Balms for Every Bum: The Best Diaper Rash Creams for Babies (2018 Reviews)
When my son was little he got a wicked diaper rash. I was desperate to help him get rid of it, but nothing seemed to work. At my wit’s end, I put breastmilk on it - because that’s what someone on the internet told me to do.
That didn’t work either.
Diaper rashes are a common affliction among babies, and a source of endless headaches for mothers. Each rash has a different cause and a different cure.
In my case, I was trying to treat the wrong kind of rash with the wrong kinds of creams.
If you’re looking to help cure the rash on your little one’s tushie, you’ve got to use the right product. Here’s what you need to know to pick the best diaper cream for your baby’s bum.
What is Diaper Rash?
A diaper rash is a skin irritation in your child’s diaper area.
Sometimes it is 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.
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What Causes Diaper Rash?
Moisture: Your child’s diaper is a very warm, moist place and even though diapers do their best to wick that moisture away from their skin, their bum is never 100% dry. There is always moisture that is against your baby’s skin, causing potential irritation.
Stool: When your baby’s urine mixes with their stool, it causes a chemical reaction which creates ammonia. Ammonia is harsh on the skin and can cause irritation.
Diarrhea: There is additional acid in your child’s diarrhea - combine that with the extra moisture and the chemical reaction when it mixes with urine, and you’ve got a recipe for a diaper rash.
Foods: The introduction of new foods into your baby’s diet changes the chemical composition of their stool and can 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 food, it does not necessarily mean that they are allergic to that food. Watch for other signs of allergy in your child and talk to your doctor if you have a concern.
Chemicals: Disposable diapers have chemicals, dyes, and perfumes to help trap the moisture and keep it from stinking. 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, or consider a switch to cloth.
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 bacteria that are causing illness in your child - but they also kill the healthy bacteria in your child’s 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 love warm, moist environments - so your baby’s diaper is a perfect place for them to grow. Yeast infections need to be treated with an antifungal product (often a prescription) that will kill the yeast.
If you use cloth diapers and your child gets a yeast rash, you will need to go through some extra steps to kill the yeast that live in the fibers of your diapers. Your regular wash routine will not kill them. Switch to disposable diapers temporarily while you battle your baby’s yeast rash and treat your cloth diapers to prevent a recurrence of yeast.
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Why Do I Need Diaper Rash Cream?
Diaper rash creams can help to both protect and heal your child’s bottom. They can be used to prevent a possible rash, or heal an existing one.
Diaper creams can put a protective barrier between your baby’s bottom and potential irritants. Some also have soothing ingredients to help calm inflammation and heal irritation.
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How Do I Know if My Baby has a Diaper Rash?
The diagnosis of a diaper rash is primarily done by a visual examination.
Typical diaper rashes have the following characteristics:
Located on the buttocks, genitals, or thighs
Warm to the touch
Raised, red bumps
Severe cases may include:
A yeast infection is a different type of diaper rash that is the result of a candida growth. These types of rashes require special treatment to kill the yeast, as simple treatments to soothe the skin will not solve the problem.
Symptoms of yeast diaper rashes are (source):
A clear border
Bright red, raised bumps
Often occurs in skin folds
Failure to respond to regular diaper rash treatment
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What Types of Diaper Rash Products are There?
There are several types of diaper rash products on the market.
Creams: Creams are water-based products. They are easily absorbed by the skin and easy to spread. They are best for soothing irritated skin (source).
Pastes: Pastes are thick products that protect your baby’s skin (typically with a layer of zinc oxide) and also contain skin conditioners. These products can stain clothing and are not recommended with cloth diapers (unless you use a disposable liner) as they are difficult to get out of fabric.
Ointments: Ointments are oil-based products. They are oily and greasy and sit on top of your child’s skin longer. They provide a good barrier between irritants and your child’s skin (source).
Powders: While baby powder is advertised to absorb moisture on your baby’s bottom, it is not recommended for use as the fine powder becomes airborne and is easily inhaled by your little one. It is also often made up of corn starch, which will actually provide a food source for yeast and exacerbate the rash if your child has a yeast infection.
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What Should I Look for in a Diaper Rash Cream?
When choosing a diaper rash cream, consider the following:
Type of Rash: If your child has an irritated bottom, choose a traditional diaper cream or ointment. If they have a yeast rash, you will need an antifungal cream as regular products will not help.
Cream, Paste, or Ointment: If you are using a product as a preventative measure against diaper rash, an ointment may be your best bet. If you are healing an existing rash, a cream may help soothe the skin. If your baby has a particularly severe rash, an ultra-thick paste may help both heal the skin and protect it against irritants.
