baby

From strawberry birthmarks to heat rash: 11 surprising facts about your baby's skin.

Huggies
Thanks to our brand partner, Huggies

When you’re a parent, the one fact that quickly becomes obvious is just how sensitive your baby’s skin is. We’re talking rashes, lumps, bumps and birthmarks - it's a lot to take in if you've never had to deal with it before.

So, sometimes we need to call in the experts to help us figure it all out.

Dr Li-Chuen Wong is a consultant dermatologist specialising in both adult and paediatric dermatology, as well as being the co-founder of Sydney Skin. She also heads up the dermatology department at the Children’s Hospital, Westmead and lectures at The University of Sydney. It’s safe to say she knows her stuff about skin. 

So, Mamamia checked in with Dr Wong to find out the most interesting and helpful things you need to know if you're caring for a baby's skin. Some of her responses might even surprise you...

Dr Li-Chuen Wong. Image: Sydney Skin. 

FACT #1: A baby’s skin is very delicate.

Dr Wong noted there are a few main reasons why a baby’s skin is so fragile. 

“The first is the structure of their oil glands, and their sweat glands haven’t come to full maturity. They’ve also not been in contact with any harsh elements so their skin is still very virgin like. 

"They’ve got a greater surface area to body ratio too, so placing creams on them will penetrate more than if it was placed on an adult,” she said.

“Their skin by nature is sensitive due to these factors. If you apply harsh irritant creams and soaps and you don’t moisturise, their skin will be affected.”

FACT #2: Healthy baby skin shouldn’t be scaly or red.

Dr Wong said baby skin should generally look a certain way if it is healthy.

“It should be generally of a pinkish colouration which means that there’s good vascularity,” she said. “It should be plump so if there is any sallow skin (or skin that’s lost its natural complexion), that’s a sign of systemic issues and you should consult a doctor.”

ADVERTISEMENT

FACT #3: Some babies can be more likely to have rough or dry skin. 

If there’s a background history or family history of eczema or psoriasis, then your child has a genetic predisposition to these conditions themselves, explained Dr Wrong.

“This will cause dryness, itchiness and scaly skin,” she said. “When a baby is overdue as well, so post-date, they can come out and have quite flaky skin but with regular moisturising, that sorts itself out after a couple of days.” 

FACT #4: Babies are more prone to rashes in summer.

Dr Wong advised the way you look after your baby’s skin has to change throughout the year, particularly as we head towards the hotter months.

“Up to about four to six months of life, kids can be really susceptible to heat rash because of the immaturity of their sweat ducts. This means they will get red, lumpy areas which subside after up to a couple of hours,” she said. 

“If you’re going to use a thick, occlusive moisturiser, they’re going to be prone to folliculitis or occlusion sort of eruptions in the summertime as well.”

FACT #5: You can use sunscreen on babies at less than six months of age.

Dr Wong said it’s important to provide adequate sun protection when you’re taking your baby outside. 

“You need a hat, protective clothing and sunscreen because babies are prone to sunburn from sun exposure due to the sensitivity of their skin,” she said.

“I’d always use a low-irritant sunscreen on babies. It’s safe to do at less than six months of age as soon as you decide to take your baby outside.” 

FACT #6: The nappies and wipes you choose can make a difference to their skin.

Now this isn't one of Dr Wong's specific tips, as we didn't ask her to comment on particular brands. However, parents can be assured that there are safe options out there that reduce the likelihood of common issues like nappy rash.

There are a number of potential causes that make babies more susceptible to nappy rash, including over-wetness, increased pH levels, exposure to irritants in poo and urine, and even things like chemicals and scents, according to Better Health Victoria.

While it's usually hard to narrow down the cause, choosing high-quality nappies and wipes can help prevent irritation. So, the key is to look for softness, dryness and breathability in a nappy; and ensure a thorough clean after changing with a reliable and gentle baby wipe that helps maintain the skin's natural pH levels.

