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Newborn Dry Skin: What Causes It And How To Treat It

Newborn Dry Skin

In case you are wondering, the picture above shows the normal peeling of a newborn baby.

As a first-time parent, you probably expect your newborn’s skin to be soft and smooth. But suddenly you notice that your baby’s skin is peeling, becoming dry and rough. 

A baby’s skin is more prone to dryness than an adult’s. In this blog, we will provide you insight into what might be causing newborn dry skin and how to treat it.

What Is Newborn Dry Skin?

Newborn babies experience dry skin just like adults do. The main reason behind dry skin in babies is a lack of moisture. You may be wondering why a baby’s skin is more prone to becoming dry.

Let’s explain. The outer layer of the baby’s skin, known as the epidermis, is 30% thinner than that of adults. This is because their skin is not fully developed. It takes almost two to five years for their skin to fully develop and become adult-like.

This is why the epidermis has difficulty retaining moisture in the skin and thus protecting the skin from outside irritants such as chemicals in skincare products. As a result, the skin becomes rough, patchy, and dry if proper care and attention are not provided. 

So don’t worry; dry skin in newborns is very common, and you can easily manage it.

What Does Dry Skin In Babies Look Like?

Dry skin in newborns is more common than you think. These are some of the most common symptoms that might appear in your baby:

  • Rough skin
  • Ashy skin (on darker skin tones)
  • Flaky skin
  • Dry patches on skin
  • Cracked skin

Newborn Skin Peeling And Dryness

Congratulations! You made it home from the hospital and are reading this article. You may have noticed that your newborn skin’s peeling all over the entire body and becoming dry. And you might be worried, wondering if it is normal or not. Don’t worry. It’s normal.

Almost every newborn experiences this skin peeling and cracked skin. Here is why. During pregnancy, babies are covered with amniotic fluids that protect the baby and their skin. But after birth, babies have to survive in this harsh environment, which can be challenging for the skin.

When the babies are born, their skin is very delicate and has a thin outer layer of skin. This layer usually sheds in the first two or three weeks of their life. The newborn skin peeling that you see is usually this skin. Once this skin layer is removed, a new one develops, which is tougher and less sensitive.

This is a natural process that almost every baby and their parent experiences. There is no discomfort associated with this. However, sometimes, this skin peeling is also accompanied by dry skin. To keep the baby’s skin soft and hydrated, keep it moisturized.

Use a moisturizer that is infused with natural ingredients like licorice root and glycerin and is free from any harsh chemicals. Moisturizer like Happy Cappy Moisturizing Cream is a great option to choose from, it is pediatrician-developed and clinically tested and safe to be used by babies, toddlers, and adults. 

What Causes Newborn Dry Skin?

Dry skin in babies is thought to be caused by a lack of moisture in the skin–think of this as skin dehydration. However, there are several factors that might cause this loss of moisture, such as:

Impaired Skin Barrier

As we discussed before, the epidermis in newborns is not fully developed and functional, which causes the skin to more easily lose moisture, causing it to become dry. This is the main reason that causes an impaired skin barrier. There are other reasons that can cause skin barrier dysfunction in babies, such as skin conditions like eczema which causes additional impairment. 


This is a contributor to newborn skin peeling and dryness. The baby was dependent on maternal hormones for the nine months before the birth. But now that they have arrived and are adjusting to the external environment outside of the womb, the baby’s body has started to produce its own hormones. 

The development and change in these hormones can contribute to the dry skin in your baby. You also might have experienced dry skin during pregnancy due to hormone changes. 

Dry Air

Newborn skin is delicate and sensitive, so dry and cold air might have a greater impact on their skin than yours. Dry, cold air can strip away moisture from the baby’s skin, making it rough, dry, and scaly. The lack of humidity in the air can cause the skin to become dehydrated.

Sun Exposure

Just like dry air, too much sun exposure can also cause skin dehydration. The strong UV rays of the sun can be very harmful to the baby’s skin. It may not only cause dry skin but can also lead to other skin issues such as sunburn, heat rash, or miliaria. 


Eczema, medically known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition that can cause dry skin and peeling. Eczema is very common in children under the age of five years. Babies who have a family history of eczema, asthma, and allergies (the allergic triad) are more likely to develop it. 

Eczema causes the skin to become dry, itchy, and red or purple rashes. In newborns, it is also known as baby eczema and usually appears on the face and on the back of the knees and elbows. 

