As a newborn photographer, I get to see lots of brand new babies. You’d be surprised how many times moms have said, “her newborn skin is peeling. Is this going to ruin the photos?!” Newborn skin peeling is actually quite common, though it seems to freak a lot of first time moms out. It is usually not something to be concerned about unless the skin is also swollen, itchy, cracked, and/or red (in which case you should consult a doctor.) Newborns having flakey or peely skin is perfectly normal.
Newborn Skin Peeling, Flaking, and Cradle cap
Your baby has just spent 9 months with their skin lubricated with amniotic fluid. Now they are surrounded by air, so there is going to be an adjustment period for their skin. Flaky, peely skin is common during this time, as is cradle cap.
You can moisturize, but make sure you use something appropriate for newborns. Perfumes and fragrances in your lotion can irritate sensitive newborn skin. My child’s pediatrician recommended Aquaphor, Cetaphil or Eucerin, but you can ask your child’s doctor for recommendations, too. You can prevent cradle cap by shampooing baby’s hair with a mild baby shampoo every few days (after they are old enough for wet baths).
Around two weeks after birth, baby acne may also make an appearance, most commonly on baby’s cheeks. This is also normal.
The good news is that I have plenty of experience photographing and editing newborn skin, so I know how to work with flaky skin and baby acne. Obviously it is best if we can get rid of it with Cetaphil, but I don’t want you to stress out about your little one’s skin in your photos.
There are a couple of tools I use to remove temporary blemishes from your baby’s skin: lighting and retouching.
Lighting is most important to minimize newborn skin issues. Poor lighting can accentuate blemishes and make them look far worse than they are in real life. Knowing how to properly use lighting minimizes the need for extensive retouching and gives better final portraits.
Professional Photo Editing
Obviously there are some things that lighting can’t completely fix. That’s where retouching comes in. My goal when editing newborns is to make it look as natural as possible. I want to get in and out of Photoshop without letting anyone know I was there. My process for retouching newborn skin removes blotchiness, flakes, and acne while retaining the skin’s natural texture. I love that you can still see the tiny blonde cheek fuzz in the skin when I’m done.
I typically don’t show a lot of before and after photos because I don’t like displaying incomplete work, but I feel like an example or two is appropriate here.
Using a newborn appropriate lotion is always the best way to avoid flaky skin in portraits, but it is possible to retain skin texture and remove the flakes.
This client had concerns about her daughter’s skin leading up to her session. Her baby was a little older, so newborn acne had set in and we had some flaking skin to work with as well. From the, “Before” photo, you can already see that good lighting helped minimize the blemishes. The high resolution version of the final portrait still has texture and detail in the skin, but the blemishes are gone.
I hope this has set your mind at ease about newborn skin. You can still have beautiful portraits of your baby even without flawless skin. Newborn skin peeling, flaking, and baby acne are normal, and usually nothing to worry about.