What Causes Newborn Skin Peeling And What's The Treatment?

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Newborn skin peeling is common and not always a cause for concern. The extremely sensitive skin of newborns goes through several changes in appearance and texture in the first few weeks after birth. In addition, many babies have dry patches of skin, which may lead to skin peeling. However, it is normal in most cases and does not require special care.

Nevertheless, if skin peeling is severe or persistent, medical treatment may be needed to resolve the issue. Read this post to learn about the causes and treatment for skin peeling in newborns.

Is It Normal For A Newborn To Have Peeling Skin?

In most cases, skin peeling in newborns is normal. Newborns’ delicate skin is susceptible to dryness, causing the top-most layer to flake off in the first few weeks post-birth. However, several external factors can cause irritability and rashes due to their skin’s delicate nature. Further, most of the time, the issue resolves on its own (1).

What Are The Causes Of Newborn Skin Peeling?

The following are some factors that cause skin peeling in newborns:

  1. Vernix caseosa: This thick, waxy coating protects the baby from the amniotic fluid inside the womb. Losing this outer layer may cause natural skin peeling in the first few weeks of birth (2).
  1. Full-term birth: The skin of newborns differs according to the time of birth. Premature babies (born before 37 weeks) usually have less skin peeling. A full-term baby’s skin is thicker, and their skin may lighten a few days post-birth and become dry and flaky (3).
  1. Eczema: Eczema is characterized by a dry rash on the face, elbows, and knees. It is an allergic skin condition, and the itchiness may lead to skin peeling (4). Eczema is rare in newborns and does not usually develop until a baby is closer to four to six months of age.
  1. Ichthyosis: A rare condition due to genetic mutations where the dead skin becomes extremely dry and flaky and peels when rubbed (5).
  1. Psoriasis: An autoimmune disease that occurs due to excessive skin inflammation, leading to the rapid shedding of skin cells. However, it is rare for infants to be affected by it (6).

When Does Newborn Skin Stop Peeling?

There is no defined time frame by when a newborn’s skin may stop peeling. However, if your baby’s skin shows no signs of improvement in two weeks, you could contact your pediatrician (7).

What Are The Treatments And Remedies For Skin Peeling In Newborns?

The following are some ways to treat skin peeling in newborns (7) (8):

  • Moisturizer: A hypoallergenic moisturizer, selected depending on the severity of dryness, can help restore the skin’s moisture. Apply it right after bath time for maximum effectiveness.
  • Short bathing time: Keep the baby’s bath time to under ten minutes and avoid daily baths if possible. Newborn babies only need to be bathed once or twice a week as sponge baths are sufficient. Since hot baths can cause further dryness, use room temperature or slightly warm water (9).
  • Avoid using soap: Do not use soap too often as it strips the skin’s natural oils, causing excessive dryness. Baby soaps and body washes are milder but shouldn’t be used daily.
  • Keep the room humid: Dry air may further aggravate irritation and cause heat rashes. Maintain the humidity in the baby’s room by running a cool-mist humidifier.
  • Cotton clothing: Dress the baby in clothes made from cotton or natural fabrics. Cotton is preferred as it is soft and allows the skin to breathe, keeping it healthy and comfortably covered.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is coconut oil good for newborn skin?

Extra virgin coconut oil is a moisturizer and is safe for a baby’s sensitive skin. However, seek your doctor’s advice, and perform a patch test before applying coconut oil to the baby’s skin. Also, check the ingredients list and only prefer products made of pure coconut oil.

2. What happens if I peel newborn skin?

A newborn baby’s skin might be prone to irritation. You might not need to peel the newborn’s skin as it usually repairs on its own or after moisturizing it. Ensure that the baby’s skin stays hydrated. If you notice any other skin conditions or the skin hasn’t healed in two weeks, consult your doctor (7).

Several factors can cause skin peeling in the first few weeks of life, and most often, it can be managed with home remedies and medical advice. Though it is a common skin issue, it is important to be alert and contact your child’s pediatrician in case of severe dryness. With care and attention, your baby will have healthy skin in no time.

Infographic: Tips To Maintain A Newborns’ Skin

A baby’s skin is more prone to irritations and infections during the first year due to its sensitive nature. Fortunately, most of these issues resolve after the proper intervention and are rarely a cause of concern. Here is an infographic with some essential tips to nourish your baby’s skin. Save this infographic to keep it handy.

a guide to baby's skincare regimen [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Skin dryness may cause skin peeling in babies in the first few weeks.
  • Using a hypoallergenic moisturizer and keeping the room humid could help manage the condition.
  • If there is no visible improvement in two weeks, you could consult a pediatrician.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
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Dr. Ritika Shah

Dr. Ritika Shah is a certified lactation counsellor from iNational Health Care Academy, Singapore and a dental surgeon with more than seven years of clinical experience across various cities in India. She did her graduation in Dentistry from KM Shah Dental College. During her clinical practice, pediatric dentistry was her particular area of interest, and she constantly thrived to inculcate... more

Dr. Jessica Madden

(MD, FAAP, IBCLC)
Jessica Madden is a pediatrician, neonatologist, lactation consultant, and mother of four, who has been taking care of newborns since 2001. She works as a neonatologist in the NICU at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, and founded Primrose Newborn Care, a newborn medicine and “4th trimester” home-visiting and telemedicine practice, in 2018.  Dr. Madden is a Fellow... more