There’s nothing quite as smooth as a baby’s skin. Brand-new and unblemished, I spent hours with my babies sleeping on my chest, running my hand down their backs or along their chubby little arms. There’s nothing like it.
So if babies are born with such perfect skin, why are there hundreds of products dedicated to moisturizing it? Do they really need extra hydration?
Here’s everything you need to know about why your baby needs lotion, how to recognize different skin conditions, and which lotion might work best to keep their little tushie… well, as soft as a baby’s bottom.
- Not greasy
- No harsh chemicals
- Made in the USA
- Quality organic ingredients
- For babies suffering from eczema
- Offers protection & moisturization
- Clinically tested & proven effective
- Approved by National Eczema Association
- Light and non-greasy
- Suitable for sensitive skin
- Hypoallergenic and ultra-gentle
- Doesn't contain harsh chemicals
- Organic ingredients
- Smells good
- Acts as protective moisture barrier
- Gentle & hypoallergenic
- Pediatrician-recommended brand
- Gives full 24 hours moisture
- Over-the-counter relief for eczema
- Maximum relief and healing
- Moisturizes for 24 hours
- Tested by pediatricians
- Quickly absorbed
- Won't clog pores or worsen acne
Why Does My Baby Need Lotion?
A baby’s skin is thinner than an adult’s and also loses moisture more quickly (1). For this reason, it can dry out and cause discomfort.
- Infection in the skin that’s broken open.
- Ashy, gray skin tone.
To prevent your baby from experiencing these symptoms, you may want to consider using a baby lotion.
Types of Baby Lotion
When shopping around, you’re likely to encounter three types of products — ointments, creams, and lotions.
Here’s what makes them different from each other (3):
Ointments are made of 80% oil and 20% water, making them thick, greasy, and very effective at hydration. They moisturize and create a barrier that protects skin.
Ointments tend to have the fewest preservatives, so they have a lower likelihood of irritating the skin (4).
- Good for extremely dry skin.
- Also good for allergy-prone skin.
- And can act as a delivery vehicle for an active, medicated ingredient.
- Not for acne-prone skin.
- And healing skin that needs air circulation.
Creams are made up of 50% water and 50% oil, so they’re lighter than ointments but tend to have some preservatives in them due to their higher water content.
Creams provide moisturization and some protection, but they don’t provide as much of a barrier as ointments.
- It is a broad, all-over application.
- Good for wet or weeping skin conditions.
- Not great for extremely dry skin conditions.
- Not enough for sensitive skin.
These are comprised of less oil than creams, making them the lightest and least greasy option when it comes to moisturization. However, the high water content can lead to further dryness as the hydration is not trapped in the skin as it is with an ointment.
Actual performance will vary based on each lotion’s make-up and ingredient list.
- Good for light moisturization.
- Best for after-bath application.
- May not help extreme dryness.
- May not be enough for sensitive skin.
- Not for skin with open wounds.
When Should I Use Lotion?
The best time to moisturize your baby is immediately after their bath, when their skin is still damp.
This will serve two purposes:
- It will trap the moisture from bath time into your baby’s skin.
- It will prevent your baby’s skin from drying out after the bath.
As odd as it seems, excessive baths cause skin dryness in babies. The water from the bath removes natural oils from your baby’s skin, causing it to dry out (5). If your baby is eczema-prone limiting soap use at bath time will help decrease dryness.
You may also want to apply lotion regularly in the winter when the weather is cool and dry, which can irritate your baby’s skin and rob it of moisture.
Use lotion or another moisturizer anytime you notice dry skin or another condition that could benefit from hydration.
How Can I Tell if My Baby Needs Lotion?
There are many skin conditions common to babies. If your little one has a condition that persists for a week or more, see your doctor for treatment recommendations. And never apply lotions, creams, or ointments to an open sore or wound without consulting your pediatrician.
Some common skin conditions that may benefit from topical lotions or moisturizers are:
- Dry Skin: Dry skin is caused by environmental factors, exposure, or for no reason at all. It typically looks dry, flaky, or ashy. Dry skin is easily treated with regular moisturizers of any type, though the extremely dry skin may be best served by an ointment.
- Eczema: Many babies suffer from eczema, which looks like a red, bumpy rash but does not appear in the diaper area (6). It typically appears on the face first but can spread to other areas of the body. It’s itchy. Eczema is best treated with thick cream or ointment that won’t only moisturize the skin, but protect it as well.
