Your baby's skin can easily become irritated in places where there are moist folds such as under the arms, under the chin, behind the ears and around the groin. There is usually not much you can do about it. Keep the skin clean and allow air into the folds. You can wash the skin gently with water, pat it dry and expose it to the air. You can also clean the skin with a little baby oil. Baby oil can also be used both in and after the baby's bath.
If your baby's skin gets red and flaky, it could be a reaction to a food you ate or the perfume in your washing powder.
You can always contact your paediatric centre for advice, or see below for facts about common complaints, spots and rash.
Also watch our short video with tips on caring for your baby's skin.
If your baby appears unwell or has rash or spots combined with a fever, it might have one of the typical childhood illnesses.
Babies have difficulty regulating their body heat and can get temporary rash from heat and moisture. The rash primarily appears around the chest, neck and armpits. Heat rash is harmless and usually disappears as quickly as it appeared.
Many newborn babies have dry and even slightly flaky skin. This is natural and requires no specific treatment. It simply happens because the skin's natural production of sebum has not yet stabilised. This is also why you shouldn't use creams or lotions on your baby's skin.
The most important thing is to keep your baby's skin clean and wash all new clothes, towels and bedclothes before first use.
It's good to put a few drops of baby oil in the bath water. You can also massage the baby with bath oil after the bath. It will be absorbed more easily while the baby's skin is still damp.
Babies have sensitive skin. Urine and faeces contain strong irritants, and the skin covered by the nappy can easily become red and irritated. The best advice is to change nappies frequently and allow the skin to breathe between each change.
Read about how to avoid or treat nappy rash.
A candida (yeast) infection causes the baby's bottom to become red and painful. Sometimes a whitish coating will collect in the skin folds. The best way to prevent candida in babies is to frequently smell the folds where moisture tends to collect. If the candida infection becomes established, it needs to be treated. Contact a doctor or paediatric centre.
Some babies get cradle cap (crusty, scaly skin) on their scalp. This is completely harmless. Read about treating cradle cap.
Spots and rash
It is common for newborn babies to have skin rash or spots. In most cases it is completely harmless.
• Milia are small white bumps of keratin which typically appear on a baby's nose or cheeks. They usually disappear of their own accord within 1-2 months.
• Over half of all newborns get what is known as toxic rash somewhere on their body. It consists of red spots that are 2-10 mm in diameter. This is usually combined with little bumps that become yellowish white when the skin is pressed. Toxic rash usually disappears after a few days.
• Hormone rash consists of small red spots that your baby may get during its first few months. The spots may have yellow heads and look like little pimples. The rash disappears by itself.
Different birthmark types
• A stork bite is a flat, red patch commonly seen on the neck of newborn babies. It can remain for many years. A stork bite can also be located on the forehead or the eyelids, but usually disappears faster in that case. Stork bites usually show up more when the baby cries.
• Mongolian spots are bluish blotches on the skin, usually on the lower back and buttocks. They fade over time.
• A strawberry mark, also known as a haemangioma, is a bright red patch made up of blood vessels under the skin. It usually appears during the first six months of life and disappears after a few years.
• A mole is a round, brown birthmark that usually does not disappear over time. They are normally benign in small children.
• Café au lait spots are benign pigmented birthmarks that are light brown in colour. If the baby has many of these spots, it can sometimes be a sign of illness. Consult your paediatric centre.
Atopic eczema usually starts as spots of dry skin on the baby's cheeks. It can spread to the neck, chest, belly and nappy area. The eczema looks like a dry, red rash that sometimes flakes or seeps liquid. From the age of two, it usually transfers to areas such as the inner wrists and elbows and behind the knees. It can be itchy.
Atopic eczema should be examined by a doctor and treated with a moisturising cream or sometimes cortisone cream. Skin with eczema should not be washed too frequently with soap and water, as this dries it out even more.
Food allergy or hives (urticaria)
Intolerance to food or medicine can cause rash on the baby's skin. Hives are a type of rash that forms light red areas that change in size and colour.
Babies can develop a food rash if, for example, they are intolerant to proteins in cow's milk-based infant formula, or as a reaction to something the mother has eaten which has passed into the breast milk.
Read more about food allergies and food intolerances.
Useful facts about your baby's skin
A baby's skin is not fully developed and is very different from the adult skin you are used to. Below are some things that are useful to know about your baby's skin.
• The baby's skin helps regulate the body's heat and moisture balance.
• The baby's skin protects against harmful bacteria and viruses. It is part of its immune defence.
• Certain vital nutrients such as vitamin D are produced in the skin.
• Babies do not have a fully developed immune defence. If your baby lies naked (or wearing only a nappy) against your bare skin, your bacterial flora is transferred to the baby.
• Your baby's skin is only half as thick as yours, so is more sensitive.
• Babies' skin has a higher moisture level than adults' skin and more difficulty maintaining an optimal moisture balance.
• Babies are born with inactive sweat glands. As a result, they have more difficulty regulating their body temperature than adults.
• Try using products marked with the Nordic Ecolabel, which are suitable for children's sensitive skin.
• The skin is one of the body's sensory organs. Babies use it to build up their perception of the surrounding world.
Your baby's skin
Does your baby have spots, rash or dry skin? See below for facts and tips about babies' skin.