Newborn Rashes

“Smooth as a baby’s bottom” and “Baby soft” are phrases advertisers use when trying to push a new skin care product. The truth is, newborn skin is usually not smooth or soft. There are a number of harmless rashes that newborns develop in the first couple of days to weeks of life to be aware of as a new parent. 

Neonatal acne

At times, babies have a skin rash (small red bumps on the cheeks, chin or forehead) that looks like the acne seen in teenagers. The bumps may be present at birth or start in the first few weeks of life. The reason newborns get acne is because they still have some of their mother’s hormones in their body. As the hormones leave the body, the acne starts to fade. The rash may last until 4 to 6 months of age. Since the rash is not infected and is temporary:

  • No treatment is needed. 

  • Daily cleansing with warm water will help. 

  • Baby oils, lotions and soap can make the rash worse.


Many newborns have blocked skin pores on their face called milia. Milia looks like tiny white or yellow bumps on the nose, cheeks, forehead or chin. They are smaller than pimples and will open up and disappear during the first few months of life:   

  • No treatment is needed since they are not infected

  • Do not try to squeeze the bumps. 

  • No creams or ointments are needed.

Erythema toxicum

Yes, the name sounds scary, but this is another harmless rash. More than half of babies get a rash in the first few days of life called erythema toxicum. The cause of this rash is unknown. The rash looks like small red blotches (about ¼ inch) with a small white bump in the center. Blotches can appear anywhere on the body. A blotch may last from a few hours to several days.  The rash is harmless and usually goes away by 2 weeks of age.   

  • No treatment is needed

  • Baby oils, lotions and ointments can make the rash worse

Peeling, dry skin

Around two weeks old babies may start to resemble lizards more than humans with their dry, peeling skin, especially on their hands and feet. This too, is completely normal. You’d be peeling and dry too if you took a 9 month long bath!

When should I call my primary care provider?  

  • For any rash that does not improve as explained above

  • If there are other symptoms of illness such as:

    o    Fever (temperature of 100.4 or higher°F) 

    o   Is so tired and weak that he hardly responds to you

    o   Cannot be calmed for at least a few minutes each hour using methods that usually work for your child, such as holding, rocking, pacifiers or soothing talk

  • For any blisters (small, fluid filled bumps) that occur during the first month of life

  • Enlarged areas of redness