Understanding Baby Skin Peeling: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Baby Skin PeelingBaby skin peeling is a common phenomenon, generally due to dryness. A newborn’s epidermis and stratum corneum are 20 and 30 percent thinner than adults, increasing the likelihood of their skin drying out. But what causes this, can you prevent it, and how is it treated? Read this blog to find out!

Causes of Baby Skin Peeling

It is common for babies to experience some peeling and dryness once they’re out of the womb. Most of the time, the flaky skin will rescind on its own, not requiring special care. There are several reasons a baby’s skin might be peeling, such as:

1. Vernix caseosa

During the 20th or so week of pregnancy, the baby has a layer of wax that forms outside their skin, known as the vernix. There isn’t a consensus as of yet within the medical community regarding what its purpose is, but some common theories are:

  • It protects the newborn baby’s skin during and right after delivery.
  • It has antibacterial properties, safeguarding the baby from infection during birth.
  • The waxiness doubles as a lubricant, assisting the mother during the labor process.
  • It stops the baby from absorbing excess fluid during gestation.

Regardless of the reason, vernix generally washes off the baby’s skin immediately after birth. Small patches may stay in the crevices of the newborn’s skin, such as between their toes and armpits.

That isn’t generally a cause for concern. In fact, doctors generally advise vernix not to be washed off intentionally and instead fall off on its own. This may take a few weeks. Once most of it is gone, the child’s skin will become increasingly vulnerable, reacting to the harshness of the new environment. A newborn has very delicate, soft skin that gets irritated easily and isn’t used to being outside the womb. Therefore, even dry air starts to impact the infant’s skin, causing it to peel.

2. Amniotic fluid exposure

Throughout the gestation period, the baby lives in amniotic fluid in the womb. When the fluid comes in direct contact with the skin, it causes it to wrinkle and dry out, similar to when you’ve been in the pool or bath for too long.

3. Eczema

Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a skin condition that can cause an infant’s skin to dry. The cause of this is unknown but may be caused by genetic components. Some symptoms of this skin condition are:

  • Rashes on the baby’s knees, ankles, elbows, neck, and face
  • Inflammation that occurs on and off
  • Thick, red, or chafed skin
  • Peeling or dry skin
  • Itchy skin

Of course, a baby with eczema and dry skin will experience worse itching and rashes.

3. Psoriasis

In some cases, flaky skin can point to psoriasis. This skin condition related to the immune system leads to accelerated skin cell growth causing itchy, raised scales atop the skin. Though it majorly affects people between 15 to 35 years of age, in some rare instances, infants may get it. Unfortunately, psoriasis isn’t curable, but it is treatable. One of the presentations of psoriasis in a baby is when it has a yeast infection, cradle cap, or diaper rash that isn’t improving even with treatment. This will require a visit to the baby’s doctor.

4. Diaper Rash

A diaper rash occurs when your baby’s sensitive skin covered with the diaper gets in contact with stool or urine for far too long. The infant’s skin becomes flaky, tender, and red. 

Prevention of Baby Skin Peeling

A baby’s skin is quite fragile and requires a lot of care. You can prevent their skin from peeling by ensuring the following:

1. Bathe baby in lukewarm water

To wash a baby, only use lukewarm water because the skin will dry out if it’s too hot. Also, ensure you don’t bathe the baby daily, don't take longer than ten minutes, and use only a mild soap. This should only be used to clean their genitals, feet, and hands, with just water for the back and stomach.

2. Avoid harsh chemicals

As previously stated, an infant has extremely sensitive skin. Therefore, avoid it coming into contact with any chemical, such as fragrances, soaps, and perfumes. This also applies to the washing detergent you use to clean the baby’s clothes, blankets and more.

3. Dress baby in loose-fitting clothes

You should dress your baby in soft clothes made with organic materials. This is because they don’t exert pressure on or irritate the newborn’s skin. 

4. Make the baby's environment comfortable

A dry and cool environment (inside or outside the home) will cause the infant’s skin to peel off or break in. To prevent this, you can use a humidifier to regulate the room’s moisture levels (after getting the go-ahead from the pediatrician).

5. Diet

A newborn needs to stay well-fed, healthy, and, most importantly, hydrated so that their skin doesn’t start to peel. This, of course, means having ample fresh breast milk. According to the WHO, it is recommended for babies to have just breast milk for the first 6 months after birth and no other liquids or foods.

5. Moisturize

It can be good to moisturize a baby’s skin, but you need to ensure that it isn’t scented and has as few additives as possible. In fact, using pure oils such as olive or coconut can be a great choice.

Treatment for Baby Skin Peeling

If you find that your infant’s skin has started to get flaky and peel, there are several things you can do (of course, do consult a doctor beforehand):

1. Avoid scratching

In the case of eczema, you should ensure the baby’s nails are trimmed and filed. Parents often make their newborns wear gloves or mittens to prevent them from scratching up their skin. Of course, a baby can’t scratch their itchy skin at will, but when they wave their arms and have long nails, they can possibly break the skin. When a scratch occurs, the area might ooze, blister, or itch and also cause an infection. 

2. Keep skin moisturized

Caregivers can use hypoallergenic moisturizer twice or thrice a day to treat their infant’s peeling skinMoisturizing the baby after a bath is especially important, using either a baby-safe lotion or pure oil. After applying it, gently pat their skin with a soft towel to seal the moisture in. 

3. Use mild cleansers

To treat flaky skin, use a natural cleanser when washing your newborn. The soap must be unscented and baby friendly so it doesn't worsen the skin.

When to Acquire Medical Assistance

Baby skin peeling is quite common. It generally isn’t a cause for concern and shouldn’t require medical assistance. But, the child’s caregivers should check for additional symptoms and signs, for example, if they notice the following:

  • Swollen
  • Itchy
  • Cracked
  • Red

Moreover, medical intervention will be needed if the baby has had a fever. It’s important to rule out any other diseases or infections the newborn might have contracted that are either caused by or present as skin issues. Therefore, go to the doctor as soon as you see any warning signs.


Ensuring that a baby’s skin remains healthy and happy is essential to prevent infections, irritation, discomfort, and more. Prevention and treatment are similar, such as moisturizing the baby, keeping their skin chemical free, and adorning them in soft, loose clothing. With the points mentioned in this blog, we hope that you have a better idea of what baby skin peeling entails and have the resources and tools to treat their skin appropriately. 

If you’re looking for high-quality, organic, natural baby skin products, check out PureLitto! They can help you treat your newborn's sensitive skin with soaps, lotions, and more that use mild and gentle ingredients. For more information, contact us today!