1% Hydrocortisone Cream For Baby

Your child’s skin, which is already highly sensitive, may become extremely dry as they grow older. You may even notice that your baby’s skin is regularly marked by rough, red patches, particularly on their face, in skin folds, and on their extremities. This can be very uncomfortable for your child.

The symptoms of baby eczema and other skin rashes and irritation can be treated with a variety of topical creams and ointments, such as hydrocortisone cream, which have been used by medical professionals for many years. But for a very long time, the question of whether or not it is safe to use hydrocortisone for infants has been a contentious issue.

It is common practice to apply hydrocortisone cream to the affected area in an effort to reduce the inflammation caused by a skin condition such as eczema; however, this treatment is not recommended for use on infants.

What Is Hydrocortisone Cream?

Hydrocortisone cream is a topical corticosteroid medication. It works by activating the natural substances in the skin that can reduce swelling.1 

It is used to treat skin conditions that cause redness, swelling, or itching of the skin. Hydrocortisone cream can help to relieve these symptoms but will not cure the underlying cause. Hydrocortisone cream should always be used exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider.1

Unless directed by a pediatrician or other healthcare provider, hydrocortisone cream is generally not recommended for babies under the age of 2 due to potential health risks associated with it. Although harmful side effects are rare, children who use hydrocortisone cream regularly for a long time may be more likely to experience slowed growth rates and delayed weight gain.2

 3 Ways Topical Steroids Reduce Skin Inflammation

Side Effects and Risks

Common side effects of hydrocortisone cream include skin dryness and irritation, as well as increased hair growth. Side effects to report to your healthcare provider include:1 

What Is Making My Baby Itch? 

The best way to treat your baby’s itchy skin is to determine the underlying cause. From there, you and your child’s pediatrician will be able to determine the right treatment plan for your little one. 

Diaper Rash (Baby Contact Dermatitis)

Diaper rash is a common skin condition that most babies experience at some point. It occurs when the skin under the diaper breaks down and causes a red rash. 

 Identify and Treat a Yeast Diaper Rash at Home

Common symptoms of diaper rash are redness and irritation on the skin under the diaper. Diaper rash can be very uncomfortable. If home remedies are not effective, see your primary care provider or pediatrician. 

Treatments and Home Remedies for Diaper Rash

The key to treating diaper rash is prevention. Help your child avoid diaper rash by changing dirty diapers (even wet ones) as soon as possible. When moisture is trapped in the diaper, skin breakdown can occur. Other diaper rash remedies include:3

  • Gentle cleansing: To prevent diaper rash from becoming infected, it is important to keep your child’s skin clean and dry. Use a warm washcloth or alcohol-free wipes when changing your child’s diaper. If the rash is severe, use a squirt bottle with warm water to avoid rubbing the skin. 
  • Going diaper-free: Once you have washed your child’s skin, allow them to remain diaper-free as long as possible. This allows the skin to air dry, which can lead to quicker healing. 
  • Zinc oxide: Choose a diaper rash cream that contains zinc oxide and use it frequently when your child has diaper rash. Apply a thick layer with each diaper change and continue using until your child’s skin heals. 

Baby Eczema

Eczema refers to a group of conditions that cause the skin to become irritated, red, itchy, and swollen. Eczema is relatively common in babies and young children. It is not contagious and cannot be passed from person-to-person. 

 When Your Baby Has Eczema

Eczema usually appears as a red, itchy rash. Babies usually experience eczema on their face and scalp. The skin may drain clear liquid as well. As babies age, you may notice eczema patches on their elbows and knees. 

