What causes baby eczema? How to treat it and other baby skincare tips.

IMPORTANT: The purpose of this page is to provide information on skin conditions, not to provide medical advice.  Content was sourced from The Eczema Association of Australasia Inc and Hope’s Relief product information sheets. Links on this page to other sites on the Internet are provided for the benefit of site users and do not constitute medical advice, an endorsement of any other organisation /company or of their products or treatments.

Baby skin care

You may also be surprised to find that many products out there marketed as ‘mild’ or ‘baby’ formulas, are not mild or suitable for baby use at all. Such products have irritating ingredients such as: petroleum based oils, synthetic fragrances, as well as other nasties such as  Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, one of the harshest surfactants in existence!

Many adults may not realise that their eczema could have been linked to infant use of soaps with high pH. It was not your parents’ fault, however, since soaps with pH 10 have been around since the 1950s, and are still available for purchase at any local store. The modern consumer now needs to educate themselves to know the difference with newer cleansing technologies.

The Eczema Association of Australia suggests an unscented/aroma free natural moisturising lotion or cream to help combat existing dry skin conditions as the skin needs to be kept hydrated. Nothing extra is needed, aside from a gentle wash product, a simple moisturiser and perhaps a natural massage oil. If parents wish to introduce other kinds of personal care, including aromatic products, seek out a quality product that once again, has been specifically formulated for babies and check ingredient lists for the main ingredients. Avoid anything that appears to be formulated using mostly synthetics.

Top questions parents ask at pharmacies

Pharmacies are often the first port of call for parents seeking both advice and quality products to suit their new baby’s individual skincare needs. Following are some of the most frequently asked questions, with suggested responses, all aimed at educating pharmacy staff. This information can be used to equip new parents with enough knowledge to facilitate a more informed decision making process when it comes to choosing personal care products for their baby.

The skin is a living, breathing and permeable surface which boasts the number one ranking as our body’s largest organ. The skin’s main function is to act as a barrier, from infection and absorption of toxins, as well as to prevent the loss of fluids.

Babies actually require very little in the way of skincare products for the first few months of life. Some studies conducted in the UK found that the skin of a newborn baby should be left to develop naturally, even when it appears to be dry, for at least the first important several weeks of life. The use of water only for this period of time was recommended as an outcome. A gradual introduction of gentle, natural-based product which is free from fragrant oils and that has been specifically developed for babies could then follow

If eczema or dry skin is already present, it is important to keep the skin from being dehydrated any further, which will cause cracking, irritation and sometimes itching which can be worrisome for parents and cause discomfort to all involved. But young babies and new parents will both benefit from adopting a simple approach to baby’s personal care requirements.

Many parents fail to realise the importance of correctly choosing baby products to suit their child’s needs. Taking care to avoid products that contain ingredients commonly linked to skin irritations is paramount. Culprits include artificial colours, perfumes (particularly synthetic), some preservatives, petro-chemicals and some surfactants (ingredients that cause a product to foam) such as sodium lauryl or laureth  sulphate and cocoamphodiacetate to name a few.

Don’t be confused by the word “natural” or other label claims merely aimed to attract unassuming shoppers. Some manufacturers of so-called “natural” products still use strong preservative systems, foaming agents and even oils, for example peanut oil, in their formulations which may be linked to allergies in susceptible infants and young children.

Look for natural skincare products that contain natural ingredients, can be used on baby’s sensitive skin, do not irritate or inflame and contain no nasty ingredients.

While those with an existing family history of allergies and/or sensitivities are of course most at risk, it makes good sense to avoid as many of the ingredients thought to be linked to irritation as possible. Preferably, encourage parents to seek out products that contain a short list of natural or naturally derived ingredients, produced by organisations that are well known for their work in the area of natural baby care specifically. Having a great range of women’s face cream doesn’t automatically qualify a brand as being the best choice in baby care, simply because they decide to develop a new baby range.

Soap is made of a compound of natural oils or fats with sodium hydroxide or another strong alkaline solution, and is used as a surfactant for washing, bathing and cleaning. Chemicals and additives used in some soaps to “clean” irritate and aggravate already sensitive skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Normal soaps are high alkaline which can strip moisture and oil from your skin. This dries out the skin, affects the skin barrier and further irritates sensitive skin.

Soap-free products are made without the combination of fats and alkaline products, and are ideally ph-balanced to 5.5, the same as skin, containing no fragrances, no chemicals and no irritants. A gentle emulsification ensures moisture and oils aren’t stripped from the skin, yet still cleans baby’s skin effectively.

Normal skin has the balance of moisture and oils and is slightly acidic at 4.5 – 5.7 pH. A lot of soaps have a pH of 9-12. This can affect the skins barrier function. Choose products balanced to 5.5pH the same as skin to help maintain moisture and oils.

