Skin Conditions and Birthmarks in Newborns As you no doubt have noticed by now, newborn babies do not always have the clear, radiant skin we see in television commercials. They may in fact have any number of common skin conditions or birthmarks, which may take you a bit off guard at first.
Newborn baby skin conditions
Below is a description of the most common skin conditions that newborn babies have:
- Cradle cap: This is peeling skin on your newborn baby’s head. Mild cradle cap should respond to a massage with mineral oil or petroleum jelly to loosen up the peeling scales. Then you can wash off the scales with baby shampoo. If the peeling is heavy, your doctor may recommend the use of a special shampoo or ointment. With treatment, cradle cap usually clears up within a few weeks; without treatment, it lasts for months.
- Erythema toxicum: These are yellow-white bumps surrounded by red splotches. These lesions may be anywhere on the skin except the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. They should disappear within the first week or two. This is one of the most common rashes of the newborn baby.
- Milia: These are small, pearly, white spots on the newborn baby’s forehead, cheeks, and nose. They look like whiteheads, and although they appear to be raised bumps, they are actually smooth. Milia form when a skin lubricant called sebum builds up within the newborn baby’s skin. Within the first couple of weeks of life, the baby’s oil glands and pores will become more mature, and the milia will disappear. It is best to leave these spots alone and let them disappear naturally.
- Miliaria: This is a raised rash consisting of little blisters filled with fluid. The fluid is milky white or clear, and it contains normal skin secretions. Miliaria is due to obstruction of sweat glands leading to the build-up of sweat. The rash will eventually disappear on its own.
- Newborn acne: These are red spots with yellow centres, also called neonatal urticaria, which occur when the pores in the newborn baby’s skin do not yet work efficiently. Although they may look like an infection, they are not, and they do not need any treatment. Neonatal urticaria will go away on its own.
- Pustular melanosis: These are small blisters on the skin. They quickly dry out and fall off, leaving little dark-coloured freckles underneath. The freckles will eventually disappear. This is more commonly seen in dark-skinned newborn babies.
Some newborn babies are born with birthmarks that can be a bit alarming at first. Some birthmarks disappear after a few years, and others remain throughout the child’s lifetime. Here is a list of the most common types of birthmarks:
- Café au lait marks: These are tan coloured patches – hence the name café au lait – that can occur anywhere on the newborn baby’s body. They do not disappear over time. If your baby has many café au lait marks, let your doctor know, as it may be a sign that your baby needs further investigations.
- Strawberry hemangioma: Also called a capillary hemangioma or a strawberry mark, this is a red, raised blotch with a soft texture. It may be as small as a kernel of corn or larger than a baseball. Strawberry hemangiomas form when there is an abnormal blood supply to a part of the skin, which causes the skin to swell and turn red. They usually increase in size after birth but are expected to disappear by about five to 10 years of age. If the strawberry hemangioma is close to the eye and interferes with vision, it may need to be treated. As any hemangioma on the face region can impair function, your doctor should follow the growth of this hemangioma to make sure it disappears properly.
- Cavernous hemangioma: This is like a strawberry hemangioma, except that it involves deeper layers of tissue and it has a lumpy texture. Cavernous hemangiomas typically grow during the first year of life, and then disappear between five and 12 years. Sometimes they can be removed surgically.
- Moles: Also called congenital pigmented nevi, moles can range from light to dark, and they may have hair growing from them. Moles are not usually a cause for concern. However, if your newborn baby’s mole is very large, starts bleeding, or changes colour, shape, or size, there could be a chance of skin cancer, and it should be brought to your doctor’s attention.
- Mongolian spots: These are greenish or bluish spots that look like a bruise under the skin. They typically occur on the bottom or back of babies who are black, Asian, Mediterranean , or otherwise dark in complexion. Mongolian spots usually fade within the first year.
- Port wine stains: These are large, flat, dark red or purple spots on the skin, caused by too many blood vessels under the skin. Port wine stains do not disappear over time.
- Skin tags: These are soft, little skin growths. If they are unattractive or uncomfortable, they can be removed by the doctor.
- Spider nevi: These are thin, spider-shaped blood vessels that will fade over the first year. These are usually nothing to worry about, but bring them to your doctor’s attention, just in case.
- Stork bites: These are pink, irregular-shaped patches on the neck or face, which disappear over time.