Newborn skin: What’s normal?

New parents might be surprised by the appearance of their newborn’s skin. Many babies arrive in the world covered in vernix (the protective cream cheese-like skin coating) and other various fluids, hands and feet a shade of blue, their face could be puffy, and their head an unusual shape.

If you’re anxious about the appearance of your baby’s skin, here is a list of what’s normal (and what may not be) to help ease your mind, followed by our tips to caring for your precious baby’s newborn skin:

Newborn skin rashes

A newborn’s skin is delicate and will most likely develop a rash at some stage. The most common rashes are nappy rash, baby acne, heat rash, and eczema.

Read more about each of these rashes and the recommended treatments in our article Types of Baby Rash. 

If your baby’s rash is associated with additional symptoms such as fever, weeping, oozing, swelling, or they seem unwell with cold or cough symptoms, seek urgent medical attention or call 000.

Newborn milia

If your baby has small white spots on their nose and face, it’s nothing to worry about, and you don’t need to do anything to treat it. They’re blocked pores so they’re not contagious and will clear up on their own in the first few months.

Newborn skin colour

Skin colour in newborns can vary greatly. Family characteristics and ethnicity will influence the colour, of course, but it can be reddish-purple, pink, or bright red.

The colour of concern is yellow. The condition called jaundice is common around day 3, and may require special treatment.

Newborn mottled skin

Your baby’s skin might look blotchy or mottled (patchy with irregular coloured streaks and spots, or a marbled appearance) particularly when you change their clothes and they get cold.

However, mottled skin can also be a sign that a baby is unwell. If their skin becomes pale or mottled, take their temperature and seek medical advice immediately.

Newborn acrocyanosis

A normal occurrence in the first few hours of life in which a newborn’s feet and hands are blue due to a decrease in circulation to those parts of the body.

What’s not normal and requires immediate medical attention is blue lips, face, or anywhere else on the body, as it may indicate a serious problem.

Newborn birth marks

If your baby has ‘stork bite marks’ around the eyes, neck, or forehead, you can be rest assured that this is very common in babies with fair complexions, and is caused by blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. They usually fade in time.

Newborn cradle cap

A dry, scaly, and crusty harmless condition of the skin around the scalp area. Read about the causes, signs and symptoms, and the treatments in our Cradle Cap article.

How to care for your newborn’s skin

One of the skin’s important functions is to act as a barrier. An infant’s skin does not function as well as adult skin in this role. This reduced barrier function increases the potential for the skin to develop irritation in response to whatever it is exposed to.

A newborn baby’s delicate and sensitive skin requires special, gentle care:

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