Few things are more pitiful than a baby with a diaper rash. The rash looks painful, and baby often acts miserable. Moms want to make their babies feel better immediately, and that calls for a good diaper rash cream.
Most of the time diaper rashes are simply a result of irritation, usually from contact between the skin and urine or stool. If they aren’t treated promptly, rashes can be complicated by a bacterial or fungal infection.
Then treating them becomes more complex. The best course of action for moms is to prevent most rashes by maintaining a barrier between the skin and the contents of baby’s diaper. A good diaper cream can be that barrier.
We’ll be looking at a dozen of the best diaper rash creams. Some brands are almost a hundred years old, and some are made by newer companies that are tapping into the natural and organic market.
The important thing to remember is that babies have different sensitivities. If a preparation seems to burn or irritate your baby’s skin, cease using it immediately and switch to something different.
Here are some best diaper rash creams to consider:
Our Top Picks
*All product links in this article will take you to the latest prices on Amazon.com, scroll down for our in-depth reviews below.
Why Babies Get Diaper Rash
Diaper rash is the most common skin ailment experienced by infants. Up to a third of babies have a diaper rash at any given time. The prime time for diaper rash is between 9 and 12 months.
The garden-variety diaper rash is more correctly called primary diaper dermatitis. A baby’s skin can be irritated by wetness, such as occurs when diapers aren’t changed promptly.
This can occur even under the care of conscientious moms, especially at nighttime. The ammonia that is produced by stale urine, particularly when cloth diapers are used, can be especially irritating to a baby’s skin.
Feces can also irritate the skin, especially if the dirty diaper isn’t detected and is left unchanged too long. Also, if a child has diarrhea for any reason, the stool is extra irritating to the skin.
That’s because the stool has been rushed through the digestive system and is excreted while it still contains stomach acid, enzymes and bile. Those substances can cause it to burn the skin.
Occasionally a baby has a reaction to some substance other than those contained in urine and feces. This type of rash typically follows a change of product.
Perhaps the mom has switched the brand of diapers or wipes she uses. Babies that are cloth diapered often react to changes in laundry detergent, fabric softener, or other laundry products. Sometimes a baby can even have a reaction to a diaper cream!
The easiest solution is to go back to the product you were using earlier. Another solution is to look for products that are as pure and natural as possible.
When Diaper Rash Turns More Serious
If a baby’s diaper rash is being treated but persists beyond three days, it may have turned into a yeast infection, also caused candidiasis.
This occurs because the diaper area is moist and receives little air circulation, so it is a perfect place for yeast to grow. A rash that has turned into a yeast infection must be treated with an anti-fungal agent.
Sometimes a yeast overgrowth is the result of a course of antibiotics. The antibiotics kill off the good bacteria that usually keep the yeast in check.
Sometimes a diaper rash is complicated by a bacterial infection, but bacterial infection is less common than yeast. Still, it must be treated more aggressively than a simple rash.
What to Look for in a Diaper Rash Cream
Diaper creams act as a barrier between the skin and the irritant. Most diaper creams use zinc oxide as a barrier. This is the same zinc oxide that is a great sunblock for your nose.
Zinc oxide is the ingredient that pediatricians recommend most for treating diaper rash. It is very thick, sticky and hard to spread, but other ingredients can be added that will make it easier to work with.
Petrolatum or petroleum jelly is a similar substance, only it is not as thick as zinc oxide and thus does not provide as effective a barrier. Creams based on petrolatum are good preventatives but may not be the best for treating an active rash.
Other ingredients frequently found in diaper cream include the following:
Some diaper creams contain hydrocortisone to reduce itchiness and irritation. Hydrocortisone should be used sparingly. If a rash is determined to be caused by yeast, you can use an over-the-counter cream containing clotrimazole or a prescription cream containing nystatin.
If you are using cloth diapers, you may have to be careful about which diaper creams you use, as some ingredients will not only stain the diapers but also cause the diapers to repel liquids.
Paraffin may be the worse offender, but cod liver oil can also cause problems. Also, the fishy smell of the cod liver oil can stay in the diapers.
The experts are divided on whether zinc oxide is a good or bad choice to use with cloth. If you are devoted to cloth diapers but need a high-powered diaper cream, you can use diaper liners to keep the cream away from the diaper.
