Nothing can replace the soft feel of a newborn baby’s skin. But if your baby’s skin changes from perfect to peeling just a few days after birth, it’s natural to worry.
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“A newborn’s skin has to make many adjustments after it leaves the womb and enters the outside world,” says pediatrician Dr. Marni Tourel. “The important thing is to know what is normal and how to deal with it.”
Peeling the skin may seem surprising, but it’s not uncommon. Dr. Turell explains what you need to know about skin peeling in newborns and how to care for it.
Is it normal for newborns to have peeling skin?
All newborns go through a skinning phase during their first two weeks of life. It usually occurs on the arms and legs, but the skin may also peel on the abdomen, back, and buttocks. Your newborn may have a cradle only if you notice peeling of the skin on the scalp. This is a buildup of harmless scaly spots on the scalp.
The degree of peeling in newborns varies, but it does not necessarily indicate that the infant’s skin is dry. The outer layer of exfoliated skin may be dry, but the skin underneath may not be.
“Skin detachment in newborns is similar to shedding,” notes Dr. Turell. “The outer layer of skin sloughs off and the underlying healthy skin takes over.”
However, some babies have peeling skin. and dry skin. Here’s how to tell the difference: Newborn skin peeling usually lasts for two weeks, but dry skin can last longer or become a chronic problem. If the dryness does not go away, see a doctor.
Why does my newborn’s skin peel?
Skin peeling can occur in newborns for several reasons, but some reasons are more common than others.
Peeling due to pregnancy and childbirth
Peeling caused by pregnancy and childbirth usually heals on its own within a few weeks. Pregnancy can cause skin peeling due to:
- Insufficient exfoliation in the uterus: While a newborn baby is in the womb, it is surrounded by amniotic fluid. It does an excellent job of protecting the fetus as it grows, but overexposure to amniotic fluid can be harsh on sensitive skin. Therefore, the fetus develops a thick pasty coating (vernix) around the middle of pregnancy. However, the protective coating also prevents the skin from falling off. After birth, when nurses usually wipe away amniotic fluid and blood from the baby, they also wipe off the vernix. When that protective membrane is lost, the baby can shed several layers of skin.
- Exposure to amniotic fluid: Vernix becomes thinner over time. Babies with a long gestational age (those born after term) are usually born with less vernix and less protection from amniotic fluid. “The longer your baby is in the womb, the more exposure you have to intrauterine fluids,” explains Dr. Turell. “Babies born past their due date are more likely to have skin peeling as a result.”
When peeling is a sign of a skin condition
In some cases, peeling can indicate a skin condition. Your pediatrician (or dermatologist) can help diagnose these conditions and provide safe and effective treatments. These skin problems include:
- Infant eczema: Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is rarely diagnosed immediately after birth, but it does happen. 60% of people with eczema develop eczema by their first birthday. When eczema flares up, the skin usually becomes red, inflamed, and itchy. However, as it heals, the skin may slough off to reveal new, healthy skin. Infantile eczema usually occurs on the face and scalp. You will rarely find it in the diaper area.
- Ichthyosis: Babies born with ichthyosis have an extra layer of skin. If the additional membrane cracks and falls off, it will flake off and cause itching. Ichthyosis is a genetic disease. Severe cases may require care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where the infant will remain in a humid room until the condition improves.
- psoriasis: Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disease. It usually develops after the age of 15, but rarely affects infants. Approximately 33% of psoriasis cases begin in childhood. People with psoriasis have itchy scales on their skin that are similar to the scales associated with cradle caps. If your baby’s cradle operculum does not improve, it may be a sign of psoriasis.
How to treat skin peeling in newborns
Peeling that occurs on the skin of newborns usually does not require special treatment. It should stop on its own within a few weeks. However, here are his five tips for protecting your baby’s skin during peels.
1. Do not peel or exfoliate your newborn’s skin.
When you see skin peeling, your instinct may be to help it. Avoid that temptation.
“The skin is protecting the new skin underneath, so don’t peel or remove it,” says Dr. Turell. “The best thing to do is to let it fall off naturally.”
2. Keeps newborn skin moisturized
If you want to do something helpful during the peeling stage, add some moisture. “Slather on an emollient, such as Vaseline® or Aquaphor®, or a petroleum-based moisturizer,” suggests Dr. Turell. “It probably won’t make your skin look better, but it won’t hurt.”
Moisturizing also helps keep your new skin healthy and protected. In the initial weeks and months, even after the peeling stage has passed, continue to care for your new skin by:
- Unite in the cold: Dry air can strip moisture from your baby’s delicate skin.
- Daily moisturization: Use lotion 2-3 times a day, especially after bathing, to prevent dryness.
- Use of humidifier: Exposure of your baby to moist air will prevent the skin from drying out.
3. Be gentle when washing your newborn
Until the umbilical cord is removed and the circumcision (if the baby had one) has healed, the newborn should be given a sponge bath (i.e., using a washcloth mixed with soap to clean the newborn, rather than soaking in water). . However, be careful not to remove too much loose skin.
“Use only a soft washcloth or your hands,” advises Dr. Turell. “There’s no need to scrub your skin.”
Use lukewarm water to avoid drying your skin. Baths should be short, no longer than 10 minutes.
4. Avoid chemicals and fragrances
Harsh chemicals can irritate your baby’s delicate skin. When choosing shampoos, soaps, and lotions, look for unscented products.
Choose gentle products when washing your baby’s clothes. Chemicals and fragrances in your newborn’s clothing can also irritate the skin.
5. Keep your baby hydrated
It is just as important to moisturize your skin from within as it is to moisturize the surface. Make sure your infant is getting enough breast milk or formula. However, you should never give your baby water for the first 6 months of life. If you have concerns about how much your baby eats, talk to your health care provider.
When should you seek medical attention for your newborn’s dry skin?
Although most peels resolve on their own, Dr. Turell says there are some cases in which you may need to see a doctor. Consult your pediatrician if your baby’s skin is:
- It looks red, bleeds, and inflamed.
- The period of peeling is 3 weeks or more.
“If the skin looks red and angry, your baby feels uncomfortable, or has a fever, talk to your pediatrician,” emphasizes Dr. Turell. “It could be a sign of an infection or a more serious condition.”