Toddlers usually get eczema on their elbows, knees, wrists, hands, and ankles. They may have dry, scaly patches around their mouths and eyes too.4 

Treatments and Home Remedies for Eczema

One of the most effective treatments for eczema in babies is to avoid your child’s triggers.5 These can include saliva, sweat, dry air, tobacco smoke, pet dander, or other irritants. If you are able to determine your child’s triggers, work with your healthcare provider to come up with a plan for avoiding them. In addition, eczema treatments for babies include:67

  • Moisturization: Apply a thick, quality moisturizer to your child’s skin at least twice a day.
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors: These medications (recommended for children over the age of 2) can help to prevent redness and itching in the skin. 
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics may be needed if a patch of skin becomes infected due to scratching.
  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines can help to relieve the itching associated with eczema. 
  • Steroid creams: Your healthcare provider may recommend a short course of steroid cream to get your child’s eczema symptoms under control. 
  • Oatmeal bath: Adding colloidal oatmeal to your little one’s bath may reduce itching.
  • Cool compress: Apply a cool, wet washcloth to your child’s skin to help ease the redness and itching. 
  • Prevent scratching: It is natural for babies and young children with eczema to scratch their skin. This can make eczema worse and lead to infection. Try to keep any eczema areas of the skin covered and keep your child’s nails trimmed. 

Foods to Avoid

Eczema flares can be caused by allergens. If your little one is allergic to a certain food or group of foods, they could experience a flare (worsening of symptoms) in their eczema symptoms anytime they come in contact with it. However, it can be difficult to determine if your child’s eczema is related to food allergies because skin allergic reactions may occur days after exposure. Practitioners generally do not recommend elimination diets for eczema.8 

If you are concerned that your child’s eczema gets worse after eating certain food, talk with your healthcare provider. They may recommend temporarily removing dairy or processed foods from your child’s diet and observing their skin for changes. 

 Is There Such Thing as a Diet for Eczema?

Bathing Babies With Eczema

Daily baths are an important part of eczema treatment in babies. First, the bath works to remove dirt and other irritants from the skin. After the bath, gently pat your baby’s skin dry and apply a thick moisturizing cream to help lock in moisture. Eczema skin is very dry, so using a moisturizer after bathing can be very effective. Be sure to use lukewarm water in your child’s bath and avoid any soaps that contain dyes, fragrances, or harsh additives.9 


Allergic dermatitis refers to skin irritation caused by an allergic reaction. Substances like fragrances, nickel, and poison ivy can cause an itchy, red rash when they touch the skin. It’s also possible to experience skin irritation from substances like detergents or soaps. These substances can cause irritant contact dermatitis and are not considered allergic reactions.10 

Skin allergies in babies can present as:10

  • Red, itchy rash
  • Blisters
  • Burning
  • Difficulty sleeping 

Treatments and Home Remedies

Depending on which allergen caused your baby’s skin irritation, the treatment options will vary. Your doctor may recommend a short-term course of steroids to ease the symptoms.11 From there, your medical team will work with you to determine which substances irritate your baby’s skin and how to avoid them.12 

Natural Solutions for Baby’s Itchy Skin

If you are interested in pursuing natural remedies for your baby’s itchy skin, focus on products that add moisture back into the skin. Always talk with your healthcare provider or pediatrician before implementing a new natural product into your baby’s skin-care routine. Some natural solutions are:

  • Coconut oil has been found to be a safe and effective treatment for dry skin. It moisturizes the skin while improving the skin’s barrier function, but more study is needed to establish it as an effective treatment for eczema.13 Also, in rare cases, people can be allergic to coconut oil.
  • Colloidal oatmeal or oat oil can add moisture and decrease inflammation. Oats have antioxidant properties that may be helpful in promoting wound healing.13

To help prevent skin irritation, wash your baby’s clothes in a gentle detergent that is free of scents. Look for baby products that are free of dyes, scents, or other additives.

Baby-Safe Cream Moisturizers and Ointments

Most babies with red, itchy, irritated skin require regular moisturization.14 Talk with your healthcare provider about the following types of moisturizers for your baby’s itchy skin:

  • Humectants like glycerin and urea attract water from the environment and the skin’s surface into deeper layers of skin. They also help the skin to shed dead cells and appear healthier. 
  • Occlusives like beeswax and mineral oil increase the water content of the skin by preventing water loss through evaporation. They are most effective when applied to damp skin, such as after toweling off from a shower. 
  • Emollients like lanolin and propylene glycol linoleate act as lubricants that fill in the crevices between skin cells. They improve skin’s hydration and smoothness

Hydrocortisone Cream For Baby Rash

A number of conditions can cause the skin of infants to become irritated and red. Their skin is delicate and easily irritated, making it difficult to touch them. Hydrocortisone cream is a go-to for adults who have irritated skin, but it is typically not recommended for children under the age of 2 unless otherwise directed by a healthcare provider. Exceptions to this rule can be made if the child has a medical condition.

