Beating diaper rash: Diaper cream for every baby

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
December 6, 2021

types of diaper creams

The invention of diapers provides both parents and babies with the freedom to move around as they please without too many worries about serious accidents.

While diapers are one of the best inventions for parents, they also come with a very common downside: diaper rash. Diaper rash is the most common skin disorder in infants, and 50 to 60% of babies will experience it during their nappy-wearing years.

Diaper rash sounds banal, and it is. But severe rashes can impact your baby’s mood, behavior, and even their health by changing the way they eat and relieve themselves.

Unfortunately, diaper rash is hard to avoid – it’s almost inherent in wearing the diaper. These rashes are the result of irritation caused by moisture, allergens, irritants, and often the diaper itself. When your baby wets their diaper, the friction between their soft skin and the diaper increases while simultaneously raising their skin’s pH balance.

A raised pH balance leaves your baby’s skin permeable and more open to irritation and infection and allows natural processes like bowel movements to inflame their skin causing a rash.

Fortunately, there’s a wide selection of diaper creams available to help you protect your baby’s bottom. We’ll show you how to sort through the most common types of creams – including some of the most popular products – here.

3 Types of diaper creams

  • Cream - most common form
  • Ointment - oil based and contain petroleum
  • Paste - mix of ointment and powder

Diaper cream is a general term used to talk about diaper rash medicine, but these products come in three primary forms.

Cream

Cream is the most common form of diaper rash medicine. It’s a thick or filmy substance with a water base that rubs on almost like lotion to create a barrier between your baby’s bottom and their diaper while also keeping their skin soft.

Because they’re water-based, creams often require preservatives, which means you’re more likely to find allergens in these products than ointments or pastes.

Over-the-counter rash cream often includes one main active ingredient: zinc oxide. The zinc oxide is what provides the barrier between your baby and what’s in their diaper as well as what heals the irritation. These creams tend to be stickier than other types of medicine, but they do the trick.

Ointment

Diaper ointments are oil-based and often contain petroleum or mineral oils to create a semi-solid liquid. Ointments are popular because they don’t contain water and therefore don’t need preservatives.

Generally, ointments improve the efficacy of active drugs, like zinc oxide, so these products tend to be better for more severe rashes.

Paste

Diaper paste uses ointment to deliver the active ingredients while adding powder to improve breathability. Pastes are popular because they’re more difficult to rub off, which is helpful when your baby is active, or they don’t need frequent diaper changes.

What about lotion?

If you’re trying to moisturize, couldn’t you just use lotion on your baby during a diaper change?

The answer is yes, but it’s not recommended, and it shouldn’t be used on your babies’ genitals, which means it’s not effective for treating diaper rash in those areas.

Many doctors recommend using a cream, ointment or paste rather than a lotion because lotions are more likely to irritate your baby’s skin further.

Prevent or treat: How to choose the right types of diaper cream

Diaper cream can prevent or treat rash depending on the ingredients and form of the product.

Because of this, you’ll need to read labels carefully to figure out which creams are best for you at the time.

Why? Because while all babies have soft, sensitive skin that makes them prone to rashes, not all babies need to use preventative, medicated cream at every single diaper change. For some little ones, a bit of moisture to provide a barrier is all they need and heavy-duty creams with active ingredients are overkill.

Moisturizing barrier creams

These moisturizing creams are not only well-recognized for being good moisturizers, but they are some of the cheapest everyday options available for babies with sensitive skin or mothers who aren’t yet sure what works for their little one.

 

  • Pediatrician recommended
  • For baby's dry or irritated skin
  • Clinically proven to restore healthy skin

Aquaphor makes skincare products for children and adults, and its baby cream is often sent out in baby baskets.

There’s no active ingredient in Aquaphor, which makes it a nice moisturizer without overkill from working ingredients. Instead, Aquaphor uses mineral oil to help the cream spread easier

 

  • Fragrance-free
  • Clinically proven to relieve
  • 16 oz. tube of zinc oxide

Destin is one of the most well-known diaper creams, and it’s beloved by maternity wards and new mothers alike because it spreads easily across your baby’s bottom and wipes easily off your own hand. The feature sounds simple, but it cuts down on time spent washing your hands, particularly if you’re applying the cream at every diaper change.

