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 types 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.
- 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
- Organic and hypoallergenic
- Offers good barrier protection
- Heals and soothes rash
- 100% natural
- Offers barrier protection & skin conditioners
- Support fair trade
- All natural ingredients
- Organic ingredients
- Plant based
- Contains zinc oxide
- Has anti-inflammatory calendula
- No synthetic preservatives
- Gives a moisture barrier
- Multifunctional product
- Very effective
- Provides strong moisture barrier
Why Do I Need Diaper Rash Cream?
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 creams can help to both heal your child’s bottom from an existing rash, and prevent one from starting.
The right cream acts as a protective barrier between your baby’s bottom and potential irritants. Some also have soothing ingredients to calm inflammation and heal irritation.
What Causes Diaper Rash?
There are many different 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.
- 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 irritate it.
- Diarrhea: There’s additional acid in your child’s diarrhea — combine that with the extra moisture and the ammonia, and you’ve got a recipe for 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 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 the 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, or consider switching 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 loves warm, moist environments — i.e., your baby’s diaper. Yeast infections need to be treated with an antifungal product, often on prescription.
Types of Diaper Rash Products
There are several on the market, depending on your needs.
Creams are water-based, making them easy for the skin to absorb and easy to spread. They’re best for soothing irritated skin (1).
Pastes are thick products that protect your baby’s skin, and typically contain zinc oxide and skin conditioners. They can stain clothing and aren’t recommended for 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 (2).
While baby powder is advertised as able to absorb moisture, it’s not recommended as the fine powder becomes airborne and is easily inhaled by your little one. It’s also often made of cornstarch, which provides a food source for yeast and exacerbates any rashes or infections.
What Should I Look For?
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’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, 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. If you use cloth, however, some ingredients in creams or ointments can clog the fibers and make them less absorbent. If you use cloth, choose diaper creams without the 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.
The Best Diaper Rash Creams of 2020
When you’re just a tiny baby, diaper rash is more than just, well, a pain in the butt. Rashes and infections can be incredibly painful for babies, and make diaper changes far more unpleasant than they need to be. Arm yourself with a few good diaper rash products to make sure you’re always doing your best to keep baby’s bum happy and healthy.
Here are our favorite diaper rash products currently on the market.
1. Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm
If you’re cloth diapering, you’ll need to be careful about the products you choose so you don’t accidentally ruin the fabric and render it 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’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 skins.
- It can safely be used on cloth diapers.
- It has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
- A little on the expensive side.
- Some reviewers found the smell to be too strong.
2. Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment
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're 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 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 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 in 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.
- Provides an excellent moisture barrier.
- Helps promote skin healing.
- It contains petrolatum.
- It contains potential allergens.
- Some parents may find it feels too greasy.
3. Boudreaux’s Butt Paste
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 are more likely 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’s comprised primarily of zinc oxide, leaving a thick barrier between your baby’s bottom and potential irritants. The additional ingredients help to soothe baby’s skin without any strong or medicinal scents. Finally, not only will it prevent against further irritation, but it helps heal existing ones.
- Protects and treats.
- It’s thick for maximum coverage; this also makes it economical since you don’t need much.
- It was developed by a pharmacist.
- Contains petrolatum.
- It isn’t appropriate for cloth diapers.
4. Cetaphil With Organic Calendula
If your little one is already uncomfortable, you don’t want to expose them to anything that has the potential to cause them further irritation. Choose a cream or ointment with no added fragrances or dyes to avoid causing a breakout.
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, and the formulation is creamy and easy to spread. Since it’s manufactured with so few ingredients, there’s less chance it contains anything that will aggravate your baby’s skin.
- Contains organic ingredients.
- Offers good barrier protection.
- It heals and soothes if a rash should develop.
- It contains sunflower oil (a potential allergen).
- It’s not very thick.
5. Burt’s Bees Baby Diaper Rash Ointment
You want the best for your baby, and since their skin is so brand-new you don’t want anything that could potentially hurt 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’s safe for 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 conditioners to nourish at the same time. It’s been tested by pediatricians so you can be assured it’s gentle on your baby, and also 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.
- Not very thick.
6. Babo Botanicals Natural Cream
If you want to go 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 entirely of natural products — there’s absolutely nothing synthetic here — 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, 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.
- Quality, all natural ingredients.
- It’s expensive.
- Some of the ingredients are potential allergens.
7. The Honest Company
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 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’s already irritated.
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, and is made without synthetic fragrances, parabens, mineral oil, lanolin, or dyes.
- Made with organic ingredients.
- Plant based.
- It doesn’t contain the most common allergens.
- The coconut oil may irritate some babies.
- Some reviewers claimed the product separated.
8. Weleda Diaper Cream with Calendula
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 always practical, and you'll 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. And if the sores persist or look infected, take your baby to the doctor immediately.
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
If your child has yeast, regular diaper creams won’t do. You’ll need an antifungal agent, which unfortunately isn't typically added to 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 to the pediatrician for something stronger.
Though this cream wasn’t developed specifically for babies, many parents have used it instead of 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, this is nice to have in your medicine cabinet because you can use it 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
Eczema is painful for your baby, and a diaper rash on top of that can be excruciating. Choose a diaper cream that's ultra-soothing, protective, and won't further inflame your baby’s tender skin.
Nothing offers barrier protection quite like oil-based ointments, and at 53 percent 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’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.
Identifying Diaper Rash
The diagnosis of a diaper rash is done primarily by visual examination.
Typical diaper rashes have the following characteristics:
- Located on the buttocks, genitals, or thighs.
- Warm to the touch.
- Dry patches.
- Raised, red bumps.
Severe cases may include:
- Cracked skin.
- Infected sores.
A yeast infection is a different type of diaper rash resulting from candida growth. This requires special treatment to kill the yeast, as simple treatments that only soothe the skin won’t solve the problem.
Symptoms of yeast diaper rashes are (3):
- Bright redness.
- A clear border.
- Bright red, raised bumps.
- Often occurs in skin folds.
- Failure to respond to regular diaper rash treatment.
The Bottom Line
Our top pick for the best diaper cream is the Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm. Not only is it all-natural and free from nearly all 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?