newborn peeling skin

Your newborn’s skin is beautiful no matter what, and you love every inch of it! But sometimes you may notice some flaking or peeling on your newborn baby’s skin in their first few days or weeks. You may also notice dry and peeling skin in your older baby from time to time.

If you’re curious about the reasons for your newborn’s dry and peeling skin, read on to learn more and get 12 helpful tips on how to prevent and manage it.

Why Newborns Have Peeling Skin

A newborn’s skin is very delicate and thin, especially after birth and you may notice their skin peeling and wonder if that is normal. Peeling or dry skin is completely normal at this stage as your baby’s skin gets used to the transition from the uterus to the outside world.

Basically, in your newborn’s first few days and weeks, the top layers of skin shed as it begins to develop its own natural barrier. In the uterus, your baby has been surrounded by a white sticky substance called vernix, so peeling is normal as your baby’s skin adjusts and may last up to a month. Peeling and dry skin is even more common for babies who were born past their due date because the vernix has already been absorbed before birth.

If your baby has a skin condition like eczema, you may also notice more frequent dryness, flaking, or peeling.

12 Ways to Prevent and Manage Your Baby’s Dry, Peeling Skin

Here are several ways you can protect your baby’s delicate skin and help prevent dryness and peeling:

  1. Leave the vernix on. To help prevent your newborn baby’s skin from peeling and drying out, leave that sticky substance called vernix on as it helps keep the skin moist. The white substance acts as a natural moisturiser and even protects against infection.

  2. Wait a while before your newborn baby’s first bath. You don’t need to bathe your newborn in the first few days. However, instead of bathing your little one, you may choose ‘topping and tailing’ your baby, which means just cleaning their face and bottom.

  3. Cut down on the number of baths. Newborns don’t get that dirty, so they don’t need to be bathed that often. Three baths per week during your baby’s first year is probably enough.

  4. Reduce the length of bath time. It’s better to give your baby short baths of about 10 minutes, rather than long soaks that can dry the skin.

  5. Avoid hot water during bath time. Water that’s too hot can aggravate your baby’s already sensitive skin and lead to dryness and itching, by stripping the skin of its natural oils. Instead, keep the water warm and comfortable for your baby. Check the temperature of the water before placing your baby in the bath by placing your elbow or inner wrist in the water.

  6. Avoid harsh soaps and products. Most soaps and bubble baths contain harsh chemicals and fragrances that can irritate and dry out your baby’s delicate skin. So, it’s best to use plain water for the first month or choose mild products that are non-perfumed or designed for babies.

  7. Dry your baby’s skin carefully. Be careful not to rub your baby’s skin when towelling them off. Instead, pat your little one dry gently. Rubbing can irritate your baby’s delicate and peeling skin. It can also strip the skin of naturally occurring protective oils.

  8. Avoid moisturisers. For the first few weeks, it’s best to avoid creams and lotions on your newborn baby’s dry or peeling skin. Products may cause skin reactions or eczema, so it’s best to avoid products until your baby’s skin has developed its own natural protective barrier. After this, you may wish to introduce an emollient based cream. Ask your health visitor for advice.

  9. Use a non-bio laundry detergent. Laundry detergents that are labelled ‘non-biological’ don’t contain fragrances, dyes, or perfumes. Wash your baby’s clothes, towels, and bedding in non-bio, and ensure they are rinsed thoroughly.

  10. Use soft, natural fabrics. Dress your baby in natural cotton clothing as, unlike with synthetics, cotton is breathable and won’t trap sweat, which can lead to irritation and even heat rash. Cotton is also soft and wont rub against your baby’s delicate skin.

  11. Change your baby’s nappy more frequently. Frequent changing of your baby’s nappy can prevent irritation and nappy rash. If your baby is in a wet or soiled nappy for too long, the exposure to urine can irritate their skin.

  12. Staying safe in the sun. It’s very important to keep babies under 6 months old away from direct sunlight as their skin is very delicate and therefore can get sunburnt very quickly. Whenever you’re outside with your baby, choose a shaded area such as a spot under a tree or an umbrella and use a parasol on your pushchair. Dress your baby in lightweight cotton, closely woven or UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing that covers their arms and legs. To check if your clothing is closely woven, hold it up to the light to see how much light passes through. The tighter the weave, the more sun protection. Wearing a wide-brimmed sun hat is also important, especially if it offers UPF to protect from the sun’s UV radiation. For babies under 6 months, it’s OK to use a little bit of sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Look for a sunscreen that is specifically designed for babies and children, as these will be delicate on the skin and reduce irritation.

RELATED ARTICLE

Newborn Care
Baby Skin Care

When to See Your Doctor or Health Visitor

If after following all the tips above – and after the first few weeks of the typical newborn skin peeling and flaking have passed – your baby’s skin still seems dry or irritated and inflamed, talk to your health visitor or doctor.

Sometimes dry, flaky skin may be the result of an allergic reaction or a skin rash that may need a prescription medication to treat.

If the red, flaky skin is on your baby’s bottom or anywhere in the nappy area, it may be nappy rash. Nappy rash can often be treated at home by doing things like more frequent nappy changes, exposing the skin to air more often and by using a barrier cream. However, if the nappy rash looks severe or doesn’t go away, it’s worth contacting your baby’s health visitor for personalised advice on what to try next.

FAQS AT A GLANCE

  • Your newborn’s skin may peel for up to a month after birth, as it develops its own natural protective barrier. This may be longer for premature babies.

  • Yes, it’s normal for newborns’ skin to peel in the first two weeks after they are born. Your newborn is shedding their top layers of skin as they transition from the uterus into the outside world. Their skin is developing its own natural barrier.

  • You can treat peeling skin on your newborn by:

    • leaving the vernix to absorb naturally into your newborn’s skin
    • waiting a while before bathing your baby for the first time
    • reducing the length and frequency of bath times
    • avoiding harsh products and soaps containing chemicals and fragrances
    • using non-bio detergent
    • using soft, natural fabrics
    • protecting against the sun.

The Bottom Line

Seeing peeling skin on your newborn is nothing to be alarmed about. It’s completely normal and may continue for about two weeks as that top layer of skin slowly sheds and your baby’s skin develops its own natural barrier. Your baby is transitioning from the protection of the uterus into the outside world.

After this initial period, however, your baby’s delicate and sensitive skin is still prone to drying out and peeling. To help prevent this there are many things you can do like shortening the length of bath time, using a moisturiser, avoiding synthetic fabrics, using non-bio laundry detergent designed for babies and protecting your baby from the sun.

If your baby’s skin still appears to be dry or flaky, talk to your health visitor or doctor. It may be a sign of a rash or an allergic reaction that could require treatment.

A little skin dryness aside, your baby’s skin is still wonderfully kissable, so keep giving your baby’s little cheeks lots of kisses, blow raspberries on their tummy and keep enjoying lots of skin-to-skin contact.

How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.