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is one of the types of eczema that can cause dry skin patches on the baby’s skin. Irritant contact dermatitis can easily develop in babies. It is caused when the skin is irritated by any irritant such as chemicals in the shampoo, soaps, and detergents used for babies. This is a good reason to avoid adult skincare products on babies.

Irritant dermatitis in a baby is most commonly caused by saliva around the mouth–pacifiers can make this worse by allowing the saliva to incubate on the face. Diaper rashes are also very commonly the cause of irritant dermatitis–urine or stool comes in contact with the skin for a prolonged period of time.

These irritants (saliva, stool, harsh chemicals in cosmetics, and detergents) can cause a reaction on the baby’s skin, and they develop itchy, dry, red rashes on the skin. 


Ichthyosis is a rare genetic skin condition. It can cause the skin to become dry and extremely scaly, like a fish sometimes, and lead to newborn skin peeling. This is something that is out of your control. It develops on its own, and there is no permanent cure for it.

However, if you suspect that your baby is experiencing it, it is best to consult a pediatrician and a pediatric dermatologist. They may prescribe certain medications to relieve dryness and improve the baby’s overall condition.


Psoriasis is another rare chronic skin condition in babies that is caused by an overactive immune system. It causes the new skin cells to form even before the dead ones shed off. Due to this overproduction of skin cells, a child can develop white flaky, dry patches on skin, and the skin under the affected area may be red and inflamed. It usually appears on the scalp, knees, and elbows but can appear anywhere.

Cradle Cap (Seborrheic Dermatitis) And Dry Skin

Sometimes people confuse dry skin with cradle cap. This is because cradle cap, also known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, also causes scaly patches and flaking of skin. Even though both skin conditions may look quite similar, in reality, they are totally different.
Cradle cap usually causes greasy patches, while dry skin causes dry patches. Cradle cap is caused due to Malassezia yeast and overproduction of sebum, whereas newborn dry skin is caused by lack of moisture in the skin. 

It is important to diagnose the condition correctly in order to provide the baby with proper treatment. If you are unsure which condition your baby is experiencing, consult a doctor. 

Newborn Dry Skin Treatment

Dry skin in newborns can be easily managed just by following a few simple steps.

Bathtime Care

Bathtime care is essential for your baby’s skin. Bathing can keep your baby clean, but excess baths can also strip away natural oils and moisture from the skin, causing it to become dry. 

  • Give your baby a bath two to three times a week. If. they like their bath, give one daily!
  • If you are bathing your newborn every day, then keep the bathtime limited to 5 to 10 minutes. 
  • Ensure that the water you use to bathe your baby is lukewarm and not hot.
  • After bathing, use a soft cloth or towel to pat dry the skin instead of rubbing it.
  • Make sure to moisturize the baby’s skin after bathing.
  • For bathing the baby use gentle products that are free from harsh chemicals such as fragrances, parabens, and sulfates.

Use Cleanser Instead Of Soap

“Soaps” contain drying ingredients in them (known as sulfates) that can be harmful to the baby’s skin and strip away moisture from their skin. Many soaps contain dyes and fragrances that are a big no-no to use on the baby’s skin. Instead, choose a gentle “cleanser.” 

A daily cleanser that is specially formulated for a baby’s delicate skin will be free from fragrances, dyes, parabens, and sulfate. There are brands that in addition to avoiding those common irritating ingredients also use the appropriate natural ingredients to infuse moisture in the skin, and contain other perks like being vegan-friendly and gluten-free.  

Keep The Skin Moisturized

moisturizing cream for children

Moisturizing is more important for the baby’s skin than it is for yours. For babies moisturizing should be a required task in their daily skincare routine, not just used when the skin is dry. Follow these tips:

  • Moisturize their skin at least twice daily.
  • If your baby is experiencing dry skin due to eczema, then use an eczema cream to moisturize the skin.
  • Moisturize their skin after the bath as the skin can absorb more moisture at that time. 
  • Always use a baby moisturizer that is free from harsh chemicals to prevent the baby’s skin from getting irritated.

Use A Humidifier

If the baby’s skin is becoming dry due to the dry air inside the house, which is mostly caused by central heating, then consider the use of a humidifier to add moisture to the air. The humidifier helps in controlling the moisture in the air and prevents it from becoming dry. 

Leave a humidifier in the baby’s room or where they spend most of their time to avoid their skin from getting dry. 

Use Gentle Detergents

Most people don’t pay much attention to the detergent they are using to wash the baby’s clothes and bedding. But do you know that detergent can also lead to dry, irritated skin in babies? 

