Newborn Rashes and Skin Conditions
What are the most common skin conditions in newborns?
It's very common for newborns to have rashes or other skin problems. Some of them have long names that are hard to say and sound scary. But most will go away on their own in a few days or weeks.
Here are some of the things you may notice about your baby's skin.
It looks like pimples.
- Babies often get pimples on their cheeks, noses, and foreheads. This baby acne may show up during the first few weeks of life and usually clears up on its own within a few months. Baby acne has nothing to do with whether your child will have acne problems as a teenager.
- Tiny white spots very often appear on a newborn's face during the first week. The spots are called milia (say "MIL-ee-uh"). Sometimes white spots appear on the gums and the roof of the mouth (palate), where they are called Epstein pearls. The white spots go away by themselves in a few weeks and aren't harmful.
The baby's skin looks blotchy.
- During the first day or two of life, many babies get harmless red blotches with tiny bumps that sometimes contain pus. This is called erythema toxicum (say "air-uh-THEE-mah TOK-sik-um"). It may appear on only part of the body or on most of the body. The blotchy areas may come and go, but they will usually go away on their own within a week.
- A rash called pustular melanosis (say "PUS-chuh-ler mel-uh-NOH-sis") is common among black infants. The rash is harmless and doesn't need treatment. It causes pus-filled pimples that may break open and form dark spots surrounded by loose skin. Babies are born with it, and it usually goes away after the first few days of life. Sometimes dark spots may last for a few weeks or months.
- When cold, your newborn may get a blotchy, lacy rash (mottling) on the limbs and torso. Remove your baby from the cold source, and the rash will usually go away. Mottling usually doesn't occur past 6 months of age.
The baby has a rash.
- Babies can get heat rash, sometimes called prickly heat, when they are dressed too warmly or when the weather is very hot. This is a red or pink rash usually found on the body areas covered by clothing. It often itches and makes your baby uncomfortable. Doctors call this rash miliaria (say "mil-ee-AIR-ee-uh"). To help the rash go away, remove your baby from the warm setting. Dress your child in light, loose clothing and give him or her a cool bath. For more information, see the topic Heat Rash.
- Diaper rash is red and sore skin on a baby's bottom or genitals that is caused by wearing a wet diaper for a long time. Urine and stool can irritate the skin. Diaper rash can happen when babies sleep for many hours without waking. Sometimes an infection from bacteria or yeast can cause a diaper rash. If your baby has diaper rash, take extra care to keep him or her as dry as possible. For more information, see the topic Diaper Rash.
- Many babies have a rash off and on around the mouth or on the chin. It's caused by drooling and spitting up. Clean your baby's face often, especially after he or she eats or spits up. For more information, see the topic Spitting Up.
The baby sometimes has tiny red dots on the skin.
- You may notice tiny red dots on your newborn's skin. These red dots are called petechiae (say "puh-TEE-kee-eye"). These are specks of blood that have leaked into the skin. They are caused by the trauma of being squeezed through the birth canal. They will disappear within the first week or two.
The baby's scalp is scaly.
- Many babies get what is called cradle cap. This scaly or crusty skin on the top of the baby's head is a normal buildup of sticky skin oils, scales, and dead skin cells. Unlike some other rashes, cradle cap can be treated at home with shampoo or mineral oil. Cradle cap usually goes away by age 1 year. For more information, see the topic Cradle Cap.
What are the common birthmarks?
Birthmarks come in different sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are flat and some form a raised area on the skin. Most are harmless and need no treatment. They often fade or disappear as a child grows older.
- Salmon patches, also called stork bites or angel kisses, are flat, pink patches that occur mainly on the back of the neck, the upper eyelids, the upper lip, or between the eyebrows. Most go away by age 2 years, although patches on the back of the neck usually last into adulthood.
- Moles are brown bumps that can occur anywhere on the body.
- Café-au-lait spots are flat, brown birthmarks that are usually oval in shape. They may get bigger and darker, and your baby may get more of them throughout childhood.
- Mongolian spots are smooth, flat, blue or blue-gray birthmarks, usually on the lower back and buttocks. They often look like bruises. They are very common among darker-skinned newborns. They usually fade by school age, but they may never disappear entirely.
- Port-wine stains are pink-red at birth and then become a darker red-purple color. These birthmarks are formed by blood vessels that did not develop properly. They can be large. Light port-wine stains may fade, but about half get bigger as the child grows. Sometimes they get thicker and darker.
- Hemangiomas (say "hee-man-jee-OH-muhs") are raised, blue, red, or purple birthmarks formed by a clump of blood vessels that can be any size or shape. Most of them grow for about a year, then turn white and start shrinking.
For more information, see the topic Birthmarks.
What about jaundice?
Many newborn babies have a yellow tint to their skin and the whites of their eyes. This is called jaundice. In newborns, jaundice usually goes away on its own within a week and does not need treatment. But in rare cases, jaundice gets worse and can cause brain damage. That is why it is important to call your doctor if you notice signs that jaundice is getting worse. If you think that your baby's skin or eyes are getting more yellow, or if your baby is more tired or is not acting normally, call your doctor. For more information, see the topic Jaundice in Newborns.
When should you call a doctor?
Always call a doctor if you have any concerns, if your baby is not acting normally, or if the skin shows signs of being infected. The signs can include:
- Increased pain, swelling, or warmth in an area.
- Red streaks extending from an area.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin.
- Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.
- An extra fussy baby.
Call your doctor if:
If you have concerns about what lotions or other products to use on your baby's skin, talk with your baby's doctor at the next visit. Not all newborn skin conditions need to be treated with lotions and creams. You don't usually need to use lotions and other products on healthy newborn skin.
Current as of: August 3, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics