While stocking your nursery with diaper cream, baby wash, and gentle shampoo is a no-brainer, you might be wondering if you should add baby lotion to the mix, too. After all, newborn and baby skin is so delicate, it would probably benefit from some extra moisturizer…right? The truth is, not all little ones need baby lotion. And not all baby lotions are created equal. Here, everything you need to know about using baby lotion on your bub.

Why is my baby’s skin dry?

It’s perfectly normal for newborns to have dry, flaky skin! Your newborn baby’s skin barrier is thinner and weaker than big kids’, which means they lose moisture faster and are more susceptible to dry, itchy, peeling, and scaly skin. Plus, cold temperatures, low humidity, and dry indoor heat all can make your little one’s skin extra dry!

Is it okay to put lotion on a baby?

Yes. It's okay to put moisturizer on your baby…even newborns! Moisturizing your baby is a great way to help keep their delicate skin hydrated and healthy, which also helps to prevent dry skin and baby eczema. But you want to make sure you’re using a moisturizer that’s gentle and designed for baby’s delicate skin. Always test a new baby moisturizer on a small area of your little one’s skin, like inside the bend of their elbow, before slathering it all over.

How do you moisturize a newborn’s skin?

It’s best to apply a small amount of fragrance-free moisturizer to your baby after a brief bath. That way, their still-damp skin is primed to soak up all the benefits more effectively. To ensure your baby’s skin is getting the most out of their bath-and-lotion routine, keep baths short and infrequent. Too much tub-time can really dry out your bub’s skin! During your baby’s first year, shoot for about two to three 5- to 10-minute baths a week in lukewarm water. Too-warm water can easily irritate your baby’s delicate skin. (Learn how to bathe your baby.)

Can I put lotion on my premature baby?

Yes. In fact, if your baby was born premature, your doctor may recommend daily moisturizing because their skin is extra-fragile and doesn’t hold moisture well. Again, test your preemie’s moisturizer on a small area of their body before applying it all over.

Is it okay to put lotion on baby eczema?

Yes, it's okay to put lotion on baby eczema. In many cases, your pediatrician or pediatric dermatologist will recommend moisturizing your baby’s skin twice a day—or as often as needed—with a thick fragrance-free cream or ointment, like petroleum jelly. These tend to be more effective than lotions or oils for treating baby eczema. Creams with emollients and/or ceramides help create a protective barrier and those with humectants (like glycerol or glycerin) can help with moisture absorption. Whether your baby has eczema or not, again, test a new moisturizer on a small area of their skin first.

What’s the best baby lotion to use?

I do not recommend ever using adult lotions or moisturizers on babies! Adult lotions often contain irritants or allergens and are far too harsh for a baby’s delicate and sensitive skin.

Instead, the best baby moisturizers are…

  • Ointments, such as petroleum jelly

  • Thick creams (lotions are thinner and less effective, but may be okay in warmer months or for babies whose skin isn’t super dry)

  • Paraben- and phthalate-free

  • Alcohol-free

  • Mineral oil-free

  • Formaldehyde-free

  • Fragrance-free 

Remember that even baby moisturizers billed as “gentle,” “fragrance-free,” “hypoallergenic,” and “unscented” can still contain fragrance. Those terms are not regulated! I recommend parents read labels carefully. Moisturizer labels that tout “essential oil blend,” “perfume,” “parfum,” “fragrance,” “aroma,” or “amyl cinnamal” contain fragrance and should be avoided.

Other Ways to Keep Baby’s Skin Healthy

Brief and infrequent lukewarm baths followed by moisturizing your baby are all great ways to keep your little one’s skin healthy. The following tips also go a long way in keeping baby’s skin healthy and soft:

  • Avoid bubble baths. These bath products often contain detergents that can really do a job on your little’s one’s skin, stripping it of natural oils, making your bub more prone to dryness.

  • Pat your baby dry. After bath, pat your peanut dry with a soft cotton towel. Rubbing will strip even more oils from your bub’s skin surface—and irritates their sensitive skin.

  • Avoid soap. Non-soap cleansers are less drying. Just be sure to select one that’s fragrance-free.

  • Embrace organic cotton. After you apply moisturizer, dress your baby in organic cotton Doing so can help keep the moisturizer from rubbing off—and help seal in the moisture! Plus, 100% organic cotton is less likely to contain potential allergens and formaldehyde resins. And it’s huggably soft and breathable, which is also great for delicate baby skin. (Learn more about the benefits of organic cotton.)

  • Use skin-friendly sheets, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that soft cotton sheets breathe well and are less irritating to baby’s skin. (Happiest Baby SNOO sheets are all 100% GOTS certified organic cotton.)

More Baby Skin Need-to-Knows:

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.