- Baby Acne: While the exact cause of baby acne is unknown, it’s prevalent in babies. Baby acne looks like small red bumps or teeny pustules — basically just like adult acne, but smaller. Baby acne is not itchy or painful and typically resolves on its own after a few months. Most doctors recommend simply washing and drying a baby’s broken-out skin without adding lotions or moisturizers (7). However, if you feel that your baby is experiencing dryness in addition to acne, you may choose to use a product that doesn’t have a high oil content.
How Can I Choose the Best Baby Lotion?
When choosing something for your baby, consider the following:
- Skin Condition: Are you trying to treat a medical skin condition? Or simply trying to keep your baby’s skin hydrated? Choose the best product for your specific purpose.
- Ointment, Cream, or Lotion: Depending on your baby’s skin condition, choose the formulation that best suits their needs.
- First Ingredient: Look at the ingredient list. The first ingredient is the main component of the product. If it’s water, it will primarily provide hydration. If the first ingredient is oil, it will offer your baby’s skin protection (but feel greasy). Make sure that the product you choose fits your needs.
- Fragrances: If you’re applying lotion along with a baby massage as part of a bedtime routine, you may want a lavender scent to help with nighttime calming. If you want your baby smelling sweet after a bath, something honey-scented may be the right choice. And if your baby has sensitive skin, they may be best served by no fragrances at all, as fragrance additives have the potential to irritate the skin.
The Best Baby Lotions of 2020
Here are the top picks for the best baby lotion:
1. Puracy Organic Baby Lotion
Your baby’s delicate skin absorbs everything you put on it, so you don’t want unknown chemicals leeching into their little body. Choose an organic baby lotion to make sure nothing questionable harms their skin, or causes irritation or other reactions.
Not only is this made with certified organic ingredients, but it’s also plant-based, non-toxic, vegan, gluten-free, and not tested on animals. Puracy Organic Baby Lotion was developed by doctors and is suitable for babies with the most sensitive skin — even those with eczema.
The formulation is lightweight and includes natural oils that will both moisturize and nourish the skin. With the lavender and grapefruit scent, your baby will smell wonderful, too.
And with the company’s 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, you can be sure you’ll be pleased with your purchase.
- It’s not greasy.
- It contains no harsh chemicals.
- Made in the USA.
- It contains a fragrance which can be an irritant for some babies.
- Some reviewers found the scent overpowering.
2. Weleda Baby Calendula Face Cream
Those cheeks are so kissable and should only be kissed by the best. For your baby’s face, choose a light lotion or moisturizer with minimal irritants or additives. After all, you don’t want it to accidentally get in their eyes and sting them, with this lotion if you do it shouldn’t bother them at all.
This nourishing cream is made of 96% organic ingredients so you can feel good about putting it on your baby’s sweet little cheeks. It’s formulated to be safe for your baby’s skin, and is even suitable for extremely sensitive or eczema-prone skin.
The calendula (a botanical extract) soothes inflammation, and because it’s cream, it’s thicker than a lotion — meaning it won’t drip into your baby’s eyes and cause irritation. Made of ingredients that are easily absorbed into the skin, it also has no chemical preservatives, synthetic fragrance, or petroleum-derived ingredients.
- It’s full of quality organic ingredients.
- Suitable for babies suffering from eczema.
- The calendula is anti-inflammatory and will soothe unhappy skin.
- Includes no chemical preservatives.
- It’s quite expensive for the size.
- It may feel greasy to some.
- It has a fragrance which may not appeal to you or baby.
3. Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment
Eczema is a condition that can cause extreme itching and irritation in babies, and it demands special care. Choose an ointment or thick cream. Not only will they provide hydration that can help soothe your baby, but they’ll also provide an oily layer of protection, helping to prevent further discomfort and infection by keeping irritants out.
Aquaphor’s unique combination of active ingredients delivers hydration to the skin and locks it in, but still allows oxygen to reach the skin. This creates an environment that both soothes and protects irritated skin, but also creates ideal conditions for effective healing.
It’s been clinically proven to restore healthy skin and is recommended by many pediatricians. Overall, this is a great all-purpose ointment and it can also be used as a moisturizing product, diaper ointment, and on minor cuts and scrapes.
- This is a versatile product.
- Offers protection and moisturizing without unnecessary medication.
- It allows the skin to breathe, and heal more quickly.
- It’s clinically tested and proven effective.
- It’s greasy feelings.
- It’s thick, so it takes a little longer to rub in.
- Contains petroleum which should be used sparingly.
4. CeraVe Baby Lotion
If your baby has sensitive skin, it’s best to choose a fragrance-free lotion. While scents are delightful, they can also irritate skin that is prone to rashes and breakouts. Even if you choose a non-scented option, don’t worry because your baby will still smell wonderful. After all, they’ll still have that new-baby smell!