The dyes, fragrances, and even fragrances added to mask unwanted scents in the detergents used to wash the baby’s clothes, blankets, and bedding can irritate the skin. To avoid it, make sure that you use a gentle detergent–one specially formulated to wash baby’s clothes. These detergents have a very low content of harsh chemicals in them.  

Dressing The Baby

Dressing the baby in the wrong kind of clothing can also lead to dry skin. Especially in babies with extra sensitive skin, certain fabrics such as synthetic fiber or wool can cause irritation, rashes, and dry skin.

So make sure that you dress your baby in lightweight, breathable fabric. The clothes are loose fitting, so they don’t rub with the baby’s skin and cause friction. 

Choosing The Right Products

Choosing the right products to use on the baby’s skin is vital for their well-being. Products with harsh chemicals or adult skincare products can cause their skin to become irritated, cause red rashes, and, in severe cases, cause allergies.

Always choose products that are free from chemicals like artificial dyes, fragrances, sulfate, and parabens. Use hypoallergenic skincare products that are made with natural ingredients. As these will not only be suitable for your baby’s delicate skin but can also prevent common skin conditions like eczema and contact dermatitis from developing.

Limit Sun Exposure

In the first 6 months of the baby’s life, it is best to protect them from direct sunlight. As their skin is very sensitive and delicate. If you still need to go out in the sun, make sure to cover most parts of the baby’s skin with the help of pants, full-sleeved shirts, and a hat.

In babies over the age of 6 months, you can also protect their skin with the help of sunscreen. But for babies under 6 months, it is not favorable to use sunscreen, so try keeping them in the shade when you go outdoors on a sunny or cloudy day. UV rays are still there even when cloudy. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a valuable resource to learn more about sun exposure and appropriate sunscreens. 

Keep The Baby Hydrated

To keep the baby’s skin healthy on the outside, it is also important to keep it healthy on the inside. Keeping the baby hydrated can help avoid dehydrated and dry skin. Make sure to provide them with enough breast milk or formula to keep their body hydrated. 

Babies under 6 months should not be given water until unless suggested by your doctor. If you are still unsure about how much milk you should give the baby to keep them hydrated, consult your pediatrician. 


Newborn dry skin and peeling of the skin in newborns is very common and there is nothing to worry about. Dry skin in babies is mostly caused by a lack of moisture in the skin, which can be caused by several factors, such as eczema, psoriasis (rare), Ichthyosis (rare), dry air, contact dermatitis, and hormonal changes after birth.

Dry skin can be managed by keeping the skin moisturized. It is essential to moisturize the baby’s skin at least twice daily to keep it healthy and soft. 

If you are searching for a good daily moisturizer for your baby’s skin, try using Happy Cappy Moisturizing Cream. It is specially formulated for newborns and babies by a pediatrician himself and is clinically tested.

This moisturizing cream is fast-absorbing and non-greasy, which makes it easy to use. It is hypoallergenic, which means it has a very low chance of irritating a baby’s delicate skin and works to protect the skin barrier. 


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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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How to get rid of newborn dry skin?

The best way to get rid of dry skin is by keeping it moisturized. Moisturize the baby’s skin with a hypoallergenic moisturizer at least twice daily.

What causes dry skin in newborns?

The most common cause for dry skin in newborns is impaired skin barrier. Their delicate skin is still developing and is more prone to dryness, so any common factor like sun exposure, excessive washing, or even dry air can cause their skin to become dry.

Is dry skin in babies common?

Yes, dry skin in babies is very common. A lot of babies experience skin peeling in the first few wells of their life. This skin peeling can lead to dry skin. Apart from that baby’s skin is very delicate and sensitive, which is why it can easily get dry and needs more care and attention.

How do I know if my baby’s skin is dry?

If your baby’s skin is becoming rough or flaky, then they may be experiencing dry skin. Other common symptoms of dry skin are redness, ashy skin, itching, and patchy skin.

What is the best lotion for newborn dry skin?

The best lotion for newborn dry skin is the one that is free from harsh chemicals like parabens, fragrances, dye, gluten, and sulfate. A moisturizer that is infused with natural ingredients is good for a baby’s delicate skin. Moisturizers like Happy Cappy Moisturizing Cream are specially formulated for babies' sensitive and eczema-prone skin. It is infused with natural ingredients like licorice root extract and glycerin that keep your baby’s skin hydrated for a long time

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