In this article, we will discuss the use of hydrocortisone cream on infants, as well as other methods for treating itchy skin.

What Is Hydrocortisone Cream?

Hydrocortisone cream (or ointment) is a corticosteroid medication that is often used to help reduce the inflammation, redness, and itchiness of eczema and rashes on your child’s skin.

Hydrocortisone medication has been used for over 50 years and is generally considered safe for older children and adults with conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, allergy rashes, and skin conditions arising from autoimmune disorders. Other conditions treated with Hydrocortisone cream include poison oak, poison ivy, and bug bites.

But when it comes to using this medication on your baby, there’s a bit more you should know.

Why Is Hydrocortisone Cream Used?

happy baby lying on his side on a white blanket

Hydrocortisone cream is often used to help relieve inflammation associated with skin conditions like eczema, but it is not recommended for babies. This is because, while the available strength in over-the-counter (OTC) creams is only one-percent hydrocortisone and is generally safe for older children and adults, there is no definite answer on whether hydrocortisone at one-percent concentration is also safe for babies.

Furthermore, two-percent hydrocortisone may be needed and prescribed for more severe cases of skin inflammation. Hydrocortisone should only be used on babies under the supervision of a doctor.

Fortunately, there are a number of skin care products that don’t contain hydrocortisone, such as Mustela’s Stelatopia line, designed with your little one’s delicate skin in mind and specifically formulated to help treat and prevent eczema.

Concerns Surrounding Hydrocortisone Cream

baby lying on his back in a brown bear outfit with hood

Your baby’s skin is designed to protect them from the world around them — from air pollution to water, as well as bacteria that are airborne or exist on the things they touch and explore every day.

However, your little one’s skin cells (just like an adult’s) aren’t impermeable. That means that chemicals and bacteria can squeeze by and penetrate your infant’s sensitive or thin skin, causing an allergic reaction and potentially flooding their bloodstream.

When hydrocortisone cream is used extensively, it disrupts skin’s natural acid mantle and can significantly thin or weaken your baby’s skin and increase their chances of a number of viruses. Likewise, since hydrocortisone is a steroid medication, it can build up in your little one’s body over time.

If hydrocortisone cream is administered, it is very important to apply ONLY the amount of hydrocortisone recommended. Never use it more times per day than directed, and only for the time period that your doctor recommends.

Side Effects Of Hydrocortisone For Babies

There are several side effects associated with hydrocortisone on your infant. It is very important to consult your baby’s pediatrician before starting use of a hydrocortisone product or if any of the following side effects begin to present themselves.

Thinning Skin

One of the side effects of using hydrocortisone cream for babies, as mentioned above, is the thinning of your baby’s skin.

If you use too much or too high a strength of hydrocortisone, your baby’s skin can become thinner and may be put at risk for tears. Unfortunately, using a lower strength over long periods of time can often have the same effect.

You may even notice what looks like stretch marks beginning to appear on your baby. The tiny blood vessels under your little one’s skin may also become swollen in the treated areas.

Skin Infection

Since hydrocortisone reduces inflammation by lowering the immune system’s response, it can put your baby at risk for skin infections. If too much is absorbed by their skin and into their bloodstream, there is also a higher risk of infections inside their body.

Adrenal-Gland Suppression

Another very important risk to consider is that the long-term use of any steroid medication can lead to adrenal-gland suppression in your baby’s body.

Adrenal glands produce important steroid hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. If your little one’s body gets accustomed to obtaining too much hydrocortisone from outside sources, it may stop producing these hormones itself. In a worst-case-scenario situation, the effects of this can be fatal.

