The Best Diaper Rash Creams, According to a Pediatric Dermatologist

Diaper rash sucks. These products can help.

by Donna Freydkin
Originally Published: 
Diaper rash creams and ointments against a multi-colored grid.

It’s one of the most disconcerting things you see during the diaper years: A baby butt covered in a patchwork of painful, searing, inflamed bumps and sores, which is the condition we fondly know as diaper rash. The worst of the rashes can cause great pain, and leave you feeling utterly helpless. It doesn’t help that diapers need to be changed, and the more you wipe that delicate baby area, the worse the rash can get. Here’s the good news: The best diaper rash cream or ointment usually gets rid of it in a matter of days.

Dr. Anna Bender, a pediatric dermatologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, estimates that almost half of all babies develop diaper rash at some point. Diaper rash is most commonly caused by friction and moisture from wet or dirty diapers, when they rub against the skin. It’s more common in older babies who sleep through the night and wake up with fully-loaded diapers. Your child can also develop it when he or she starts solids and the poop changes consistency, or if your child is sick and has diarrhea.

The key to getting rid of it is to change diapers often (every few hours, or when soiled), and to apply a hefty layer of diaper paste to act as a barrier between the skin and the urine and feces.

“​I love zinc oxide diaper paste for irritant rashes, which is the most common cause of diaper rash. The key is to apply a thick layer like cake icing at each diaper change and to change the diaper frequently,” says Bender.

All of the products we picked have the topical mineral zinc oxide as their active ingredients, ranked in order from lowest to highest in terms of concentration. Moderate concentrations of zinc oxide, at around 14-15 percent, are good for preventing diaper rash. Higher concentrations, in the 40 percent ballpark, are meant for treatment. Creams are thinner, ointments are somewhat thicker, and pastes are the way to go if you’re dealing with severely rashy skin.

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