When using diaper creams, its important not to contaminate your container of cream as you are changing a diaper, especially if the diaper is a poopy one.
The best strategy is to squeeze out a dollop of cream on a clean surface before applying it to baby’s skin. By using this method, you avoid touching the cream or the container with hands that may have been contaminated with fecal material.
Other Strategies for Dealing With Diaper Rash
Diaper creams are the first line of defense in taking care of baby’s rash, but other strategies can help. One of the reasons why the diaper area is so prone to rash is the lack of air circulation.
Many disposable diapers feature snug waistbands and leg holes to minimize leakage, but those same features can increase the likelihood of rash. Fasten the diaper loosely whenever possible. You may have to clean up a few leaks, but baby’s rash should improve.
One of the best strategies for healing a diaper rash is to expose the rash to air. Let your baby go without a diaper whenever possible. Put your baby on a towel or absorbent pad for naps and take the diaper off entirely.
Diaper wipes can irritate a rashy bottom, especially if you have to rub the skin to get it clean. Take baby’s clothes off and dunk in warm water instead, or use a squirt bottle of warm water and a soft cloth to clean the bottom.
Some studies have supported the use of breast milk as a treatment for diaper rash. If a rash is due to yeast, the natural sugars in breast milk will simply feed the yeast.
It’s far safer to use a barrier cream that will protect your baby’s bottom from wetness and irritation, and call the doctor if you don’t see improvement.
When to Call the Doctor
You should call the doctor any time that your child has a diaper rash and starts looking or acting ill. In addition, you should call if your child’s rash is very red or is bleeding.
Other conditions that should trigger a call to the doctor include pustules, blisters, boils and scabs in the diaper area. Occasionally a rash in the diaper area is something more serious.
A diaper rash that does not clear up with three days worth of attentive care should also be reported to the doctor. Often a yeast infection is the culprit, but it is best if a doctor verifies that diagnosis.
If you treat your baby for a yeast infection and yeast is not present, your baby’s rash could get much worse.
Best Diaper Rash Creams
Most moms who have dealt with diaper rash know about the diaper cream with the funny name and the motto, “Let’s Kick Some Rash!” Although the company founders clearly have a sense of humor, Boudreaux’s Butt Paste is a serious diaper rash remedy.
Developed by a Louisiana pharmacist and father in 1978, Boudreaux’s has been soothing sore butts ever since. It’s now available in three formulations: original, maximum strength and all natural.
The original Boudreaux’s is 16% zinc oxide, and it contains two substances that also act as barriers: petrolatum and paraffin. Other ingredients are mineral oil, castor seed oil and Peruvian balsam. The maximum strength formulation is the same except it contains 40% zinc oxide to form an even thicker barrier.
Like Boudreaux’s, Burt’s Bees products have an interesting back story. It began with the 1984 meeting between artist Roxanne Quimby and beekeeper Burt Shavitz. Soon Roxanne began using Burt’s beewax in candles and then in skin care products.
The company that they started together continued to grow and expand until Clorox bought it in 2007 for almost a billion dollars.
Although Burt’s Bees has undergone many changes, it still adheres to some of the principles from its early days. It does not test products on animals, and there’s a long list of ingredients that it refuses to put in its products.
Its products average being 99% natural. Many are 100% natural. The company sends zero waste to landfills and its packages have a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content.
Burt’s Bees Baby Diaper Rash Ointment is 40% zinc oxide. It contains over a dozen other ingredients, mostly plant-based, along with beeswax, of course.
You may be familiar with Aquafor Healing Ointment, often recommended by doctors for cracked skin and for minor wound care. In fact, it is the product most recommended by dermatologists for these purposes.
Doctors like that it is semi-occlusive, meaning that it is somewhat permeable to moisture and vapor. Thus it allows oxygen to reach the skin and promotes healing.
Aquafor Baby Healing Ointment contains the same ingredients as regular Aquafor. It is 41% petrolatum, just like the regular ointment, and also contains lanolin alcohol, glycerin, ceresin, bisabolol , mineral oil and panthenol.
Aquafor claims that this ointment relieves diaper rash within 6 hours. It is also recommended for chapped lips and for rash that comes from drool or teething.
If you choose to use this ointment for other purposes, you should use extra care not to contaminate it during a diaper change. It’s not a bad idea to buy one tube for baby’s bottom and another for other uses.
