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Baby Skin Care Guide

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CRADLE CAP

Left alone, these thick, yellowish, crusted lesions at the top of the baby's scalp will eventually go away. To speed up the process, apply a little olive oil or mineral oil to the area to loosen the scales before shampooing, and then use a comb or baby brush to gently remove them from the scalp, says Susan Boiko, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.

CHAPPED, CRACKED SKIN

Common behind the ears, such a condition can often be treated by applying petroleum jelly once or twice a day. (If cracking also appears on the scalp or face, it's probably eczema or seborrheic dermatitis; check with your pediatrician.)

MILIA

These little white dots on the nose are pores that haven't yet opened up completely. "As the pores open normally, the white dots disappear," says Dr. Boiko. Don't squeeze the pores  -- this could cause scarring.

NEONATAL ACNE

Very common in the first month of a baby's life, acne causes pimples on the face, scalp, ears, and neck. It may be a reaction to changing levels of fetal and maternal hormones. Usually, no treatment is needed; the skin clears up within a few weeks.

INFANTILE ACNE

 This condition occurs after the first three months and is more common in boys than in girls. Mild cases need no treatment, but since severe infantile acne may cause permanent scarring, see your pediatrician so that the area can be treated with medication if necessary, says Amy Paller, M.D., professor of pediatrics and dermatology at Northwestern University Medical School.

BRIGHT RED CHAPPED CHEEKS AND CHIN

Often the result of a baby's teething and drooling, these chapped areas can be cleared up by patting the infant's skin dry and using a light moisturizer, says Dr. Boiko.

ERYTHEMA TOXICUM

This pinpoint rash on the face, upper chest, and back is probably the most common rash in newborns. It tends to occur within several days after birth, and goes away on its own in another few days.

SUCKING BLISTER

Found in the center of a baby's upper lip, this blister results from the baby's sucking on a thumb, toe, or other body part in utero. See if you can find the matching blister on the corresponding body part. "These blisters are completely benign and clear up naturally on their own," says Dr. Boiko, "but since any blister can sometimes signal a more serious condition  -- such as infection with a herpes virus  -- point it out to your pediatrician."

PRICKLY HEAT OR HEAT RASH

These little, red, sometimes itchy bumps, occur under the neck and arms, and along the upper part of the chest and back. They're especially common in very young babies, whose sweat glands are not yet fully functioning. Keep these areas cool and dry by applying small amounts of plain cornstarch first to your hands, then to your baby. Have your pediatrician check very red or oozing skin  -- it may signal a yeast infection.

BELLY BUTTON IRRITATION

When the stump of the umbilical cord finally drops off, usually after a couple of weeks, the skin at the navel may look a bit raw. Many doctors advise swabbing the area with alcohol several times a day to keep it dry and clean. Any persistent redness or oozing could be a sign of infection; have it checked by your pediatrician.

DIAPER RASH

The most severe diaper rashes occur when urine mixes with enzymes in the feces, causing skin irritation, says Dr. Paller. Fortunately, these days the gels in most disposable diapers prevent this. If you're using cloth diapers, or your baby is prone to diaper rash, you should coat her bottom with an ointment containing zinc oxide or petrolatum. A rash that's extremely red and inflamed or that persists for several days could be a yeast or fungal infection (which, unlike a diaper rash, usually isn't painful) and should be examined by your pediatrician.

Laura Flynn McCarthy writes about health for a variety of national magazines.

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