Skincare for babies

  • 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

    Bath 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.

    Choose 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

    Apply 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.

    Prevent contamination of your moisturiser. Avoid double dipping into the container by spooning creams out or using a moisturiser in a pump pack.

    If your baby's skin is very dry and red, they may have eczema. See our fact sheet on Eczema.

    Care for the nappy area

    The 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
    • Consider using 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 talcum powder
    • Allow your baby as much nappy free time as possible

    See our Nappy rash fact sheet for more information.

    Cord care

    Wash 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.

    Expose 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

    Light, 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.

    To wash your baby’s clothes, use a mild detergent that is fragrance free. Avoid antibacterial rinse-aid products.

    Sun protection

    Infant 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.

    When 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.

    To find out the UV levels, visit the Bureau of Meteorology or use the free SunSmart app.

    Apply 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.

    When UV levels are less than three, a small amount of direct UV exposure is considered safe and healthy for infants.

    For more information, see our fact sheet Safety: Sun protection.

    Hair, eyes and nails

    Most babies' hair does not require shampooing. If needed choose a gentle, pH-neutral product. A soap free wash is usually appropriate.

    Baby 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.

    Nails 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.

    Cradle cap

    Cradle 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.

    Cradle 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 cap.

    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: Nappy rash
    • 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 lavender-scented moisturiser.

    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


This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.