Neonatal skin care: Developments in care to maintain neonatal barrier function and prevention of diaper dermatitis

Pediatr Dermatol. 2019 Jan;36(1):31-35. doi: 10.1111/pde.13714. Epub 2018 Dec 2.


Background: Understanding the importance of the barrier function of the skin of preterm and term neonates is crucial in effective neonatal skin and diaper care. This literature search aimed to review the development of different practices in neonatal care to maintain skin barrier function, in turn preventing diaper dermatitis.

Methods: We performed two quantitative literature searches of English language studies: an initial literature search of studies published in the last 5 years was conducted using Cinahl, Medline, Embase, British Nursing Index, and DelphiS, followed by a second search of publications from 1990 to 2017 using the National Institute of Clinical Excellence Health Databases Advanced Search using key words, synonyms, and Boolean phrasing. Titles and abstracts were reviewed for relevance.

Results: One hundred ten studies were analyzed for the purpose of this review; however, data are of variable quality. Guidance can be drawn from the existing literature relating to best practice options for diaper area cleansing methods, diaper type selection, and use of barrier creams. More research is required into the benefit or otherwise of diaper-free time.

Conclusions: Super-absorbent diapers reduce moisture at skin level and reduce diaper dermatitis. Barrier creams carry benefit both in prevention and cure but do not provide a substitute for frequent diaper changes. The literature does not demonstrate superiority of one cleansing method over another, but neither the use of wipes nor water increases diaper dermatitis prevalence. Further studies are required to explore the potential benefit of diaper-free time, taking due consideration of the practicalities, particularly for vulnerable neonates within the Intensive Care setting.

Keywords: contact dermatitis; diaper cleansing; diaper dermatitis; neonatal; skin barrier.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diaper Rash / prevention & control*
  • Diapers, Infant / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Care / methods*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Skin / physiopathology
  • Skin Care / methods*
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena

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