Cloth or Disposable Diapers: If you use disposable diapers, you don’t have to worry about diaper creams affecting their performance. If you use cloth, however, some ingredients in the creams or ointments can clog the fibers and make them less absorbent. If you use cloth, choose diaper creams without the ingredients petrolatum or zinc oxide. You may also want to use a disposable liner.
Ingredients: Many diaper creams and ointments contain ingredients that have the potential to be irritants. If your child has a sensitivity, check the label for potential allergens such as: Lanolin, Mineral Oil, Coconut Oil, Beeswax and Sunflower Oil
Diaper Rash Cream Reviews
Now that you know how to identify a diaper rash, the different kinds of creams available, and exactly what to look for --
Here are our 10 favorite diaper rash creams in 2018:
Best Cloth Diaper Rash Cream
If you’re cloth diapering you’ll need to be careful about the products you choose so you don’t accidentally ruin your cloth diapers by rendering them non-absorbent. Your best bet is to choose all-natural products, and to skip those with petrolatum or zinc oxide.
Finding a diaper cream with neither zinc oxide or petrolatum is near impossible, but this one fits the bill. Made of completely natural ingredients that should rinse out of your diaper completely, 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 should they occur. It has been clinically tested and dermatologist approved, and is free of some of the most common allergens including lanolin, mineral oil, beeswax, and petroleum.
- It is free of many allergens.
- It is all-natural.
- It can be used on cloth diapers.
- It has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
- It is on the expensive side.
- Some reviewers found the smell to be too strong.
Best Diaper Rash Cream for Sensitive Skin
If your little one is already uncomfortable, you don’t want to expose them to anything that has the potential to cause them further discomfort. Choose a cream or ointment with no added fragrances or dyes, and that is developed with minimal irritants to avoid causing an outbreak.
The zinc oxide in this cream will offer barrier protection to your baby’s bum, and the calendula along with vitamins B5 and E will help calm and soothe any discomfort they may have. It was formulated by dermatologists and is hypoallergenic, so it’s designed specifically for sensitive skin.
It contains no parabens, colors, or mineral oil. It is manufactured with a minimal amount of ingredients to minimize the chance that it contains anything that will irritate your baby’s skin. And the creamy formula makes it easy to spread.
- It contains some organic ingredients.
- It offers barrier protection.
- It heals and soothes.
- It is hypoallergenic.
- It contains sunflower oil (a potential allergen).
- It is not very thick.
Best Natural Diaper Rash Cream
If you want all-natural, you’re going to want to choose a product without petrolatum. Carefully review the ingredient list to make sure there’s nothing that will irritate your baby’s skin, and if possible pick something where the bulk of the ingredients are organic.
This cream is made completely of natural products - absolutely nothing synthetic is in here. It is also developed on a certified organic farm so you can be sure that the ingredients touching your baby’s skin are as safe as possible.
It has zinc oxide as a moisture barrier, but also contains anti-inflammatory extracts to help soothe your baby’s bottom. And since it’s manufactured in small batches, they keep the quality high as opposed to mass-manufacturing where quality can be diminished.
- They support fair trade.
- It is organic.
- It is all natural.
- It is expensive.
- Some of the ingredients are potential allergens.
Best Diaper Rash Cream for Toddlers
Your toddler is active, so you’ll need to make sure you choose a diaper cream that will stick. A thick paste has the best potential to stay stuck to their skin as opposed to ointments, which have a greater potential to rub off onto the diaper.
Developed by a father who 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 is comprised primarily of zinc oxide, leaving a thick barrier between your baby’s bottom and potential irritants. The additional ingredients help to soothe your baby’s bottom without an added or medicinal scent. It will not only prevent against further irritation, but also help heal existing rash.
- It protects and treats.
- It is thick for maximum coverage.
- It was developed by a pharmacist.
- It contains petrolatum.
- It is not appropriate for cloth diapers.
Best Diaper Rash Cream for Diarrhea
If your child is fighting diarrhea, you’re going to need to keep it from touching their bum. Choose an ointment or petroleum-based product. They are the best at creating a moisture barrier that will keep your baby’s skin protected from the irritating excrement.
This thick, greasy ointment is easy (and painless) to apply, to 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 healing if their bum is irritated.
Aquaphor is widely recommended by dermatologists 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 to be very effective at treating and preventing diaper rash, but it can also be used for other skin issues such as eczema, chapped skin, and protecting cuts and scrapes.
- It has multiple uses.
- It provides a good moisture barrier.
- It helps promote healing.
- It contains petrolatum.
- It contains potential allergens.
