The Best Diaper Rash Creams
How We Found the Best Diaper Rash Creams
67 Products considered
5 Ingredients cuts
4 Top picks
The Best Diaper Rash Creams
The best diaper rash cream should contain an effective moisture barrier — like petrolatum or zinc oxide — while avoiding ingredients that could irritate your baby's skin. To find our top picks, we talked to doctors, analyzed ingredients, then tested 20 popular brands to see just how water-repellent they actually are.
How We Chose the Best Diaper Rash Creams
All the diaper rash creams we could find
Diaper rash creams work by forming a moisture barrier that keeps your baby’s skin dry. This is most commonly achieved via zinc oxide (yep, just like you find in many sunscreens), followed by petrolatum. But the best diaper rash cream will also contain extras to help soothe and moisturize — ingredients like shea butter, beeswax, or lanolin.
We started with all the diaper rash creams we could find: 67 products, from niche organics to national brands. We wanted an everyday cream that parents could use regularly, so we didn’t include anti-fungal creams like Nystatin, which should only be used for diagnosed yeast infections. We also avoided hydrocortisone creams, which aren’t advised for long-term use.
No potentially irritating ingredients
Diaper rash medicines should soothe, not irritate. So we cut products with any of the following ingredients:
Synthetic fragrance: At best, it’s unnecessary. At worst, it can cause additional irritation. Synthetic fragrance can be a source of phthalates, which have been linked to allergic skin reactions. This eliminated some major national brands, like A+D.
Tea-tree oil and lemongrass: Just because an ingredient is plant-based doesn’t mean it’s gentle. Dr. Peter Lio, clinical assistant professor of dermatology & pediatrics at Northwestern University and partner at Medical Dermatology Associates of Chicago, told us, “I’m a fan of certain botanicals for certain purposes, but for general diaper cream, less is more. Things like lemongrass and tea tree oil can be sensitizing or irritating and probably do not add any real effect.” Eliminating tea tree oil, in particular, cut some popular “natural” brands from the running, like Earth Mama Angel Baby.
Methylisothiazolinone: This ingredient is sometimes used for its antibacterial powers, but it’s been linked to allergic dermatitis, so we opted to avoid it.
No controversial preservatives
Like most personal care products, diaper rash creams rely on preservatives to extend their shelf life and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. That said, some preservatives have come under fire for potentially dangerous side effects.
Take parabens: Some studies raise concerns about skin irritation, and more significantly, endocrine disruption, and the EU has restricted the use of some types of parabens. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) ultimately maintains that “Parabens are rarely irritating or sensitizing to normal human skin at concentrations used in cosmetics.” However, we decided to err on the side of caution when it came to a product intended for infants.
Phenoxyethanol, meanwhile, has been known to cause vomiting and diarrhea when consumed by infants: The FDA raised concerns about this ingredient in a now-recalled nipple cream. In theory, diaper rash cream won’t be going anywhere near your baby’s mouth, but in our experience, babies manage to get just about everything in their mouths at some point. So again, we opted to play it safe.
Grouped by category
Different creams have different percentages of zinc oxide, and it can be a little overwhelming to figure out how much you need. So we divided our remaining contenders into three categories.
Everyday use: For everyday use, experts agree that lower amounts of zinc oxide are generally sufficient: typically between 10% and 15%. Dr. Lio told us that while “higher can be helpful in some scenarios,” some of his favorite brands contain “just over 12%.”
Maximum strength: Creams labeled “maximum strength” typically have between 30% and 40% zinc oxide (40% is the highest that can be sold over-the-counter) making for a thicker cream and thicker coverage . This makes them the best choice for a persistent rash.
All-natural: Finally, knowing that some parents prefer all-natural options, we looked for contenders with no zinc oxide at all — plus no petrolatum. These creams instead rely on beeswax or plant-based oils to create a moisture barrier.
We selected a variety of brands and price points across each of these three categories, focusing on products with widespread name recognition (would they live up to the hype?), and then put them all to the test.
Hand-tested for feel and performance
We wanted diaper creams that were easy to squeeze out of the tube and reliable at doing their number one job: repelling water. To get a sense of their texture and efficacy, we applied a dollop of each cream to the inside of our wrists, testing effectiveness in five categories: texture, moisture-repelling properties, thickness, ease of use, and ease of removal. The products that aced this step formed our winner’s circle.