Nappy brands are listening to parents' calls for gentle and effective products. Huggies Ultimate recently upgraded their nappies and wipes, now made with natural features and no added nasties for the ultimate protection (hence the name). The nappies have a three-way combination of softness, dryness and breathability, and offer 12-hour leakage protection. Plus, the new range is better for the environment, with a plant-derived liner wrap made from renewable sugarcane.

Now, for the wipes. Huggies Ultimate Wipes are made with natural wood-pulp fibres and gentle ingredients for delicate skin. They're 25 per cent thicker than regular Huggies wipes and are available in three varieties: Over 99 per cent Water (fragrance-free to avoid irritation), Micellar Water and Nourish & Care (with vitamin E and shea butter). Learn more here.

ADVERTISEMENT

The new Huggies Ultimate Nappies and Baby Wipes. Image: Supplied. 

FACT #7: Fragrances are more likely to cause irritation on their skin.

Dr Wong has some pieces of advice she often offers parents when it comes to looking after their baby’s skin. 

“If a product has a strong fragrance, fragrances can irritate your skin. I don’t like fragrances because they can often cause problems. In terms of ingredients, avoid propylene glycol or preservatives that might sting,” she said.

Not all fragrances will cause irritation, so it's always best to patch-test on skin, and/or discuss with your doctor first.

"I like bland and emollient products," Dr Wong added. "And remember that a good moisturiser will have ceramides in it. So don’t use lots of products, it’s not necessary, just keep it simple."

"I like bland and emollient products," Dr Wong added. "And remember that a good moisturiser will have ceramides in it. So don’t use lots of products, it’s not necessary, just keep it simple."

FACT #8: A baby can’t be predisposed to birthmarks.

According to Dr Wong, it’s not generally a genetic issue to have a vascular birthmark or a pigmented birthmark. Yet some birthmarks can appear after birth, most notably strawberry birthmarks. 

“A strawberry birthmark is otherwise called haemangiomas of infancy, and it is never present at birth, but it grows within weeks one to four of life and potentially can grow to six months of life,” Dr Wong said.

“It remains stable in size until about three years of age and then it will shrink by itself. Half of these lesions will 100 per cent have gone by five years of age.”

FACT #9: A strawberry birthmark is the only type that will go always with age. 

A strawberry birthmark will often shrink and diseappear altogether. Image: Supplied. 

ADVERTISEMENT

To look after birthmarks, Dr Wong reiterated that sun protection is important for prevention.

“There are pigmented birthmarks called congenital melanocytic birthmarks. They’re brown, warty and have hair coming out from the surface. They’re small lesions if they’re less than five centimetres,” she said. 

“Then there are lesions that can affect the whole body and they’re the ones that can predispose to melanoma, though they’re very rare.”

Existing birthmarks need regular review to make sure no worrying lesion is developing like a melanoma. Following this, they can be excised or lasered to remove them. 

FACT #10: Babies can handle topical products better as they get older.

When moving from the first year to toddlerhood, a baby’s skin will change, said Dr Wong. 

“Kids however, are going to play in the sandpit and on grass and carpet,” she said. “They will get irritant dermatitis if they’re prone to sensitive skin because as a toddler, you’re out and about more.”  

FACT #11: You should moisturise your baby and give them a bath every single day.

Dr Wong said it’s important for all babies to have a daily skincare routine to ensure their skin remains healthy. 

“Use a bath oil to hydrate the bath water, bathe every day for bonding and that’s absolutely fine with the use of a lubricating bath oil,” she said. 

“Moisturise on a daily basis, say once to twice a day, top to toe which is good for the skin but also for bonding and massaging.”

What other things have you discovered about baby skin?

If you notice anything unusual with your baby's skin, speak to your doctor or call the healthdirect hotline on 1800 022 222. If it's an emergency, call 000.

Image: Supplied.

Huggies
Huggies Ultimate Nappies and Baby Wipes provide Huggies best care for baby’s delicate skin. Made with natural features, gentle ingredients and no added nasties, for our ultimate protection for your little one. Learn more here.