Topic Overview

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.
  • Pus.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or
    groin.
  • Fever of
    100.4°F (38°C) or
    higher.
  • An extra fussy baby.
When to call a doctor
Skin problemCall your doctor
if:
Diaper rash
  • The rash isn’t better after 2 or 3
    days. Your baby may have a yeast diaper rash.
Birthmarks
  • The birthmark bleeds or grows
    quickly.

Blisters

  • Your baby has a rash with blisters.
Jaundice
  • Your baby’s yellow tint gets brighter
    or deeper, or it hasn’t decreased by your baby’s 5th day of
    life.
  • Your baby seems very sleepy, is not eating well, or does not
    act normally.
  • Your baby shows signs of dehydration, such as
    having fewer wet diapers.
  • Your baby has a
    rectal temperature that is less than
    97.8°F (36.6°C) or is
    100.4°F (38°C) or higher. Call
    if you cannot take your baby’s temperature but he or she seems
    hot.
  • Your baby has any new symptoms or does not get better as
    expected.

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.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Your baby’s first days. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 125-130. New York: Bantam.
  • Chang MW (2012). Neonatal, pediatric, and adolescent dermatology. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1185-1203. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Habif TP (2010). Vesicular and bullous diseases. In Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy, 5th ed., pp. 635-670. Edinburgh: Mosby.
  • Miller JH, Hebert AA (2010). Hemangiomas. In MG Lebwohl et al., eds., Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies, 3rd ed., pp. 289-291. Edinburgh: Saunders Elsevier.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD – Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD – Pediatrics

Current as ofMay 4, 2017