The 4 Best Diaper Rash Creams
- Triple Paste Medicated Ointment for Diaper Rash -
Best for Daily Use
- Cetaphil Baby Diaper Cream -
Daily Use Runner-Up
- Boudreaux’s Maximum Strength Butt Paste -
Best Maximum Strength
- Nature’s Baby Organics Organic Diaper Ointment -
Best Natural Pick
Why we chose it
Our top all-around pick is Triple Paste Medicated Ointment. The paste contains both petrolatum and 12% zinc oxide. Why both? Dr. Lio told us that “zinc oxide is a good protectant with mild astringent properties, while adding petrolatum to the mix adds a powerful barrier that can help things heal. I actually prefer a combination of moisturizers instead of just one.” Our testers reported a similar preference: Products that rely solely on petrolatum tend to feel greasier. Our testers were surprised by how easy it was to apply and spread, noting that they only had to use a small amount to achieve full coverage.
Thoughtful supporting ingredients
In addition to petrolatum and zinc oxide, Triple Paste has lanolin to help soften the skin and beeswax as an additional moisturizer. These ingredients, plus cornstarch, contribute to Triple Paste’s soft, pillowy feel. The cream also has other great extras: oat kernel extract, which has anti-inflammatory properties, and bisabolol, which is derived from chamomile and provides a soothing effect. All these ingredients offer proven benefits. We appreciate that the formula steers clear of ingredients with untested efficacy claims.
While all of our finalists are technically fragrance-free, many still had a faint scent. Both the Boudreaux Butt Paste formulas we tested carried a faint vanilla smell, which we found pleasant but definitely noticeable. Even upon close inhale, however, Triple Paste gave off no scent at all.
Points to consider
Comes in a tub
Triple Paste comes in a tub, meaning it’s noticeably easier to apply than products you have to squeeze out of tubes, but also somewhat unhygienic because you scoop your fingers directly into it. However, double dipping likely won’t be necessary. We were able to achieve a thick, frosting-like layer of coverage with very little product.
Why we chose it
A gentle, widely available option
Our runner-up for daily use, Cetaphil Baby Diaper Cream, is a gentle, zinc oxide-based formula, from a familiar and widely available drugstore brand. It doesn’t contain petrolatum, so it’s not quite as thick as Triple Paste, but this soft, cream-colored product is easy to spread in a thin, even layer.
Thin and soothing
This product has no petrolatum, just zinc oxide, so it’s less sticky than many of the zinc-oxide creams we tested. Like Triple Paste, it contains skin-soothing, anti-inflammatory extras, like calendula and panthenol, and testers reported a faint, vanilla-like fragrance. Thanks to calendula, diaper rash may also disappear more quickly.
Points to consider
Second best to Triple paste
Triple Paste edged Cetaphil out thanks to its superior coverage and packaging. We had to use more Cetaphil to achieve a similarly thick barrier, and liquids didn’t bead up and roll off quite as quickly during our water test. Cetaphil’s lightweight flip-cap was also tricky to maneuver one-handed, particularly with a babe in arms.
Why we chose it
If you’re facing a particularly painful rash, we’d suggest Boudreaux's Maximum Strength Butt Paste. This heavy-duty pick contains just five ingredients, including both petrolatum and 40% zinc oxide for a one-two punch. This thick paste might be overkill for daily use but serves as an effective tool in the fight against an angry rash.
Easy to apply
Boudreaux Butt Paste Maximum Strength Formula was markedly thicker and heavier upon application than the other maximum-strength creams we tested. But it created the necessary barrier to protect already irritated skin and was easy to swipe out of its big tub and spread evenly without being too sticky.
Good feel, good smell
Boudreaux’s boasts a less oily skin-feel than other maximum strength formulas and leaves behind a pleasant vanilla scent. Responsible for this vanilla/cinnamon aroma: Peruvian balsam, derived from balsam trees and possessing antibacterial properties.
Points to consider
Unique ingredient may irritate
In rare cases, Peruvian balsam has been linked to contact dermatitis. If you’re concerned about this ingredient, we’d suggest Burt's Bees Diaper Rash Ointment or Vanicream Diaper Rash Ointment instead.