Don’t need a dedicated barrier cream? You can also use Vaseline or petroleum jelly in the diaper to free up movement and prevent rashes caused by irritation.

Medicated creams and ointments

Medicated creams are ideal when you begin to see signs of a rash or for treating full-blown incidents.

Here are a few of the popular products used for treating rashes:

 

  • Pediatrician recommended
  • No harsh ingredients
  • Developed by pharmacist and father of four

Boudreaux’s Butt Paste is an old formula invented by a Louisiana pharmacist, and it continues to make the ‘best of’ reviews even today.

The paste comes in an everyday 16% zinc oxide or the maximum 40% version for serious rashes.

Although pastes aren’t as common as creams and lotion, this one is beloved. It’s sticky, but it’s cost-effective, so a little bit a paste will knock out a rash without breaking the bank.

 

  • No parabens or phthalates
  • Certified natural by NaTrue
  • No animal testing or synthetic fragrances

Weleda is known for using natural ingredients as active agents in its products, and the diaper rash cream is no exception. Rather than relying on chemicals or allergens, Weleda creates a soothing cream with calendula extract, a natural anti-inflammatory.

You might be tempted to use this more as a daily moisturizer, but the formula includes non-nano zinc oxide, making it suitable for treating rashes.

 

  • Natural and organic ingredients
  • For minor skin irritation
  • Made in the USA

GroVia offers a diaper cream that is not only in stick form to reduce mess, but it’s also easy to use with both disposable and cloth diapers. This paste is a good option for anyone trying to avoid petroleum products.

 

  • Fragrance-free and hypoallergenic
  • Unconditional guarantee
  • Thicker ointment creates protective barrier

Triple Paste Rash Ointment is a heavy-duty ointment that’s strong enough to nearly be prescription strength, but it’s still available over the counter. This ointment is for serious rashes and breakouts that include chafing, red bumps, and even broken, raw skin.

Remember, if your baby’s rash is the product of a yeast infection, this ointment still won’t finish the job. Visit your pediatrician for an anti-fungal prescription.

Some parents find success in treating rashes with the zinc-based creams and ointments listed above and then adding an extra barrier over the top with Aquaphor, Desitin, or Vaseline to provide extra protection.

Help! My over the counter rash cream isn’t working

Over-the-counter creams are perfect for preventing and treating minor rashes, but they aren’t a cure-all for all problems.

Severe rashes may become infected, and once this happens, none of the retail products you’ve bought will work effectively.

If a rash is persistent, your child experiences regular rashes, or the rash appears to be infected then it’s time to visit the doctor for a prescription rash cream. Your doctor will likely prescribe a medicated cream or ointment to use in conjunction with the product you’re already using.

When do I need an anti-fungal cream for diaper rash?

Finding the best cure for diaper rash isn’t as simple as choosing a product – you need to identify the rash before you start treating it.

A rash may either be bacterial or fungal. Zinc-based creams work well on irritation or bacterial rashes, but they won’t do much for fungal rashes.

How can you tell the difference? At first glance, you’ll see that the rash on the surface of your baby’s skin, such as around the edges of their diaper or directly on their bottom is likely to be contact and bacterial.

Fungal rashes prefer even more darkness and moisture than bacterial forms, and they’ll hide in the crevices of your baby’s skin or on their genitals.

In particularly unpleasant cases, they might have both a fungal and bacterial rash, meaning that once you knock out the fungi, you’re still left with a dry, chapped, or even chafed bum.

Regular diaper creams are the best cure for diaper rash

You may not be able to prevent rashes forever, but good diapering practices, including applying rash cream, cannot only prevent many rashes but also stop existing rashes from getting worse.

Although there are many types of cream available, it’s important to remember that the best diaper rash medicine is the one that’s the most effective for your baby. Every baby’s skin responds differently, and what works for one child may only irritate another.

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