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.
If you want a product that's light on the zinc oxide but still deeply effective, here's the one to try. The active ingredient is zinc oxide, but only at two percent. It also works to help get rid of cradle cap: Just use it for three days on a clean, dry scalp and cover with an all-cotton cap. Reapply twice daily while covering with the cap after each application. Wash hair on the fourth day.
The Mustela diaper rash cream is 9.9 percent zinc oxide. This product is gentler, and is composed of 98 percent plant-based ingredients. It's got sunflower oil to repair the skin barrier, avocado to protect the diaper area, and zinc oxide to provide a protective barrier
For those wanting a little bit of luxury, here's the diaper cream for you. It's loaded with 22 percent zinc, green tea, marigold, and sweet potato extracts. You can use it on the diaper area, or irritated skin in general. It's made entirely without palm oil or synthetic fragrances.
This hands-free diaper rash spray is ideal for travel, or for any parent on the go. It contains 25 percent zinc oxide, goes on fast, and doesn't run or get messy.
This no-frills but utterly effective paste has 12.8 percent zinc oxide. It goes on thick, it stays on, and it does the job when it comes to preventing the rash or stopping it from getting worse. It's fragrance-free, as well.
Parents rave about the just-right consistency of this cream, and its soothing chamomile scent. This diaper rash cream also has a 14 percent concentration of zinc oxide as its active ingredient. And it's made without parabens, petroleum, synthetic fragrances, dyes, silicones, petrolatum, or mineral oil.
This diaper rash cream is 16 percent zinc oxide, plus it's got shea and cocoa butters to nourish baby skin, and coconut oil to keep skin smooth and soft.
The active ingredient in this powerhouse paste is 40 percent zinc oxide, and this hard-core product is ideal for persistent, stubborn diaper rash. It's also free of dyes, preservatives, parabens, and talc, all of which can irritate the skin.
This diaper rash ointment contains 40 percent zinc oxide, smells nice, and is made without phthalates, parabens, petrolatum, or SLS. It's also got sweet almond, lanolin, and jojoba seed oil to help soothe angry baby skin.
If you'd rather not use anything with zinc oxide in it, this baby balm calms your baby's skin with sugarcane-derived squalane, which is basically a moisturizing magical ingredient. It's particularly suitable for anyone using cloth diapers and can be used all over the body on chapped, dry skin.
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