When your baby is suffering, you want that pain to go away — and fast! A good diaper cream can begin to comfort the agony caused by a diaper rash immediately.
As moms ourselves, we’ve dealt with enough diaper rashes to know that not all creams work for every type of rash. So, we’ve consulted with doctors, parents, and caregivers and have spent many hours researching the causes of diaper rashes and all possible treatments.
As a result, we’ve written this guide to answer all your questions and to share our recommendations for the best diaper rash creams to prevent and treat any diaper rash.
- Maximum strength
- 12-hour relief
- Treats and prevents
- Free of allergens
- All-natural formulation
- Antibacterial & antifungal properties
- Multiple uses
- Provides excellent moisture barrier
- Promotes skin healing
- Protects and treats
- Developed by a pharmacist
- 100% natural
- Offers barrier protection & skin conditioners
- Fair trade product
- All natural ingredients
- Organic ingredients
- Plant based
- Contains zinc oxide
- Has anti-inflammatory calendula
- No synthetic preservatives
- Blocks moisture
- Multifunctional product
- Very effective
- Provides strong moisture barrier
Why You Need Diaper Rash Cream
A diaper rash is a skin irritation in your child’s diaper area.
Sometimes it’s simply a red, irritated patch on your baby’s bottom that causes them no apparent discomfort. Other times it can be severe, spreading to their thighs or torso and causing pain. In extreme cases, the skin can bleed or become infected.
Diaper rash cream can help heal your child’s bottom from an existing rash and prevent one from starting.
The best diaper rash creams act as a protective barrier between your baby’s bottom and potential irritants and include soothing ingredients to calm inflammation and heal irritation.
The Causes of Diaper Rash
There are many causes of diaper rash:
- Moisture: Your child’s diaper is a warm, moist place, and even though diapers do their best to wick that moisture away from their skin, their bum is never 100 percent dry. There’s always moisture against your baby’s skin, causing potential irritation (1).
- Stool: When your baby’s urine mixes with their stool, it causes a chemical reaction that creates ammonia. Ammonia is harsh on the skin and can irritate it. If you are a cloth diaper user, it is important to keep cloth diapers free of ammonia.
- Diarrhea: Additional acid in your child’s diarrhea combined with the extra moisture and ammonia present in their diaper creates the perfect recipe for diaper rash.
- Foods: Introducing new foods into your baby’s diet can change the chemical composition of their stool and irritate their tender skin. Depending on the food, it may also introduce more acid into the diet, which is also an irritant when it comes out in your baby’s diaper. It’s important to note that if your child gets a diaper rash from a type of food, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re allergic to that food. Watch for other signs of allergy in your child, and talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
- Chemicals: Disposable diapers have chemicals, dyes, and perfumes to help trap moisture and keep it from smelling. Even “natural” diapers have some chemicals in them. If your child is repeatedly getting diaper rashes, you may need to switch to a dye-free or natural diaper for sensitive skin or consider switching to cloth diapers.
- Detergents: If you use cloth diapers, your baby may be reacting to the detergent you use to wash them. You may want to consider switching brands, changing to a detergent without dyes or perfumes, or adding an extra rinse or two to your wash routine.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics kill the bacteria that make your child ill — but they also kill the healthy bacteria in their digestive system. This can cause them to get diarrhea or a yeast infection, both of which cause diaper rash.
- Yeast: Most diaper rashes are caused by topical or chemical skin irritation and are treated with over-the-counter diaper rash creams. Yeast rashes are the result of yeast (technically a fungus but often mistakenly referred to as a bacteria) growing in your child’s diaper area, and they are particularly stubborn. Yeast loves warm, moist environments — like your baby’s diaper. Yeast infections need to be treated with an antifungal product, often by prescription (2).
Types of Diaper Rash Products
There are several on the market, depending on your needs.
Creams are water-based products, making them easy to spread and easily absorbed. They’re best for soothing irritated skin.
Pastes are thick products that protect your baby’s skin. They typically contain zinc oxide and skin conditioners. They can stain clothing and aren’t recommended for use with cloth diapers (unless you use a disposable liner) as they’re difficult to wash out of fabric.
Ointments are oil-based products. Being oily and greasy, they sit on top of your child’s skin, providing a good barrier against irritants.
