Newborn skin characteristics

Alternative names
Skin characteristics in newborns; Infant skin characteristics

Definition
Appearance and texture of the newborn infant’s skin.

Information

A healthy newborn at birth typically has deep red or purple skin and bluish hands and feet. The skin darkens further before the infant takes his or her first breath, indicated by that initial vigorous cry. By the 2nd or 3rd day, the skin lightens somewhat and may become dry and flaky. The skin still tends to turn red when the infant cries.

Fine, soft hair (lanugo) may cover the scalp, forehead, cheeks, shoulders, and back. This is more common when an infant is born before his or her due date. Milia appear as tiny, pearly white, firm, raised lesions around the face. In infants, they disappear on their own.

Lips, hands, and feet may turn somewhat bluish or mottled when the baby is cold. Maternal hormones may cause mild neonatal acne that usually clears in a few weeks. Erythema toxicum is a common, benign rash that looks like little pustules on a red base. They tend to appear about 1 to 3 days after delivery on the face, trunk, legs and arms and disappear by one week.

Congenital nevi are “moles” (darkly pigmented skin lesions) that may be present at birth. These may range in size from that of a small pea to one that covers an entire extremity or large portion of the back or trunk.

Portwine stains are vascular lesions that produce a red to purplish discoloration. These are frequently seen on the face but may occur on any area of the body. Hemangiomas are a collection of capillaries (small blood vessels) that may appear at birth or a few months later.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.

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