Aquafor also makes a diaper paste and a diaper cream with zinc oxide as the active ingredient. The regular healing ointment with a petrolatum base has more enthusiastic fans than the Aquafor products formulated with zinc oxide, but all are considered effective against diaper rash.
If most consumers had to pick a name they associate with diaper creams, they would pick Desitin. Many moms know and trust the Desitin name for treatment of diaper rash. It’s a time-tested remedy that has been fine-tuned over time.
Today Desitin offers three formulations of diaper creams. The Rapid Relief formulation is 13% zinc oxide. It uses mineral oil, beeswax, glycerin and petrolatum to form a soothing base.
It contains 12 other ingredients. This formulation smooths on more easily and has a milder smell than traditional Desitin.
The name comes from the inclusion of cod liver oil, which contains Vitamin A and Vitamin D. The The jury is still out as to whether topical applications of Vitamins A and D actually provide any benefit to the user.
A+D Original contains light mineral oil. paraffin, microcrystalline wax and fragrance. A + D also makes a version containing zinc oxide.
The company recommends the original ointment for daily use and the zinc oxide version for use on babies with a rash. A + D ointments are now produced by Bayer.
Does your baby have a stubborn case of diaper rash that won’t go away? Many moms and dermatologists swear by Triple Paste Medicated Ointment for cases such as these. This blend is also appropriate for everyday use for the prevention of rashes.
According to the company website, Triple Paste is a compound that was once available only by prescription. It contains the soothing ingredients most often mentioned to treat diaper rash: zinc oxide (around 12%), petrolatum, glycerin, lanolin and beeswax.
In addition, it contains cornstarch, which the website also suggests moms use to prevent diaper rash in the first place. (Cornstarch should not be used when a rash is present as it can cake up and inhibit healing.
Cornstarch used as an ingredient in a paste or cream should be fine.) Other ingredients include oat kernel extract and bisabolol, which contain natural anti-inflammatory agents.
Triple Paste is manufactured by Summer Labs, a small pharmaceutical company focusing on skin treatments.
Moms who love natural organic products will be happy to know that there’s a diaper cream that relies on such ingredients to heal diaper rash. It’s also said to be effective against thrush, which is an overgrowth of the candida fungus which can occur in a baby’s mouth and diaper area and which can also occur in the mother’s mouth and other areas.
Motherlove Diaper Balm was previously called Motherlove’s Diaper Rash & Thrush. The renamed product has the same ingredients as the original.
This product can also be used as a nipple cream, to heal soreness. Those who wish to use the cream for both purposes should be careful to avoid cross-contamination. It can also be used to treat drool rash.
Motherlove Diaper Balm is made of extra virgin oil oil and beeswax, with Oregon grape root, myrrh gum, yarrow and calendula added.
The formula is 96% organic. Two ingredients, Oregon grape root and myrrh gum, are harvested in the wild and thus cannot earn the designation of organic.
All other ingredients are organic. According to the company website, Oregon grape root and myrrh both have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial qualities.
Motherlove was founded by Kathyrn Higgins, who grew up in a family that practiced medicine but also loved gardening. As a young mom, Higgins began exploring the use of medicinal herbs for her own use.
She shared her creations with others, and Motherlove was born. Today Motherlove supports organic farming and sustainable sourcing. It has eight different certifications that point to the company’s environmentally friendly practices.
Another entry in the natural and organic department is Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm. The company philosophy is similar to Motherlove’s, but the ingredients in its balm vary quite a lot from Motherlove’s.
The Earth Mama formula is naturally vegan. It begins with shea butter and essential oils, then adds herbs that are reputed to have antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities.
Earth Mama touts its ointment as allowing skin to breathe, thus promoting healing. Ingredients are derived from calendula, St. John’s wort, chickweed, plantain, candelilla, jojoba, lavender, tea tree and myrrh.
Some users reported the balm developed a grainy texture, but the company said that the shea butter may form tiny lumps in cold weather. If you warm it up in your hand, the bumps will go away.
The original Earth Mama is Melinda Olson, a nurse and herbalist who developed many of her formulations while living in Oregon. The company prides itself on being environmentally conscious and has nine certifications for green manufacturing.
Another diaper rash formulation with a lot of fans is Dr. Smith’s. It’s available in an ointment and in this touch-free spray. Although most diaper treatments come in cream form, a spray can be applied without rubbing, which can irritate the skin of a baby with a rash.
