How does a baby’s skin color evolve and what determines the final skin color? And how do we handle peoples’ views of our children’s looks?
Let’s discuss these important questions here.
This post started as a question from a worried mom about why her baby’s skin color is getting darker and what to do about it.
Worrying about the skin color of your child can seem wrong in the 21st century, but it is a very real issue for parents in some cultures. Passing judgment will not help. Talking about it might. :-)
I’ve answered the mom here and a lot of people have commented. Feel free to join in!
Let’s empower each other to focus on the inner and outer beauty of our children no matter the color of their skin!
My baby is 4 months old. At birth, she had a fair color but within 2 months my baby’s complexion is getting darker. When does baby skin color stop chaning? Why has my baby’s skin color changed so much and is there anything I can do to make her fair again?
(Giridih, Jharkhand, India)
How Babys Skin Color Develops and Changes
What a beautiful baby girl you have! Congratulations!
Regarding her skin color, it is completely normal that your baby’s complexion is becoming darker with age. Most babies are relatively fair when newborn, but depending on race and genes, the baby’s skin then changes during the first year to its real color. So there is no need to worry at all!
I would guess since you are from India, that you are affected by the idea that fair is in some way better than dark. The best you can do is try to ignore these old traditions as your baby’s skin color says absolutely nothing about the qualities of your daughter. Our children need us to love them just the way they are; not wishing for them to be something else.
Also, there isn’t much you can do about it. I know there are old recommendations to massage babies with milk powder, for example, to make the skin fair, but that doesn’t help at all; these recommendations are all pure myths.
Keeping your daughter out of the direct sunlight is good of course, not the least for protecting her from being burnt.
The way a baby’s skin color develops over time is as follows:
Newborn Baby Skin Color
At birth, most babies, regardless of race, are to some extent purple-reddish.
After a day or two, the purple becomes pinker, due to blood vessels being visible through the newborn baby’s very thin skin.
Babies of color usually have darker skin than Caucasian babies, but still a few shades lighter than their “true” color, which will show later on.
At this time, some babies get a yellowish skin color due to physiological jaundice; common in newborn babies.
The newborn baby’s feet might be purple for a while, due to blood circulation not yet mature.
African American babies, as well as Native American, Asian, Hispanic, and African descent babies often have at least one bluish birth mark called a Mongolian spot. (The medical name for it is dermal melanocytosis.) The spots are completely harmless and disappear at some point during the child’s first four years.
When Does Baby Skin Color Stop Changing?
Over the coming six months or more, the baby’s true skin color will develop, which is entirely controlled by genes, and not something we can control at all.
Recent research on baby skin color (referenced below) indicates that the color can continue to develop until the baby is over 1 year old.
What Determines a Baby’s Skin Color?
Research published in 2017 concluded that more genes than previously thought seem to be involved in determining the skin color of a person. It is complex and probably a reason why some parents get surprised by their baby’s skin color. It is not as simple as saying that the baby’s skin color will be some average of the parents’ color or that one color dominates over the other, as in eye color.
This is one of the charming parts of having children! They are their own unique person, for us as parents to love and support just the way they are!
A seen in the picture above, even twins can have different skin colors! It is very uncommon, but it does happen. It is, of course, more common that siblings have different pigmentation even if they have the same biological parents.
There are several substances that determine a person’s skin color, but melanin is the most important one. However, the final skin color of a child is determined by a complex set of genes, and something, honestly to just accept with curiosity.
What NOT to do
Since your baby’s skin color is determined by genes, there really is no way to change it. If you hear recommendations on using e.g. fairness creams, talcum powder, or different types of homemade creams, you can be sure that i) they won’t work, and ii) they may hurt your baby’s skin and lead to e.g. rashes.
What to Do
As I said at the beginning of this post, the best you can do is to embrace your baby’s appearance just the way she is, and stand on her side to fight the skin color prejudice that still, sadly, exists all over the world.
To empower yourself to fight old values regarding skin color, I recommend the book Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color. It does not specifically deal with skin color values in India but on a broader level.
Also watch this video that explains how a baby’s skin color changes from newborn complexion to its final skin color in a clear way, as well as what effect different efforts to change the skin color, will have.
Update: This question has received a lot of comments, join in below! :-)