HOW DIAPER CREAMS WORK
Here is a brief overview of the different diaper creams available for diaper rashes. See Diaper Rash for suggestions on preventing rashes or if you need help with identifying and treating specific diaper rashes.
Most commercial diaper creams are “barrier creams”. They act as a “barrier” between your baby’s sensitive skin and the hostile diaper environment and will also contain some soothing or healing ingredients. All of the creams listed below, except for the hydrocortisone and the anti-fungal creams, are in this category.
Diaper Creams for mild diaper rashes or just preventing rashes:
- Soothe and Heal with Lansinoh. Available at pharmacies and most large department stores, this ointment contains ultra pure lanolin in a soothing protective ointment.
- Petrolatum. This is the main ingredient in creams like A&D original. These creams look clear, like “Vaseline,” instead of the white zinc oxide. Petrolatum is good for protecting against diaper rash, and it is less messy than zinc oxide. Aquaphor is one of my favorite petrolatum ointments for protecting all types of irritated skin, not just diaper rashes. Petrolatum ointment is particularly helpful for the type of rash called intertrigo which is an irritation in the skin folds caused by skin rubbing against itself.
Diaper Creams for mild to moderate diaper rash:
- Zinc oxide. This is the main ingredient in most commercial diaper creams, such as Balmex, Desitin, and A&D with zinc oxide. Compared to the creams for preventing rashes above, zinc oxide is “stickier” than petrolatum and will last longer as a barrier between your baby’s skin and the irritating environment inside the diaper. These various creams will also have other soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, beeswax and mineral oil. I like these creams for the mild to moderate rash. They can be found in most grocery stores and pharmacies. My personal favorite is Balmex, because it is not greasy and doesn’t have a strong smell. It’s important to experiment to find the best product for your baby, because every baby’s skin is different, so one product may work better for your baby.
- Acid Mantle. This cream works well for any irritated skin, not just diaper rash. Acid Mantle is a brand name cream that you can find in a pharmacy. Compared to zinc oxide, it is not as good a barrier, but it is better at healing irritated skin. It contains many skin protecting ingredients that help restore normal acid balance of the skin. You can also use a zinc oxide cream over the Acid Mantle for extra “barrier” protection.
Diaper Creams for severe diaper rash:
- Triple Paste. This “super cream” is great for severe rashes. It is a combination of petrolatum, zinc oxide, lanolin, beeswax, and cornstarch. This cream may be difficult to find, but most pharmacies can order it from Summers Laboratories (1-800- 533-SKIN).
- Prescription cream. Your doctor may have a favorite mixture of ingredients that the pharmacist can mix together for a severe rash.
- Mix your own. If you can’t get a prescription or can’t find a “super cream” like triple paste, you can make your own by mixing the following ingredients in the palm of your hand, then apply to baby’s bottom. These are found at your local pharmacy:
- Zinc oxide cream (Balmex, Desitin)
- Petrolatum (Vaseline)
- Aluminum acetate (burrow’s solution)
- Hydrocortisone 1% cream. For a very irritated diaper rash, you can apply this over-the-counter cream twice a day beneath any of the other creams. This will help decrease the inflammation faster, but don’t use it for more than a few days at a time because long-term use can damage the sensitive skin in the diaper area.
- Anti-fungal cream. For stubborn rashes, yeast (fungus) may be involved (see Diaper Rash for help in identifying yeast rashes). Nystatin (prescription), or Clotrimazole (over-the-counter) are both good for yeast rashes, and are normally used three or four times per day in addition to a “barrier” cream with zinc oxide. Note: unless you are familiar with what a yeast rash looks like, you should probably see your baby’s doctor for this type of rash.