Also, there’s little possibility of cross-contamination when you use a spray. Dr. Smith’s partnered with Honeywell to develop the aerosol spray, using one of the most environmentally friendly methods. Dr. Smith’s aerosol spray does not use hydrofluorocarbons or volatile organic compounds.
Dr. Smith’s On-the-Go Diaper Rash Spray is 10% zinc oxide. It is quite a different formulation from the ointment, which contains beeswax, petrolatum, olive oil and several other skin soothers.
As the name suggests, Dr. Smith’s spray is especially good for moms and babies who are away from home. Mom can give baby an effective diaper rash treatment without getting sticky cream all over her hands.
The real Dr. Smith was a San Antonio pediatrician. Over 50 years ago he worked with a couple of pharmacists to develop Dr. Smith’s Diaper Rash Ointment. Lots of moms are still enthusiastic about his products.
If you’d like to be apply to apply a diaper rash remedy without smearing it all over your hands, a spray isn’t the only choice. GroVia Diaper Balm comes in a “Magic Stick” – a twist-up tube that lets you gently glide the balm on baby’s bottom.
GroVia Diaper Balm is an all-natural, all-organic formulation that is manufactured using environmentally friendly methods. It’s a newer product, having been developed in 2009, and it is produced in the United States.
Ingredients include beeswax, shea butter, olive oil and Vitamin E. It also contains oils derived from grape seed, lavender, jojoba, rose hips, meadowfoam seed, tea tree and calendula. It’s colorless so you don’t have to worry about staining, and it’s free of petroleum products.
Magic Sticks should be used one to a customer. In other, words, don’t use your product on more than one child. A child with a diaper rash that is related to a bacteria or fungus could transfer the infection to another child via the stick.
For maximum safety, clean baby’s bottom thoroughly before using, and wipe off the stick with a clean wipe after using. Some moms swear by the GroVia Diaper Balm for other uses, such as chapping or chafing.
Again, to avoid contamination you should probably have one stick to use in the diaper area and another for other spots.
The main ingredient in Pinxav Diaper Rash Cream is actually zinc oxide. Pinxav is 30% zinc oxide, which was more than any cream on the market at the time that it was developed 90 years ago. (Today some creams are 40% zinc oxide.)
Other ingredients in Pinxav Diaper Rash Cream include petrolatum, vitamin E, lanolin, stearic acid, cetyl alcohol, aluminum hydroxide and methyl salicylate.
It also contains several plant-derived ingredients: aloe, menthol, eucalyptol and oil of clove.
Calendula is a beautiful flower that also has healing properties, according to both ancient and modern experts. It’s one of the main ingredients in Weleda Diaper Care Cream, made by a German company that was founded in 1921.
Weleda started out as a pharmaceutical company that often looked to its garden for ingredients. Today the company specializes in products made with natural ingredients, grown using sustainable, environmentally friendly methods.
Weleda products are certified natural by NaTRUE, a European organization.
Besides the calendula, Weleda Diaper cream also contains other natural ingredients, including zinc oxide, beeswax, wool wax, clay, glycerin, sweet almond oil and sesame seed oil.
And the Winner Is!
Triple Paste Medicated Ointment gets the nod. With pediatricians agreeing that zinc oxide is the best treatment for diaper rash, it seems foolish to choose a cream that is lacking in this ingredient.
Triple Paste has around 12%, enough to be effective but not enough to make the cream hard to spread. Triple Paste is mild enough to put on even a severe, bleeding rash.
It doesn’t have the take-your-head-off odor of some diaper creams, and the manufacturer backs it with a money-back guarantee. It’s made by a small pharmaceutical company that specializes in products for the skin, and it has a lot of enthusiastic fans.
Several other products deserve an honorable mention. Burt’s Bees gets a nod for being 100% natural at a reasonable price.
The GroVia Magic Stick Diaper Balm gets kudos for coming up with an innovative way to apply a diaper treatment, and for being all natural and all organic. Pinxav Diaper Rash Cream is an intriguing product if you don’t mind the risk of staining.
No matter how careful you are with diaper changes, chances are that your baby will have at least one episode of diaper rash. It’s great to know that moms have good choices for diaper rash creams, because a baby’s bottom shouldn’t be red and rashy. It should be as smooth as . . . a baby’s bottom.