Rough Patches on Babies' Skin

What to do when baby's skin feels rough?

Baby skin is an ideal that adults often aspire to in their own skincare – as it represents flawless skin that feels soft and delicate.

It's therefore all the more surprising for parents when their child's skin feels rough and brittle, or even starts to flake. At first glance, these skin changes might concern you, but in most cases, they have benign causes.

Care for sensitive skin in children and babies

Linola Baby & Child

Rough Skin in Babies

What could be the reason?

Baby lying on its stomach while mother applies cream to a rough patch on the baby's back

Initially, a baby's rough skin might not be visible, but you can feel it. While washing, playing, or changing nappies, you suddenly notice that your child's skin feels surprisingly dry and rough.

Now you pay more attention and later notice further skin changes in your child. Red, rough patches on the baby's skin can have various causes that you should investigate. From a mild skin irritation to allergies or a skin condition, there are several possible reasons why rough patches appear on baby or child skin.


Why does baby's skin become rough?

Babies' and toddlers' skin is very sensitive. This is due to its unique structure: it has the same layers as adult skin, but each individual layer is still very thin and not fully matured. Overall, your adult skin is about five times thicker than your child's.

Your child's skin tends to lose moisture quickly. The protective layer of the outermost layer, the epidermis, is not yet fully developed and is therefore susceptible to irritation and drying out.

If the baby has rough skin on the cheeks and face, it could be due to the weather. Cold winter air dries out your child's facial skin. However, the other extreme, a warm and heated room, also irritates and dries out the baby's skin.

You can specifically prevent rough skin on the face by protecting your child's face with a rich moisturising cream before going out into the cold. The high fat content of the care product acts as a barrier against the cold and prevents moisture loss.

Tip: Due to the large skin surface and thin skin layers, your baby can cool down very quickly. Therefore, make sure it is dressed as warmly as possible in winter.

Learn more about dry baby skin.

Sun and heat can also quickly upset the delicate skin of babies and children. While many adults like to tan in bikinis or swimming trunks, children need to be carefully protected. Follow these measures to ensure you and your child can enjoy the summer carefree:

  • Do not expose babies under one year to direct sunlight!
  • Even if the child is older, it should avoid midday sun. Ensure your child stays in the shade as much as possible and wears protective headgear.
  • Use sunscreen with the highest possible SPF and apply it to the child at least every two hours.
  • Dress your child so that as much of their skin as possible is covered by clothing.
  • Of course, your child shouldn't sweat. Opt for airy, loosely fitting clothing.

Learn more about sun protection for babies and children.

If you notice dry, rough patches on your baby, the cause is often everyday life. Due to its structure, the sensitive skin of babies and children can be irritated more quickly than that of adults. Mechanical irritations, such as friction and scratching, should therefore be avoided in everyday life:

  • Do not rub your child with a towel after bathing, but gently pat the wet skin.
  • Wipe your baby's nappy area with a damp, soft cloth.
  • Remove labels from clothing if they scratch the child's skin.
  • Do not dress your child in pure wool clothing; instead, prefer products made of soft cotton or viscose.
  • Ensure your child has enough freedom of movement in their clothing and that it does not fit too tightly.

Rough patches on the baby's skin can be caused by external environmental influences. However, they may also be an early symptom of a later skin disease.

In the first few months of life, many babies have a rough scalp. Oily yellowish or brownish scales form on it. This is called infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis. It might look worse than it feels for the baby. The baby neither feels pain nor itching. Usually, the infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis disappears on its own within the first year of life.

Cradle cap looks different. In this case, the baby's rough skin on the cheeks is reddened and forms flaky, itchy eczema. Cradle cap is often confused with cradle cap but can be easily distinguished by the different scaling. The scales of cradle cap are not oily but can be wet. Increased scratching by your child can also be an indication.

Many babies who suffer from cradle cap develop allergies or atopic eczema later in childhood. This is especially true if the parents have a predisposition. Therefore, if you notice signs of cradle cap, you should consult a paediatrician or dermatologist.

If your baby's rough skin is indeed the onset of a disease, an early care and treatment concept can be helpful for long-term good development.

Learn more about atopic eczema in babies and children.

In rare cases, rough skin on a baby's face can also indicate an allergic reaction. Avoid using products with fragrances in your child's care, as these can lead to allergies through sensitisation mechanisms.

Check the detergents and fabric softeners used to clean baby clothes. If necessary, switch to products without added fragrances and other sensitising substances.

A food intolerance can also lead to skin changes. If you suspect that your child is reacting to certain foods or ingredients, discuss it with the treating paediatrician. A test will quickly determine whether your child has intolerances or allergies.

Discover the Linola Baby & Child Skincare – without perfume, mineral oils, silicones, and microplastics.

Due to its nature, baby skin tends to dry out quickly and become rough. You can prevent this by moisturising or using a lipid-replenishing skin care product on your child daily.

Rough Skin? Don't Panic!

What helps against rough baby skin?

It's important not to be alarmed by the unfamiliar condition of the baby's skin. Because in many cases, the skin recovers on its own. Nevertheless, with gentle but intensive care, you can ensure that your child's skin becomes soft and delicate again.

Portrait of Edith Janzen, midwife at the birthing centre in Bielefeld Germany

"Rough skin should be regularly moisturised, and always after washing, with a rich lipid-replenishing lotion."

Edith Janzen, Hebamme im Geburtshaus Bielefeld

Proper Care for Rough Skin

  • Don't bathe your baby too often. If your child isn't dirty, a weekly cleanse is sufficient.
  • Occasionally shower your childinstead of always giving them a bath. This is less harsh on the skin.
  • Use a gentle, soap-free shower gel specifically designed for the needs of sensitive children's skin.
  • Always moisturise your child after washing. Depending on the skin's needs or situation, use a moisturising lotion that absorbs quickly or a lipid-replenishing skin milk that leaves a long-lasting protective film. Apply lotions regularly, but always in thin layers to avoid over-moisturising the skin.
  • Ensure that your child's care products contain well-tolerated ingredients and are free from silicones, mineral oils, or microplastics.
  • They should also be free from fragrances – sensitive children can have allergic reactions to them.
  • If your child has dry, itchy skin, moisturise them before bedtime.
  • Use a fatty care product in the cold season to protect the thin facial skin from drying out.
  • In the summer, rely on a sunscreen with a high SPF.

Linola Baby & Child

For baby-soft skin

Content verified by

Portrait of Edith Janzen, midwife at the birthing centre in Bielefeld Germany

Content verified by: Edith Janzen

Edith Janzen has been a midwife at the Birthing Centre Bielefeld in Germany since 2012 and is a mother herself. Her areas of expertise include out-of-hospital obstetrics, prenatal care, and postnatal care. She supports numerous families from the beginning of pregnancy through childbirth to the end of the postpartum period, providing advice and assistance during this special phase of life.

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