There appears to be some confusion in general, over the use of the words ‘soap-free’. The word ‘soap’ is generally used to describe a solid bar used for cleansing. Liquid foaming or ‘wash’ products simply don’t contain the same ingredients as a solid bar of soap. A bar of soap is generally made from animal fats (or vegetable oils in the case of manufacturers who choose natural ingredients) and a lye solution made of caustic soda and water. The reaction between the oils/fats and lye neutralisers the caustic soda. For those who are sensitive to soaps, it is more likely to be the fats or oil, the preservatives, fragrances or colours added rather than the lye solution or caustic soda component.

For a product to foam/create bubbles or ‘froth’ it needs to contain a surfactant (surface active agent), which bonds water to grime (i.e. the skin’s natural oil) and washes away, thus providing a ‘cleansing’ action on the skin.

All foaming (bubbling, frothing, lathering) products still actually use a detergent base of some kind to create this reaction. Suggesting parents check the ingredients list of a product and make their judgement this way may be a better alternative.

  • For young babies, smell is the first of the senses to develop and in fact newborns are able to recognise their own mother’s scent within a few hours of birth. If left to rest on their mother after being born, a new baby is able to crawl instinctively toward the breast using only the scent of its mother’s milk as a guide
  • The introduction of artificial perfumes on mother’s skin during birthing can therefore confuse baby’s sense of smell at this important time. The use of any aromatic product on baby around this time can cause a loss of distinction between mother’s smell and the new, introduced smell.
  • Fragrance or aroma of any kind can cause problems for some individuals. Some fragrances are in a base of alcohol or synthetic soluble liquid which in themselves can cause sensitivities. Natural aromas from pure, therapeutic-grade essentials oils appear to be less irritating than their synthetic counterparts; however it is advisable to avoid products with artificial fragrance or perfume as well as those with non-therapeutic, aromatic or ‘essential’ oils early on.
  • A high quality pure essential oil is generally listed on the ingredient list of your product, accompanied by a Latin name (botanical name) in brackets, which describes the specific type of plant used to extract the oil, for example, some oils with the same common name are derived from different plant species, each with different therapeutic properties and different botanical names. This is the case with lavender, for example, which is sometimes substituted by lavandin, a less expensive, more camphorous oil. Another example is chamomile, which can be either the deep blue, chamazulene-rich German variety (matricaria recutita) or Roman (anthemis nobilis). The use of botanical names is not, however, always a hard and fast rule. A guide may be to first determine how much the company producing the product specialises in baby care and/or aromatherapy
    • The addition of a gentle, true aromatherapy-based cleansing product to the bath water for older children may enhance their bathing experience and help soothe irritated, cranky members of the household by encouraging relaxation. Parents should refrain from using their own bath products when baby or young children are joining them in the tub as these may be too harsh for delicate, younger skin.
  • If baby’s skin begins to show early signs of irritation including redness or drying, it’s best to suggest parents check ingredient lists on their baby product for the possible causes and discontinue use at least temporarily. Parents can give baby’s skin a product free day every second day and then use the product again. A ‘patch test’ is another good way to ensure the product parents are using is not causing the irritation. Simply rub a small amount of the product onto the skin inside baby’s wrist or in the elbow crease and leave for a further 24 hours. If no irritation develops it should be suitable to continue using.  Once again, suggest that parents take extra care if there is a family history of skin sensitivities or allergies

When you think about eczema you feel like scratching. When you have eczema, the hardest thing to do is to stop scratching. There are times when you simply forget about this and you wake up scratching your skin really hard. But imagine you are a child. Stopping your infant from scratching their eczema can really be a problem

The most important aspect we will deal with is hygiene. Good hygiene is a must when fighting eczema, which can be easily worsen by bacteria. If you don’t have good hygiene, then I must say it will be difficult fighting eczema. Good hygiene can be difficult when dealing with infants as they have a tendency to touch, and taste, anything in their way.

Here are some tips on how to keep your infants from scratching their eczema:

  • Since heat is known to worsen eczema, ou could try to keep your body at a lower temperature.
  • Also, it is advisable to avoid fragrance products, such as soap. Non-fragrance products are specially designed not to irritate the skin more.
  • Pay attention to allergies. For example, in some cases, grooming your pet can worsen eczema. Other common allergens are moulds, dust, grass pollens, animal fur, etc.

Baby Rashes

Cradle cap

Thick, yellow, crusty or greasy patches on a baby’s scalp. It is a form of scalp psoriasis.

Nappy rash

Red and inflamed rash, from prolonged exposure to faecal matter and urine when nappies have not been changed regularly enough.


Small white bumps on the nose, chin or cheeks. Usually disappears in a few weeks on its own. Best to wash baby’s face with water or non-irritating soap.

Baby Eczema

Patches of red, scaly, itchy skin with occasional pus and crusting. May occur due to exposure to irritating substances such as bubble baths or rough fabrics. May also be a symptom of a food allergy.

The purpose of this page is to provide information on skin conditions, not to provide medical advice.  Content was sourced from The Eczema Association of Australasia Inc and Hope’s Relief product information sheets. Links on this page to other sites on the Internet are provided for the benefit of site users and do not constitute medical advice, an endorsement of any other organisation /company or of their products or treatments.