Why we chose it
Excellent plant-based cream
Nature's Baby Organics Diaper Ointment was our favorite plant-based cream. It uses USDA-certified organic coconut oil, castor seed oil, and olive oil to repel water and soften skin, and beeswax as a natural moisture barrier. Unlike many of the natural products we tested, it didn’t melt or run upon application. Bonus: the faint, woodsy smell reminded us pleasantly of cedar.
Moisture-wicking and thick
In our hands-on tests, oil-based creams didn’t repel water as quickly or efficiently as creams with zinc and petrolatum. That said, Nature’s Baby Organics had the best moisture barrier of any of the plant-based creams we tried, with more noticeable water beading than picks like Badger Baby Balm. It’s also thicker than rivals like The Honest Company and Mother Love, which felt grainy coming out and runny once they warmed up.
Nature’s Baby comes in a medium-sized tube, which was another selling point. Several natural picks come in very tiny packages: chapstick-sized pots or flat, disc-like containers, that make it impossible to get a sizeable amount with your fingertips.
Points to consider
Not as effective as traditional formulas
Testers reported light but adequate coverage, although it didn’t quite match the water-repelling abilities of creams containing zinc oxide or petrolatum. It’s also a little pricier than our other top picks for performance that’s a little less impressive. That said, if you want an all-natural pick, Nature’s Baby is the best.
Guide to Diaper Rash Creams
How to find the right diaper rash cream for your baby
Use best practices to avoid a rash
Change your baby frequently and allow skin to dry completely before applying cream and putting on a new diaper. In addition, keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t over-tighten diapers. In addition to being uncomfortable for your baby, this can restrict airflow, leading to a damp environment that encourages diaper rash.
- Apply a thick layer of cream. To gauge the proper amount, one of our experts suggested pretending that you're spreading icing on a cake. Remember, it's serving as the barrier between fluids and skin.
- See a doctor if the rash hasn’t cleared up after three days. Diaper creams won’t solve yeast infections or true allergies, so if you notice lingering irritation, check with your pediatrician.
If you use cloth diapers, avoid petroleum
Petroleum jelly, mineral oil, and other petrolatum-based products can stain cloth diapers. Beyond this, they can also build up on the material, especially fleece and other synthetic fabrics, reducing the effectiveness of the diaper.
Instead, look for a zinc-based cream like Cetaphil Baby Diaper Cream, though note that you’ll still need a thorough washing protocol and plenty of hot water. And even here, cotton diaper material — like classic prefold diapers — will fare better than the synthetic materials common to all-in-one or pocket diapers.
Watch for allergic reactions
A combination of zinc oxide and petrolatum offers the thickest, smoothest coverage, though either ingredient by itself will get the job done. No matter what you decide upon, be sure to keep an eye on your baby’s skin for allergic reactions and to consult your pediatrician if you have questions.
Diaper Rash Cream FAQ
Can I just use baby powder or cornstarch?
Dusting the diaper region with talcum powder or cornstarch used to be common, but the medical community now recommends against it. Babies can inhale the powder, leading to lung irritation and respiratory complications.
Can I just use petroleum?
Sure. If you want a petrolatum-only formula, Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment and Desitin Skin Protectant and Diaper Rash Ointment are two well-known options. They don't pack quite the healing punch of a cream with zinc oxide, but some parents prefer to avoid zinc oxide's sunscreen-like residue.
What else can I use diaper rash cream for?
The best diaper rash cream may have more uses than you think. Plant- or petrolatum-based formulas, like Nature’s Baby Organics or Aquaphor, are often great for fighting dry, cracked skin on adults, since they use the same moisturizers found in many hand creams. (You can also try this with a zinc oxide product, but be warned it won’t rub in very well.)
Beauty bloggers have gotten press for using diaper rash cream to fight acne, and studies actually seem to back this up, finding zinc oxide moderately effective against pimples. That said, heavy-duty emollients like petroleum jelly sometimes lead to more breakouts if used on your face, so you might want to spring for a proven acne treatment instead.
The Best Diaper Rash Creams: Summed Up
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