Is It Normal for Newborns to Have Flaky Skin?

The flaky skin on newborns often puzzles first-time parents. This is because their own experience with dry, peeling or flaky skin is often due to exposure to harsh chemicals or cold, dry weather. Knowing the causes of an infant's flaky skin and what to do about it will help soothe your concerns.

Appearance of Skin

A newborn’s skin typically looks delicate and wrinkly. Parents may notice skin patches that are flaky and dry in appearance, particularly in areas like the ankles, wrists and other skin folds. The skin may appear mottled in color. It might have red areas while others are pale in appearance. This is due to the circulatory system’s inability to maintain circulation at the skin surface, says the KidsHealth website. The mottled appearance is perfectly normal and no cause for concern.

Causes of Flaky Skin

One reason for the flaky appearance is due to the loss of the vernix caseosa, the creamy, white protective covering on the baby’s skin. Present in utero to protect the fetus during the last trimester, the vernix also helps reduce friction during birth, according to the National Institutes of Health 1. After birth, much of the substance is washed away. Exposure to air after floating in amniotic fluid for nine months will also cause an infant's delicate skin to flake.

Treatment of Flaky Skin

When the vernix sloughs off during the first days after birth, it looks like dry, flaky skin. It generally takes about a week to go away. Although caring parents may want to apply lotions or creams to smooth and moisturize the flaky skin, this is not necessary according to Healthy, the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics 3.

Care of Newborn Skin

Natural oils are present on a newborn’s skin and offer effective skin protection. Avoiding baby creams and lotions during the first few months protects the skin from irritation due to allergens in these products. This is particularly important if asthma, allergies or other skin problems are common in your family history, according to WebMD. During the first few weeks of life, a sponge bath a couple of times a week is all that is necessary to keep your infant’s skin clean and healthy. Water is effective at keeping the infant’s mouth and genitals clean in-between the baths. Once the flakiness disappears, your baby’s skin will stay smooth and healthy with the proper care.