While baby powder can be a moisture absorber, doctors now recommend against using it as the fine powder becomes airborne, and your little one can inhale it easily. Cornstarch is often a key ingredient in baby powders, but it can provide a food source for yeast and exacerbate any rashes or infections.
How to Choose a Diaper Rash Cream
When choosing a diaper rash cream, consider the following:
Type of Rash
If your child has a sore bottom, choose a traditional diaper cream or ointment. If they have a yeast rash, you’ll need an antifungal cream as regular products won’t help.
Cream, Paste, or Ointment
If you’re using a product as a preventative measure, an ointment may be your best bet. If you’re healing an existing rash, a cream may soothe the skin. And if your baby has a particularly severe rash, an ultra-thick paste may both heal the skin and protect it.
Cloth or Disposable Diapers
If you use disposable diapers, you don’t have to worry about diaper creams affecting their performance. However, if you use cloth, some ingredients in creams or ointments can clog the fibers and make them less absorbent. If you use cloth diapers, avoid diaper creams with petrolatum or zinc oxide. You may also want to use a disposable liner.
Many diaper creams and ointments contain ingredients that have the potential to be irritants. If your child has a sensitivity, check the label for possible allergens such as lanolin, mineral oil, coconut oil, beeswax, and sunflower oil.
The Best Diaper Rash Creams of 2021
Here are the top diaper rash creams on the market.
1. Desitin Maximum Strength Baby Diaper Rash Cream
This hypoallergenic formula is paraben, phthalate, dye, and soap-free. Dermatologically and pediatrician tested, it’s a gentle option for daily use.
However, it still uses maximum strength to effectively treat diaper rash. It’s made with 40% zinc oxide to treat and even prevent diaper rash discomfort.
This is a fantastic option for overnight use as it can provide relief for up to 12 hours. So if your little one is waking up in pain during the night, we recommend trying this.
- Maximum strength.
- 12-hour relief.
- Treats and prevents.
- The thick formula is hard to spread.
- Overwhelming “medical” smell.
2. Earth Mama Organic Diaper Balm
Finding a diaper cream with neither zinc oxide nor petrolatum is near impossible, but this one fits the bill. Made of completely natural ingredients that should rinse out of your cloth diapers, it offers your baby’s skin wetness protection while still allowing it to breathe.
It also contains antibacterial and antifungal herbs, which means it may help prevent and treat yeast rashes. It’s been clinically tested and dermatologist approved and is free of some of the most common allergens, including lanolin, mineral oil, beeswax, and petroleum.
- Free of many allergens.
- All-natural formulation is also great for sensitive skin.
- You can use it without compromising your cloth diapers.
- It has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
- A little on the expensive side.
- Some reviewers found the smell to be too strong.
3. Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment for Diaper Rash
This thick, greasy ointment is easy (and painless) to apply and wipe off and will provide a solid moisture barrier between your baby’s skin and the contents of their diaper.
Aquaphor ointment also contains panthenol and glycerin, which help to moisturize and nourish the skin, promoting the healing of irritated little bottoms.
Dermatologists widely recommend Aquaphor for help with a wide variety of skin issues, but this line was specifically formulated with babies’ unique skin needs in mind.
Parents find it very effective in treating and preventing diaper rash, but you can also use it for other skin issues such as eczema and chapped skin and to protect cuts and scrapes.
- It has multiple uses.
- Provides an excellent moisture barrier.
- Helps promote skin healing.
- It contains petrolatum.
- It contains potential allergens.
- Takes some effort to rub in.
4. Boudreaux's Butt Paste Diaper Rash Ointment
Developed by a father who also happened to be a pharmacist, this simple paste treats your baby’s diaper rash with only six ingredients, so you know they’re not being exposed to strange chemicals.
It’s comprised primarily of zinc oxide, leaving a thick barrier between your baby’s bottom and potential irritants. The additional ingredients will help to soothe your baby’s skin without any strong or medicinal scents. Finally, not only will it prevent further irritation, but it helps heal existing rashes.
- Protects and treats.
- A little goes a long way toward maximum coverage with this thick formula.
- It was developed by a pharmacist.
- Contains petrolatum.
- It isn’t suitable for cloth diapers.
5. Burt’s Bees Baby Diaper Rash Ointment
Burt’s Bees has an excellent reputation for high-quality and gentle products, and their diaper rash ointment is no exception. It’s safe to use on your baby’s bum, with 100 percent natural ingredients and no parabens, phthalates, or petrolatum.