- It is greasy.
Best Diaper Rash Cream for Infants
You want the best for your baby, and since their skin is so brand-new you don’t want anything that could potentially irritate it. Choose a product that will protect your child’s skin without introducing anything potentially harmful.
Burt’s Bees has a great reputation for high-quality and gentle products, and their diaper rash ointment is no different. It will be safe for use on your baby’s bum with 100% natural ingredients and no parabens, phthalates, or petrolatum.
It is made of 40% zinc oxide to lock out moisture that can irritate your baby’s skin, but also has natural skin conditioners to nourish it. It’s been tested by pediatricians so you can be assured it’s gentle on your baby’s skin, and also has a pleasant scent so it doesn’t smell strongly of medicine.
- It is 100% natural.
- It is paraben-free.
- It offers barrier protection and skin conditioners.
- It contains beeswax and lanolin which are allergens for some babies.
- It is not very thick.
Best Diaper Rash Cream for Breastfed Babies
You’re committed to giving your child the best food possible, so you probably want to treat their other end just as well. Choose a diaper product made with natural ingredients, and skip those with petrolatum (which is not).
This plant-based diaper cream is also made with organic ingredients, so you know it’s as natural as possible. The zinc oxide not only forms a barrier to protect your baby’s bottom, but also works to reduce inflammation on skin that has already been irritated.
It is certified by the NSF, which means it meets strict health and safety standards. It has also been tested by physicians to be sensitive on your baby’s skin and is made without irritants and toxins such as synthetic fragrances, parabens, mineral oil, lanolin, or dyes.
- It is made with organic ingredients.
- It is plant based.
- It does not contain many common allergens.
- It is hypoallergenic.
- It contains coconut oil (if allergic).
- Some reviewers claimed the product separated.
Best Diaper Rash Cream for Open Sores
Sometimes diaper rashes result in open sores. In this case, the best treatment is to keep your baby’s bum diaper-free to promote healing. However, that’s not practical all of the time and you will need to put a diaper on at some point. When you do, apply a product with zinc oxide and avoid the open sores. Consult your pediatrician, who may give you the okay to also apply an antibiotic ointment as well. And if the sores persist or look infected, take your babe into the doctor immediately.
This cream was developed with the help of midwives, so you know that they strive to keep it as natural as possible. In fact, it’s even 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. It also has several ingredients to further nourish your baby’s soft skin as it heals it.
- It is natural.
- It contains zinc oxide.
- It has calendula (anti-inflammatory).
- It has no synthetic preservatives.
- It contains beeswax and lanolin (potential allergens).
- It has a high number of ingredients.
Best Antifungal Diaper Rash Cream
If your child has yeast, regular diaper creams won’t do. You’ll need an antifungal product, which unfortunately aren’t typically manufactured in conjunction with diaper creams. If you can’t find an appropriate product, you can apply an over-the-counter cream with clotrimazole (used to treat feminine yeast infections) to try to fight the infection. However, if you don’t see improvement in 2 days, head into the pediatrician for something stronger.
This cream was not developed specifically for babies, but many parents have used it in lieu of a diaper cream for their children who are battling yeast.
It contains petrolatum, which will form a barrier between your baby’s skin and diaper wetness, and also an antifungal ingredient which will help to eliminate their yeast growth.
Because diaper creams don’t come formulated 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, it will be nice to have in your medicine cabinet because you can use it to heal fungal infections on the whole family.
- It provides a moisture barrier.
- It has an antifungal to help with yeast.
- It is a multifunctional product.
- It is not specifically approved for babies.
- It contains synthetic products.
Best Diaper Rash Cream for Eczema
Eczema is painful for your baby, and a diaper rash on top of that can be excruciating. Choose a diaper cream that is ultra-soothing, protective, and will not further exacerbate your baby’s irritated skin.
Nothing offers barrier protection quite like oil-based ointments, and at 53% petrolatum this 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 is oil-based, it is easy to apply to your baby’s skin and you will not 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 will also wipe off easily so you don’t have to scrub your baby’s tender tushie.
- It is effective.
- It provides a strong moisture barrier.
- It contains a fragrance.
- It contains allergens.
- Petrolatum is a synthetic product.
My Favorite Is...
My top pick is the Angel Baby Bottom Balm. Not only is it all-natural and free from nearly all of the major potential allergens, but it can be used on whatever type of diaper you choose and even has antifungal properties that may help you battle (or prevent) yeast.
It can be tricky to find the right diaper cream for your little one, so when you finally find one that works, you’ll be loyal to it for the whole of your parenting career. What’s the brand that you love?