When does a baby’s skin color stop changing? How does the 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 your child’s skin color 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 will. :-)
I’ve answered the mom here, and many 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. She had a fair complexion at birth, but within 2 months, my baby’s complexion got darker. When does the baby skin color stop changing? Why has my baby’s skin color changed so much, and can I do anything to make her fair again?
(Giridih, Jharkhand, India)
How A Baby’s 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!
Since you are from India, I would guess you are affected by the idea that fair skin is better than dark skin. 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, for example, milk powder, to make the skin fair, but that doesn’t help at all; these recommendations are all pure myths.
Keeping your daughter out of direct sunlight is good, of course, not the least for protecting her from being burnt.
Let’s take a look at how baby skin color changes, why, and what can be considered normal and abnormal skin colors for babies.
Newborn Baby Skin Color
Common Newborn Baby Skin Color Variations
Reddish-purple at Birth
Regardless of race, most babies are reddish-purple at birth. Their hands and feet may appear bluish (acrocyanotic), which is normal immediately after birth. This is due to blood and oxygen in the body going to the core and more important organs first, which are the brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys, rather than the extremities.
This normally resolves within his first 4 hours of life.
Yellowish due to physiologic jaundice
In a few days, you may notice your baby turning yellowish. This is called physiologic jaundice. This is caused by an increase in bilirubin (from the normal breakdown of red blood cells within a neonate’s body) in the bloodstream. This increase will cause a more noticeable yellowish color in a baby’s eyes (sclera).
This usually starts in the face and spreads out to the trunk and the limbs. The bilirubin is processed by the liver and excreted via feces or urine. Sunlight exposure usually helps break down and decrease bilirubin in the body.
This yellowish color will resolve on its own within 14 to 28 days (maximum number of days). Anything more than that is not normal, especially when it is accompanied by signs of inability to gain weight and poor suckling/feeding.
You should call your doctor immediately if you notice changes like these in your baby or if the yellow discoloration persists.
Newborn babies may also exhibit a blue or purple-colored patch of skin in their lower back or buttocks. This is called congenital dermal melanocytosis, more commonly known as Mongolian spots. This is due to a concentration of hyperpigmented cells. This usually resolves within the first 4 years of life.
African American babies and Native American, Asian, Hispanic, and African descent babies are often born with a Mongolian spot.
A dark or bright red raised bump may appear on a baby’s head or other body parts in the first 2 months of life. These are called hemangiomas. Hemangiomas are formed by a concentration of immature tiny blood vessels, usually forming a strawberry-shaped bump (strawberry hemangiomas).
These are more common in premature babies and girls. They may grow in size but will usually fade on their own and completely disappear by age 9.
A flat, colored (pink, red, or dark-colored) birthmark may appear on the baby’s neck or face. This is called the port-wine stain. This is caused by a concentration of dilated capillaries. They do not fade or disappear over time.
Abnormal skin discoloration in newborns
This is the bluish or purplish discoloration occurring around the face, mouth, or body. Cyanosis is an indicator that there is not enough oxygen circulation around the body. This may be caused by lung failure, infection, or heart condition. This warrants an urgent trip to the hospital.
Mottling occurs as bluish-purplish blotchy skin discoloration, usually indicative of an infection, poor blood circulation, or a heart condition. This is common in ill babies and premature babies. You should call your doctor immediately when you notice this.
These red bumps can grow over time. Surgical treatment is required when they start to bleed or obstruct an organ.
Pallor means pale skin. This can occur due to anemia, albinism, a chronic disease of the kidney, lungs, or heart, and other diseases that may interfere with melanin production.
Polycythemia is a rare blood disorder that presents as red skin on the face. This is caused by too many red blood cells produced by the bone marrow.
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.
A baby’s skin should fully settle by 20 months of age.
What Determines a Baby’s Skin Color?
A baby’s skin color is a polygenic trait. This means that it depends on more than 1 gene. A baby receives half of the genetic makeup from each of his parents. His physical features come from the dominant genes of both his parents. This combination will ultimately determine the baby’s skin color.
This is one of the charming parts of having children! They are their unique person, for us as parents to love and support them just as they are!
The picture above shows that even twins can have different skin colors! It is very uncommon, but it does happen. The most common explanation for this would be that they are NOT identical twins, i.e., they share as many genes as any siblings would.
But how about monozygotic, that is, identical twins? Identical twins are always the same sex, share identical blood groups and genetic makeup, and always look very much like each other – to the extent that it can be difficult for people to tell them apart. However, there are actually documented cases of identical twins with different skin colors, and the explanation may be due to some genetic changes in one of these genes that control skin color after the twins separate in the womb – so-called somatic mutation, according to Dr. Claire Steves from the Department of Twin Research. (See reference below)
Anyway, the takeaway is that you never know for sure what skin color your baby will have. It depends on several different genes from the biological parents. There is also nothing that can be done to affect what skin color your child will have.
What NOT to do
Since your baby’s skin color is determined by genes, there is no way to change or predetermine it. If you hear recommendations for the use of fairness creams, talcum powder, or different types of homemade creams, you can be sure that a.) they won’t work, and b.) they may hurt your baby’s skin and lead to skin irritation.
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 worldwide.
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.
Also, don’t forget the sunscreen!
Update: This question has received a lot of comments; join in below! :-)
- Infant Skin Maturation: Preliminary Outcomes for Color and Biomechanical Properties
- An Unexpectedly Complex Architecture for Skin Pigmentation in Africans
- The mixed race twins with DIFFERENT colour skin and eyes
Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing is based on studies in cognitive-behavioral models and therapy for children and her experience as a mother and stepmother. Life as a parent has convinced her of how crucial it is to put relationships before rules. She strongly believes in positive parenting and a science-based approach.
Paula cooperates with a team of pediatricians that you find here. They write or review all health-related articles.