Made of 40 percent zinc oxide, it locks out any moisture that could irritate your baby’s skin but also has natural nourishing conditioners. Pediatricians have thoroughly tested this product, so you know it will be gentle on your baby, and it has a pleasant scent that won’t make you think of medicine.
- 100 percent natural.
- It’s paraben-free.
- It offers barrier protection and skin conditioners.
- Contains beeswax and lanolin, which are allergens for some babies.
- It’s easy to burn through this thin formula quickly.
6. Babo Botanicals Natural Diaper Rash Cream
This cream is made entirely of natural products with no synthetic ingredients, and it was developed on a certified organic farm, so you can be sure that what goes onto your baby’s skin is as safe as possible.
It has zinc oxide as a moisture barrier and contains anti-inflammatory extracts to help soothe your baby’s bottom. Since it’s manufactured in small batches, the quality is kept high, as opposed to mass manufacturing, where quality can be diminished.
- They support fair trade.
- Quality, all-natural ingredients.
- It’s expensive.
- Some of the ingredients are potential allergens.
7. The Honest Company Diaper Rash Cream
This plant-based diaper cream is made with organic ingredients, so you know it’s as natural as possible. The zinc oxide forms a barrier to protect your baby’s bottom and reduces inflammation on the irritated skin.
It’s certified by the NSF — which means it meets strict health and safety standards — and has been tested by physicians. It’s kind to your baby’s skin, fragrance-free, and doesn’t contain any parabens, mineral oil, lanolin, or dyes.
- Made with organic ingredients.
- Plant based.
- It doesn’t contain any common allergens.
- The coconut oil may irritate some babies.
- The oil and other ingredients can sometimes separate in the jar, requiring additional mixing.
8. Weleda Diaper Cream with Calendula
Weleda developed this cream with the help of midwives, so you know that they care about making products that actually work. As a bonus, this is certified “natural” by the European organization NaTrue.
The cream is 12% zinc oxide to offer protection, with calendula extract and other natural ingredients to soothe your baby’s extra-irritated bottom.
It contains no synthetic preservatives or fragrances and replaces traditional mineral oil with beeswax. There are also several other ingredients to further nourish your baby’s soft skin as it heals.
- Natural product.
- It contains zinc oxide.
- Has anti-inflammatory calendula.
- No synthetic preservatives.
- It contains beeswax and lanolin (potential allergens).
- High number of ingredients.
9. Baza Moisture Barrier Antifungal Cream
Though this cream wasn’t developed specifically for babies, many parents have used it instead of diaper cream when their children are battling yeast.
It contains petrolatum, which will form a barrier between your baby’s skin and diaper wetness, and also an antifungal ingredient to help to eliminate yeast growth.
Because diaper creams don’t come with an antifungal, you will need to check with your doctor before using this product on your baby — just to make sure they give you the go-ahead. But once they do, this is nice to have in your medicine cabinet because you can use the diaper cream to heal fungal infections in the whole family.
- It provides a moisture barrier.
- It has an antifungal to help with yeast.
- Multifunctional product.
- Not specifically approved for babies.
- It contains synthetic products.
10. A&D Diaper Rash Ointment
Nothing offers barrier protection quite like oil-based ointments. And at 53 percent petrolatum, this ointment will keep all irritants off your baby’s already-irritated skin. It also contains lanolin, which is designed to help treat and heal your baby’s diaper rash.
Because it’s oil based, it’s easy to apply to your baby’s skin and won’t cause them discomfort as you try to spread it across their sore diaper area. The same is true when you clean it later. Because it’s not a thick paste, it wipes off easily, so you don’t have to scrub your baby’s poor tushie.
- Very effective.
- It provides a strong moisture barrier.
- Contains a fragrance.
- Contains potential allergens.
- Petrolatum is a synthetic product.
The Bottom Line
Our top pick for the best diaper cream is the Desitin Maximum Strength Baby Diaper Rash Cream. Not only is it hypoallergenic, maximum strength, and free from nearly all major potential allergens, but it can be used with any type of diaper and has antifungal properties that may help you battle or prevent yeast.
It can be tricky to find the best diaper cream for your baby, but when you find one that works, you’ll be loyal to it for your whole parenting career.