Here’s a product that’s not only fragrance-free, but it’s also sulfate- and paraben-free as well. It was developed in conjunction with dermatologists to make sure it would be suitable for a baby’s sensitive skin and is even accepted by the National Eczema Association.
It contains a skin protectant, but also ingredients that moisturize skin for 24 hours. And while some “fragrance-free” products still have a discernible scent, reviewers agree that this product doesn’t have any scent.
- It’s accepted by the National Eczema Association.
- Some reviewers said it even healed their baby’s acne.
- It’s light and non-greasy, so won’t require any extra rubbing.
- It’s suitable for delicate or sensitive skin.
- It’s not organic.
- The consistency may be a little too thin for some.
5. Just Hatched Baby Body Lotion
Your newborn’s skin has had nothing touch it but you, but now it’s waging a battle against all sorts of airborne irritants and other elements. Choose a gentle yet effective lotion to keep your brand-new babe’s skin just as soft and supple as the day they were born.
This is a water-based formula that doesn’t contain anything other than what your newborn’s skin needs. It simply provides gentle hydration without harmful sulfates, parabens, or phthalates.
It’s hypoallergenic and offers a light coconut milk scent. Light but lasting moisturizer — at an extremely affordable price.
- It’s hypoallergenic and ultra-gentle.
- It doesn’t contain harsh sulfates, parabens, or phthalates.
- It’s affordable considering the quality.
- It has a light fragrance.
- It’s a thin texture; so you don’t get a thick moisture barrier.
6. Earth Mama Calming Lavender Baby Lotion
What smells better than a fresh, clean baby? A fresh, clean baby with lotion. There are lots of scent options out there, but we’re partial to lavender. Not only does it smell delightful, but there's evidence that it helps to calm your baby, too. A perfect choice for bedtime.
This blend is made with non-synthetic calming lavender and warm vanilla to give your baby a fresh, lovely scent that’s pleasant and calming but not overpowering. Organic, herbal ingredients are used to add scent, without the risk of irritation that comes with more chemical fragrances.
This line was developed by a nurse and herbalist and contains no ingredients that you need to worry about being absorbed into your baby’s skin. And with the top ingredient being aloe, it provides a moisture barrier to protect your baby’s skin as well as moisturize it.
- Contains organic ingredients.
- The fragrance smells really good.
- It provides a protective moisture barrier.
- Not suitable for babies with acne.
- The lavender may be harsh on ultra-sensitive skin.
Earth Mama has many trusted, luxurious products for you and your baby.
Editor's Note:Katelyn Holt RN, BSN, BC
7. Aveeno Baby Lotion with Natural Colloidal Oatmeal
Colloidal oatmeal is a powerful skin-soother. If your baby has chapped, cracked, or red skin, this lotion provides moisture without exacerbating the problem. It also contains dimethicone, a medicated, yet gentle protectant to create a barrier between irritants and your baby’s sensitive skin.
The best part? This lotion lasts for a full 24 hours, so you don’t have to worry about reapplying it. Because it was formulated specifically for babies, you can use it daily. It’s also hypoallergenic, non-greasy, and free of parabens and fragrances.
The bottle holds 12 ounces of lotion. It can be applied anywhere on the skin, but it’s not designed to be tear-free, so we suggest being especially careful if you decided to use it on your baby’s face. Make sure it’s well-absorbed before you let your baby rub or touch their skin.
- Formula is gentle, hypoallergenic, and free of harmful chemicals.
- Colloidal oatmeal is a powerful skin-soother.
- Lasts for a full 24 hours.
- Not tear-free, so you need to be extra careful when applying to your baby’s face.
8. Aveeno Baby Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream
Eczema ointments can be greasy and thick. One reason we love this lotion is because it has a light, creamy feel without sacrificing quality. The formula contains a number of healing ingredients, including dimethicone, glycerin, and a triple oat complex featuring colloidal oatmeal, oat kernel extract, and oat kernel oil.
We especially like that the formula was developed alongside dermatologists specifically for babies with eczema. Some lotions and creams claim to provide relief, but are actually full of damaging fragrances and chemicals. With a seal of approval from dermatologists and pediatricians, you can rest easy.
This lotion works to reduce itching and irritation while strengthening the natural barriers of your baby’s skin. You should also notice a decrease in extra-dry skin flare ups. Because it’s a lighter formula, you can use it as needed.
While it’s great for providing relief, you should work with your pediatrician to find the best treatment plan for your baby’s eczema.
- Great over-the-counter relief for baby eczema.
- Light formula is non-greasy and perfect for daytime use.
- Features triple oat complex for maximum relief and healing.
