When your baby is in the womb, the skin is in constant contact with amniotic fluid which is mostly composed of water. Mother Nature provides this fluid layer to act as a cushion to protect your growing baby from injury, to help develop your baby’s lungs, and to provide the space and means for your growing baby to move easily. Being able to move is important because movement helps to promote your baby’s muscle and bone development.
Mother Nature also provides a protection for your baby’s skin while living in this fluid environment. That protection is a cheesy-like substance known as vernix. You will see various amounts of vernix on your newborn’s skin, from a little to a lot, depending on when your baby is born.
As your baby matures over the first few days to weeks you may notice the skin peeling on your baby’s lips, hands, and feet. If your baby is born after your due date, your baby may have peeling skin at birth. The skin after peeling will be soft and smooth. This process is normal as part of the transition from the fluid environment of the womb to the air environment outside the womb. No lotions or creams should be used on your baby during this time as they will interfere with this natural shedding of the top layer of skin. Soon all of the peeling skin will be gone and your newborn’s skin will be soft and smooth.
If your baby is born early you may see a fine downy layer of hair on the ears, the temples, the forehead, and the back. This abundance of hair is known as lanugo. Lanugo begins to fall out while your baby is still in the womb, and it will continue to disappear on its own after your baby is born.
It is very common for your newborn’s skin to develop little white spots that are known as milia. These tiny spots are usually found on the nose and face. Milia are formed by dead skin cells that do not slough off (due to a still developing oil gland system) and the cells get trapped in tiny pockets in the skin. These tiny white spots are harmless and will go away on their own within a few weeks.
Baby acne is another possibility for your newborn’s skin experience. Small pink to red spots may appear in patches or alone, usually on your baby’s cheeks, chin, and forehead. This rash is thought to be caused by the hormones your baby is exposed to in the last trimester of your pregnancy. Baby acne may last for a few months. The best treatment is none at all. Just continue your usual face washing routine, using warm water only, and your baby’s skin should clear up on its own.
So you see, your newborn’s skin may be very different than picture perfect. All of these skin conditions are normal, and come and go on their own.
With or without vernix, peeling skin, lanugo, milia, or baby acne, your newborn’s skin is perfect. With peace of mind you can embrace all of these events as a natural part of the adventure of being a newborn.