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7 Steps to Use Diaper Cream: Are You Missing One?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD
Diaper rash is inevitable. Here's how to apply the cream.

If you have a baby, you know how soft and smooth their skin can be. You probably also know how prone it can be to irritation.

With the need to wear diapers 24/7, a baby’s bottom is constantly exposed to bacteria-breeding moisture and excrement. For this reason, diaper cream is an essential part of newborn care to both prevent and treat diaper rash.

But the correct product application is just as important as choosing the proper diaper cream. Here’s what you need to know about how to use diaper cream.

Key Takeaways

  • Diaper cream is used to prevent and treat diaper rash by forming a barrier between your baby’s skin and potential irritants.
  • It should primarily be applied to the cheeks of the buttocks and between the legs if this area tends to develop irritation.
  • Some parents apply it at every diaper change as a preventative measure, while others use it as needed when their child is showing signs of irritation.
  • It should be applied after removing the dirty diaper and cleaning the area with a baby wipe.
  • Be sure to place a clean diaper under your baby’s bottom before applying the cream to prevent it from getting on your changing pad.

Why Does Diaper Cream Do?

The purpose of diaper cream is two-fold.

  1. Prevention of diaper rash: Diaper creams form a barrier between your baby’s skin and potential irritants, including moisture, excrement, acids from foods, and chemicals in their diapers.
  2. Treatment of diaper rash: If an outbreak has already occurred, you may use diaper cream to heal it. Many products contain ingredients that soothe and moisturize the skin, offer a moisture barrier to allow the skin to heal without further irritation, and (if you’re using a specific medicated product for this purpose) kill yeast and treat yeast-based rashes.

Where Should I Put Diaper Cream?

Diaper cream is primarily applied to the cheeks of the buttocks, where direct contact with the diaper occurs. It may also be helpful to apply cream between your baby’s bum cheeks and around the anus if this area tends to develop irritation.

Take Note

Diaper cream is safe to apply to a boy’s penis or a girl’s vaginal area, but do not apply it inside the vagina. These areas don’t tend to develop contact dermatitis as frequently as the buttocks, so it’s also okay to skip this area.

On boys, diaper rash may occur on the scrotum, so it is safe to apply in this area if necessary.

Some parents apply diaper cream to thigh creases or the areas where the diaper meets the legs to reduce chafing. While this is completely safe, know that diaper creams tend to stain clothing.

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Should I Apply Diaper Cream at Every Diaper Change?

Whether you use diaper cream at every diaper change is a matter of personal preference. Some mothers apply it all the time as a preventative measure against diaper rash. Others choose to use it as needed if their child is showing signs of irritation.

There is no right or wrong answer, but considering slathering on the cream in the following instances:

  • When your baby has a rash.
  • When your baby shows signs of redness/irritation.
  • When your newborn is pooping meconium (black tar poop), to keep it from sticking to your baby’s skin.
  • When your baby has diarrhea, to prevent irritation from the stool.
  • When your baby is teething, has a cold, or is taking antibiotics, causing looser stools.
  • If your baby has sensitive skin and gets rashes often, you may want to use it at every diaper change.
  • You may also want to consider using diaper cream regularly every night — especially for babies who are sleeping for long stretches. Overnight is the time when their skin has the most exposure to moisture and excrement, so their chance of developing a rash increases then (1).

How to Apply Diaper Cream

How to Apply Diaper Rash Cream

1. Remove the Dirty Diaper

Remove your child’s dirty diaper. Use a baby wipe to clean all visible waste and diaper cream residue off your child’s bottom and genital area.

2. Place A Clean Diaper Underneath Your Baby’s Bottom

Place a clean diaper under your baby’s bottom as if you are going to put it on them, but do not close or fasten it. This will prevent diaper cream from getting on your changing pad and will put you in a good position to quickly fasten the diaper as soon as you’re done applying the cream.

3. Use a Dime-Sized Amount

Squeeze a dime-sized amount of cream directly onto your finger.

4. Apply Cream

Apply cream to your baby’s bottom. Spread the cream thickest on the cheeks of their buttocks or any areas that appear red and inflamed.

You can also apply diaper cream to these areas:

  • Between the butt cheeks.
  • Around the anus.
  • In the folds of the labia and around the vagina for girls.
  • On the scrotum and penis of boys.

5. Wipe Excess Cream from Your Fingers

Wipe the excess cream onto the inside of the clean diaper your baby is laying on, or clean your finger with a baby wipe.

6. Re-Apply The Clean Diaper

Reposition the diaper if necessary to ensure it’s straight. Securely fasten the clean diaper around your baby.

7. Wash Your Hands.

After removing your baby from the changing table and putting them in a safe place, wash your hands with soap and water. Though your hands may appear clean from “washing” them with a baby wipe, wipes do not kill all bacteria.

Diaper Cream Safety Considerations

While diaper creams are safe and widely used by parents worldwide, there are a few things to be aware of.

Do not use baby powder. The powder can become airborne and enter your child’s lungs, which is unhealthy. The cornstarch in powder is also a food source for yeast, exacerbating the problem if your baby has a yeast rash.

Pro Tip

If you like using baby powder, you can do so safely by mixing it with your favorite diaper cream (or petroleum jelly) to create a paste. Keep the paste in a sealed container on your changing table for custom-made ready-to-use diaper cream.

Always wash your hands with soap and water after applying diaper cream. When using diaper cream, your hands will come into contact with fecal bacteria. No matter how clean your baby’s bum appears, the truth is that baby wipes do not kill all bacteria. Do not be fooled into thinking that you can simply clean your hands with a baby wipe to sanitize them after applying diaper cream (2).

And to recap this important rule, diaper creams may be used around the vaginal area of girls, but never put diaper cream inside the vagina. You may use diaper creams on the penis and scrotum, but if your child is uncircumcised, the foreskin should never be forcibly retracted.

Finally, many diaper creams contain potential allergens. If your child has allergies, be sure to check the labels for these ingredients:

  • Lanolin.
  • Mineral oil.
  • Coconut oil.
  • Beeswax.
  • Sunflower oil.

How Can I Get the Most Out of My Diaper Cream?

Diaper cream can be expensive, so it’s no wonder you want to make yours last as long as possible. There are a few ways to maximize your diaper cream.

  • Choose the right product for the job for maximum effectiveness — whether it’s a cream, ointment, or medication.
  • Consider using petroleum jelly as your daily moisture barrier, and use the pricier creams when your child has a diaper issue that needs treatment.
  • Diaper creams are meant to go on thick; however, you can get away with using less on a day-to-day basis and increasing the thickness when your child’s bum needs extra care.
  • Don’t over-use diaper cream. A dime-sized application is usually sufficient to cover a baby’s teeny bum.


Can You Put Too Much Diaper Cream on a Baby?

It’s enough to apply a thin layer that adequately covers the rash, but using too much cream may lead to wastage and could potentially cause a mess.

How Fast Does Diaper Rash Cream Work?

This depends on the severity of the diaper rash and the specific cream being used. Some creams can show improvement within just a few hours, but others can take a few days.

If the rash doesn’t improve or worsens after several days of treatment, it’s best to consult a healthcare provider.

What Should You Not Do With a Diaper Rash?

You should avoid using wipes that contain alcohol or fragrance on a diaper rash, as these can irritate the skin further. Also, don’t scrub the area, as this can lead to more discomfort. Instead, gently clean the area with water and allow it to air dry if possible.

What Soothes Diaper Rash Naturally?

Natural remedies to soothe diaper rash include letting the baby go without a diaper to let the area air out, bathing the baby in a warm bath with mild soap, or using natural substances like coconut oil or aloe vera (assuming your baby isn’t allergic to these).

Do You Wipe Off Diaper Rash Cream?

Generally, you do not need to wipe off diaper rash cream before applying a new layer. But during regular diaper changes, you should gently clean the area to ensure no residue from the old diaper is left. You can then apply a fresh layer of cream before putting on a new diaper.

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Headshot of Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett is a veteran licensed pediatrician with three decades of experience, including 19 years of direct patient clinical care. She currently serves as a medical consultant, where she works with multiple projects and clients in the area of pediatrics, with an emphasis on children and adolescents with special needs.