- Because it’s a lighter formula, it’s not ideal for overnight use.
9. Burt’s Bees Baby Nourishing Baby Lotion
Your baby deserves the best, and only wholesome ingredients should come into contact with their skin. Choose natural products to reduce the risk of irritation and reactions, and to minimize the chance of questionable chemicals coming into contact with your baby’s delicate dermis.
Tested by pediatricians, this water-based lotion is made up of 98.6% natural ingredients to make sure that your baby only gets the best. And you won’t have to slather it on multiple times a day as it moisturizes for a full 24 hours.
It’s paraben-, phthalate-, and petrolatum-free to make sure nothing harmful touches baby’s skin. And although it contains a fragrance, it’s one derived from natural sources so as not to irritate sensitive skin.
- This product is all-natural.
- It moisturizes for 24 hours.
- Contains no formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.
- Tested by pediatricians.
- This product has a scent.
- It’s thick.
- Contains dairy (possible allergen).
10. California Baby Everyday Moisturizing Baby Lotion
Baby acne is common in newborns and usually resolves on its own in a few months. Never use medicated acne products formulated for adults on your baby’s skin, and most doctors recommend that you refrain from using any lotions at all on your baby’s acne breakouts. However, some parents have found that using non-oily products have helped with baby acne.
This is a thinner lotion that’s quickly absorbed, meaning it won’t be thick or greasy on your baby’s acne-prone skin. And since it’s non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging), it won’t exacerbate it, either.
It contains a natural antioxidant, plenty of organic ingredients, and is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, oat-free, and nut-free to eliminate the possibility of allergic reactions. If you’re desperate to find a way to moisturize your baby’s dry but acne-prone cheeks, try this since it’s not likely to irritate it.
- It’s light and quickly absorbed.
- It is allergen-free (except coconuts).
- It will not clog pores or worsen acne.
- It does not offer a protective moisture barrier.
- It’s expensive.
- It has a scent.
11. Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen
Babies need sun protection, too. However, the problem with sunscreen is that it usually contains harsh chemicals to absorb the harmful UV rays. Sunscreen is not to be used on babies until they are 6 months or older. For babies, choose a lotion that has moisturizers to hydrate the skin but also contains zinc oxide — which sits on top of the skin and reflects the UV rays. This means that no harmful chemicals will be absorbed.
This is a sunscreen that protects your little one from UV light without using chemicals that may cause health problems later down the line. Neutrogena has combined safe and effective zinc oxide and titanium dioxide with other ingredients that are gentle enough to be slathered liberally on a baby’s skin.
This has also been given the seal of acceptance by the National Eczema Association, assuring you that it won’t irritate your baby’s skin or exacerbate their skin conditions.
- Provides UVA and UVB protection.
- Approved by the National Eczema Association.
- It’s not primarily designed to be a daily moisturizer.
- It can leave a white hue on the skin.
- It may stain some fabrics.
12. Johnson’s Baby Lotion
Your baby has a tendency toward dry skin — and you want to keep it from itching, cracking, and flaking. First, cut back on how often you use soap, and do a “soak and seal” instead. Lubricate the baby with lotion within 2 minutes from the tub and you’ll have baby-soft skin in no time. A lotion delivers moisture but won’t be overly greasy.
Sometimes, classic is best. There’s a reason the Johnson’s brand is the empire it is today: it’s because their products work. This has been tested by dermatologists and is designed to be mild on your baby’s skin.
It’s a water-based lotion designed to be light enough for everyday use, and also contains non-comedogenic mineral oil, so it may even be appropriate for your little one suffering from baby acne. The formula is hypoallergenic, so it’s safe for even sensitive babies, and moisturizes for a full 24 hours.
- This product is affordable.
- It was tested by dermatologists.
- It’s hypoallergenic.
- Not an organic or all-natural product.
- It contains a (very distinctive!) fragrance.
- It doesn’t provide a protective barrier.
The Bottom Line
The top two contenders were neck-and-neck, but in the end, Puracy Organic Baby Lotion won out as the best baby lotion. Knowing that whatever goes on baby’s skin goes into their body, it eases our minds knowing that the ingredients we use are organic.
It’s lightweight and non-greasy yet still suitable for babies with eczema, and even though it has a scent, it was designed to be gentle for baby and derived from natural sources.
A baby’s skin is so soft it doesn’t need improvement, just a little gentle care. Find the perfect product for your little angel, and you’ll preserve their satiny soft skin for as long as possible.
Do you have a lotion, cream or balm that you’re hooked on? If you have a holy grail product that leaves your little one soft and smelling sweet after bath time, we’d love to hear about it in the comments!