My baby has a cold. Can I use Vicks?
We do not recommend using heavily scented
products, like Vicks, on babies. The smell is too strong and can be very
overwhelming for them. This also applies to perfumed lotions and creams, like
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Dermatology Department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed March 2022.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit