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Eczema is a common rash in childhood, often appearing on the face in babies. Treatment may involve home remedies, prescription medication, and other options.

Rashes, including heat rashes, diaper rashes, allergic reactions, are part of childhood. You name it, and most parents have probably seen it. Eczema is one of the more common childhood rashes.

Here’s how eczema can look on a child’s face, what can trigger an eczema flare, and what can be done to prevent and treat the condition.

Learn more about eczema.

In babies, eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, often appears on their cheeks and scalp. Up to 60% of people with eczema first have symptoms as babies, and up to 90% first develop the condition before age 5 years, according to 2017 research.

Eczema is not contagious. It cannot be passed from one person to another by touching.

Eczema on a child’s face often looks like irregular dry patches or a scattering of tiny red bumps. On skin of color, eczema often looks like darker brown or purple patches.

Read this article for more information about eczema in people of color.

Sometimes pustules or whitish bumps can appear on both light and dark skin tones. Eczema patches may also look scaly and thicker than healthy skin.

eczema on a black child's faceShare on Pinterest
Eczema on a child’s face.?Kaufman, BP, Guttman-Yassky, E, Alexis, AF. Atopic dermatitis in diverse racial and ethnic groups—Variations in epidemiology, genetics, clinical presentation and treatment. Exp Dermatol. 2018; 27: 340– 357.

You can usually see eczema on a baby’s face. It often looks like:

  • red, brown, purple, or grey patches on the cheeks and on the scalp
  • raised bumps that are red or whitish
  • dry, scaly areas that sometimes weep or ooze clear fluid

In addition to the face, eczema can also appear on the outside of arms and legs in babies and toddlers. It can sometimes be found on the abdomen and chest, but that isn’t very common.

In teens, rashes may show up on elbows, hands, necks, and feet. Eczema on the face is rare among older children and teens.

Eczema is very itchy. In some cases, the itching can be so severe that it disrupts a child’s sleep and makes them irritable. They may also feel embarrassed about it.

Eczema is an inflammatory condition. The cause is commonly linked to a gene mutation that affects the skin. Many things can make eczema worse, including food, pollen, and other allergens.

Conditions that may lead to eczema include:

Problems with the skin barrier

Your skin has a thin protective layer meant to keep invaders out and water in. The protein filaggrin is one of the most important elements in your skin barrier.

People with eczema may not make enough filaggrin. As a result, too much water escapes, and too many irritants and germs get in.

Immune reactions

Your immune system helps protect you from illness and helps your body heal from injuries. In people with eczema, the immune system may react too strongly to allergens and irritating factors. It may send out a surge of antibodies that cause increased skin inflammation.

Doctors and other healthcare professionals usually diagnose eczema by looking at the rash and asking questions about what’s causing it (triggers) and symptoms like itching.

Treatment for facial eczema in babies and children ranges from simple at-home changes to bath time routines to prescription medications. What your child needs will depend on the severity of the condition, your child’s age, and their overall health.


To relieve dry skin and repair the skin barrier, you can use emollient-rich moisturizers daily. It’s a good idea to talk with your child’s pediatrician about how often to moisturize and which brand and product to use.

Research suggests that parents may prefer lotions and gels.

Ointments are often recommended over creams and creams over lotions as ointments (and to a lesser extent creams) contain more oil than lotions.

Short daily baths

Many health experts recommend quick daily baths (around 10 minutes) in warm water. If you use a cleanser, make sure it’s free of fragrances and irritating soaps. After the bath, pat gently with a soft, clean towel and apply moisturizer. The same recommendations apply if a child takes showers.

To bleach or not to bleach?

Some advocates have recommended a tiny amount of bleach in the bath to help keep bacterial growth down, but there’s little quality evidence that bleach baths prevent bacterial growth. Also, bleach baths can sting and dry out the skin.

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Your child’s healthcare professional may prescribe a cream, gel, or foam that contains steroids to help reduce inflammation.

Steroid treatments should not be used long term because they can contribute to skin becoming thinner and more vulnerable to damage. If you’re using a corticosteroid cream, make sure you’re only dabbing it on the areas directly on eczema lesions, not on the whole body.


Biologics are treatment options made from natural substances. Dupixent (dupilumab) is a biologic medication that may be prescribed to help treat severe eczema. In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Dupixent for children 6 years and older.

Researchers have found that several factors are associated with a higher risk of developing eczema as an infant, toddler, child, or teen. These include:

  • having a family history of eczema or allergies
  • having certain genes
  • having food allergies
  • having asthma
  • having respiratory allergies, such as hay fever
  • living in dry climates
  • living in cities

There’s a lot of overlap in several of these conditions.

For example, researchers know that eczema tends to get worse during times of the year when hay fever happens, per a 2021 study. Eczema symptoms for people with dark skin tones also tend to get worse during outdoor allergy seasons.

Eczema may be worse for Black children

According to 2019 research, studies show that Black children in the United States often experience more severe eczema than white children. Researchers in 2020 noted that genes, structural racism, and the environment all contribute to the severity. Because Black people are underrepresented in eczema studies, as a 2019 review shows, more targeted research has to be done to understand why the condition is more common and more severe in Black children.

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Eczema on a child’s face may go away, but it’s likely to flare up in other places from time to time throughout childhood and even into the adult years. For many people, eczema is a lifelong inflammatory condition.

Later in childhood and in the teen years, it will probably show up on hands, wrists, and skin covering joints. In people of African ancestry, eczema often affects the skin that extends, such as the backs of elbows, according to 2021 research.

Treating eczema early in childhood can lead to better outcomes later, argue the authors of a 2021 article. It’s also important to treat eczema symptoms because they can lead to secondary bacterial infections if a child scratches too much, causing open wounds in the skin.

What can I put on my child’s face for eczema?

Moisturizers may help relieve symptoms of eczema on a baby’s face. Talk with your child’s healthcare professional about the best moisturizer for your child and how often to apply it.

Why do kids get eczema on their faces?

It’s unclear exactly why eczema develops on a child’s face, but doctors believe it may be related to the reduced production of a protein called filaggrin that helps strengthen their skin, or it may be caused when their immune system overreacts to allergens and other irritants.

What triggers face eczema?

Common triggers for eczema in babies include dry skin, irritants like household cleaners, and cold, dry air.

What is the fastest way to heal eczema on the face?

Dermatologists recommend three main ways to treat eczema on a baby’s face: giving them gentle baths with lukewarm, not hot, water, applying topical corticosteroids following your doctor’s instructions, and identifying and eliminating your baby’s eczema triggers.

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that often shows up on the cheeks and scalp in babies under 1 year old.

On dark skin, facial eczema can look like purple, brown, or gray patches. On light skin, the rash looks red.

In general, broken skin might ooze a clear fluid, and eczema is itchy on all skin types.

Treating eczema early is important because it could reduce the severity of the condition later on. Consider trying short, warm, daily baths followed by lots of moisturizer. Avoid harsh soaps and ingredients that can dry out the skin even more.

Your child’s healthcare professional may prescribe medicated creams to help heal irritated patches. Light therapy could also help.

Eczema may come and go as your child gets older. It probably will not show up on the face after infancy, but during flare-ups, it can appear on hands, elbows, knees, necks, and feet.