5 Common Causes of Dry Skin in Newborns (and How to Treat Them)

 dry skin in newborns leg and face

5 Common Causes of Dry Skin in Newborns (and How to Treat Them)

Millions of infants are affected by dry skin, an issue of significant concern for newborns and their caregivers. This article aims to provide new parents with an understanding of the underlying causes of dry skin in newborns and offers evidence-based recommendations for treatment and prevention.

Cause 1 - Environmental Factors

Environmental factors, such as low humidity, cold weather, or excessive heat, can contribute to dry skin in newborns (Sarkar, Goldstein, & DiMeglio, 2016). To prevent dryness, it is crucial to create a suitable environment by:

  • Maintaining indoor humidity levels between 30% and 60% using a humidifier (if necessary).
  • Protecting the baby's skin from harsh weather conditions by using appropriate clothing and lightweight blankets.
  • Keeping indoor temperatures within a comfortable range (approximately 68-72°F or 20-22°C).

Cause 2 - Bathing Habits

Frequent bathing or inappropriate techniques can strip the newborn's skin of natural oils, contributing to dryness (Stamatas, de Sterke, & Hauser, 2013). Adopting proper bathing practices is essential, including:

  • Limiting the frequency of baths to 2-3 times per week.
  • Ensuring water temperature remains at a lukewarm setting (approximately 100°F or 38°C).
  • Utilizing gentle, fragrance-free cleansers, specifically designed for newborns.

Cause 3 - Skin Conditions

Newborns are susceptible to various skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis, which can cause skin dryness (Mahé, 2013). Recognizing these conditions is vital, as they may require different treatment approaches:

  • Eczema: characterized by red, irritated, and itchy skin. Treatment options may include the use of emollients or topical corticosteroids under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
  • Psoriasis: presents as red, scaly patches on the skin. A pediatrician may recommend topical treatments or, in severe cases, phototherapy.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: causes scaly, yellowish patches on the skin, typically on the scalp. Shampoos containing selenium sulfide or ketoconazole may be prescribed by a doctor.

Cause 4 - Allergies or Irritants

Exposure to allergens or irritants, such as harsh detergents or certain fabrics, can induce dry skin in newborns (Eichenfield, Friedlander, & Simpson, 2019). Identifying and avoiding potential culprits is essential:

  • Choosing mild, hypoallergenic laundry detergents specifically designed for sensitive skin.
  • Selecting soft, breathable fabrics such as cotton for the baby's clothing and bedding.
  • Keeping the infant's environment clean and free of dust and pet dander.

Cause 5 - Insufficient Hydration

Maintaining proper hydration is crucial for healthy skin in newborns (Basnet, Manandhar, Lesshafft, & Rai, 2018). Ensuring adequate hydration can be achieved through:

  • Breastfeeding on demand or providing appropriate amounts of formula.
  • Consulting a pediatrician before introducing supplemental water, as the recommendations may vary based on the baby's age and individual needs.

The principal causes of dry skin in newborns include environmental factors, bathing habits, skin conditions, allergies or irritants, and insufficient hydration. By addressing these factors via the treatment approaches outlined in this article, caregivers can significantly improve their newborn's skin health. However, if concerns persist or dry skin does not resolve despite implementing these measures, consulting with a pediatrician is strongly advised.


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