Additional side effects that hydrocortisone cream may have on your baby include:

  • Redder skin when you first start to apply the cream/ointment
  • Spots on their skin
  • The cream/ointment spreading an untreated infection and making it worse
  • Scarring and small blood vessels becoming visible on your baby’s skin, as well as areas of their skin becoming darker
  • Skin becoming lighter in color

If your child’s skin becomes redder, has white patches, or weeps yellow fluid, it may be infected. Take your baby to a pediatrician as soon as possible. Do not apply any more hydrocortisone cream.

These potential side effects may seem frightening, but you can rest assured knowing that there are many effective, natural remedies that have little or no side effects and are safe to use on babies in place of hydrocortisone cream.

Alternatives To Hydrocortisone Cream For Babies

content baby peeking out from under a blanket that is draped over her head

Many parents opt for tried-and-trusted, natural products to treat their little ones as opposed to steroid-laden medications like hydrocortisone.

Instead of reaching for the hydrocortisone cream to treat your baby’s eczema-prone skin, stock up on natural products that are specifically formulated for dry, atopic-prone skin — like Mustela’s Stelatopia products — that will help restore your baby’s skin without further irritating it.

Along with Mustela products, there are a number of other natural remedies to replace hydrocortisone cream and keep your little one safe.

Protected Sun Exposure

baby at the beach receiving protected sun exposure to lower skin inflammation levels and avoid hydrocortisone baby cream

Sunshine is a good natural remedy for eczema and other skin conditions. Taking your baby outside for a quick sunbath — with proper sun protection, of course — can help to lower inflammation levels in their skin.

Make sure you only stay outside for a few short minutes to avoid sunburn.


If your doctor gives you permission, try a lotion containing chamomile or calendula for your baby. These ingredients can soothe irritated skin. You can also use a lotion that has a high amount of water in the formula to help increase moisture in your little one’s skin.

Oatmeal Or Baking Soda

Try putting a small sprinkle of oatmeal, colloidal oatmeal, or baking soda in your baby’s bath water. These are safe for infant skin and work very well for treating skin conditions naturally.

Pair this protective bath water combination with gentle products like Mustela’s Stelatopia Bath Oil. Your baby will love splashing in the water with Mustela’s formula that safely and gently cleanses, moisturizes, soothes, and protects your baby’s eczema-prone skin.

Cooling Cloths And Creams

close up of curious baby wearing a white onesie

Use soft cloths moistened with cool water and therapeutic cream on your baby’s inflamed skin areas. Mustela’s Stelatopia Emollient Cream is a fragrance-free cream that helps to reinforce skin’s moisture barrier and soothes your little one’s discomfort.

Leave the cloth in place for five to 10 minutes at a time to treat your baby’s irritated skin.


There are studies being done to see if probiotics in the form of a powder that can be added to baby formula will help relieve eczema in babies.

Research suggests that the live bacteria in probiotics may help provide a good natural balance to babies’ skin. Check with your child’s doctor before giving probiotic supplements.

Skin Care Formulated For Sensitivity

When it comes to your baby, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Extremely reactive and already prone to redness, your baby’s very sensitive skin needs special attention. That’s why the experts at Mustela suggest avoiding hydrocortisone.

Fortunately, Mustela’s Very-Sensitive Skin line offers a steroid- and fragrance-free range of skin care products for cleansing, moisturizing, and bathing your baby. And if your little one suffers from eczema, you can help soothe their skin and reduce irritation with our Stelatopia product line, created specifically for eczema-prone skin.

All of these products work to visibly (and safely) reduce redness and relieve sensations of tingling and tightness in your little one’s delicate skin.

Keeping Your Baby’s Skin Safe

happy baby lying on her back on fluffy bedding with feet in the air

Although your baby’s skin may appear perfect on the outside, Mustela’s researchers have clinically proven that baby skin is still developing until the age of two. During this period of development, your little one’s skin is extremely fragile and is not able to fully protect itself from daily environmental conditions.

It is always best to avoid products that can potentially harm your little bundle of joy, like hydrocortisone. Whenever possible, opt to treat your baby’s delicate skin with natural, baby-safe products.

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