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Should you be putting diaper cream on your face? Derms weigh in on the viral trend

Some people have said it can help with dry skin and acne.
Vivian Le / TODAY

For many people, the goal of your daily skin care routine is to get your skin to feel ultra soft and smooth — some might even say as soft as a baby's bottom.

And if that's what you're after, it would make sense that you'd turn to the product that's most commonly used on the area: Diaper rash cream. In fact, videos of people using the cream on their faces have gone viral, with some people saying it can help lock in moisture and repair your skin barrier.

Most of the purported benefits come from two key ingredients that many of the creams include: Zinc oxide and petrolatum.

"Diaper rash creams often contain zinc oxide because of its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and reparative properties," shares New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Brendan Camp. "Petrolatum is another ingredient often featured in diaper creams because of its ability to create a barrier between the skin and potential irritants."

While those ingredients sound promising, before we start slathering diaper cream on our faces, we had to consult the experts and find out if it really works. Below, we're sharing everything you need to know.

Does diaper cream help with facial dryness? | Does diaper cream help with acne? | Who shouldn't try it | Best moisturizers | Best acne products | How we chose | Meet our experts

Does diaper cream help with facial dryness?

In theory, yes. "Most diaper creams are formulated with highly occlusive ingredients to lock in moisture and protect from the external environment," shares dermatologist Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose "These are very effective for treatment and prevention of dry skin."

People on social media have also been using the cream on top of their moisturizer to "slug" or essentially seal the top layer of their skin to enhance the efficacy of the products that came before. While Dr. Jocelyn Gandelman, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, says that the product could be used for slugging "as it is a highly occlusive barrier," she adds, "It does however have more active ingredients that could cause irritation to facial skin."

Does diaper rash cream help with acne?

"Diaper creams that contain zinc are getting attention as potential acne treatments because zinc has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties," says Camp. Because acne is partially caused by skin inflammation and bacteria, in theory, it could be a good solution. (Another added bonus of zinc oxide is that it offers sun protection.)

But both Camp and the other two experts we spoke with agreed that there are much better options out there. "It is unlikely for diaper rash cream to help with acne overall — if anything it could make acne worse as it is comedogenic, meaning it can clog pores," shares Gandelman.

Who shouldn't try it

According to the derms, there are a few groups of people who should stay away from the trend. "Those with acne-prone skin or oily skin or with allergies to any of the ingredients in diaper cream shouldn’t try it," Gandelman says. "Additionally, it is so occlusive that if you apply other active ingredients (medicated topicals or acne washes) first and diaper cream on top they'll be absorbed more intensely by your skin potentially causing more irritation."

Those with sensitive skin should also be wary, as some creams also contain botanical extracts or fragrances, "both of which can act as potential skin irritants and cause contact dermatitis, a rash that presents with redness, dryness, and itching," Camp says.

Overall, if you don't fall into one of the above categories and are interested in giving it a try, Camp suggests trying it as a spot treatment, rather than slathering it all over your face, to see how your skin reacts.

All in all, Gandelman says, "using diaper rash cream for your face may be trendy but there are better products formulated for facial skin. With this being said, if I was traveling and forgot my moisturizer or SPF it could be used in a bind while waiting to get the correct products."

Below, we're sharing some of the products that experts commonly recommend for conditions like acne and dry skin that you can use instead.

Best moisturizers for dry skin

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

What we like
  • Lightweight
Something to note
  • Small bottle

For those with facial dryness, Gandelman says she loves CeraVe's gentle products.

This nighttime lotion from the brand was named the best budget moisturizer during the 2023 Shop TODAY Beauty Awards. It's said to be fragrance and oil-free and contains niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to help calm and hydrate the skin.

"I loved it!" shares deputy editorial director Alexandra Deabler. "I love how much it actually moisturizes, since it feels pretty light."

Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer

What we like
  • Made for sensitive skin
  • Non-comedogenic
Something to note
  • Can be greasy

Vanicream is another brand that Gandelman recommends. This formula features multiple moisturizing ingredients for ultimate hydration, including ceramides, hyaluronic acid, squalane and glycerin. It can be applied day or night, whenever your skin is feeling dry.

CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream 

What we like
  • Fragrance-free
  • Hydrating ingredients
Something to note
  • Small container

To treat facial dryness, Camp recommends looking for "tried-and-true ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides. Hyaluronic acid helps skin retain and attract water, while ceramides are lipids normally found in the skin to help retain moisture."

This top-rated night cream features both of those ingredients, along with niacinamide. According to the brand, the rich cream absorbs quickly to leave the skin feeling smooth — without leaving a greasy sheen.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane

What we like
  • Good consistency
Something to note
  • Can cause burning

This pick from Kiehl's was named the best overall moisturizer during the Shop TODAY 2023 Beauty Awards. "It works and does so with just a little bit of product at a time, and the hydration lasts for hours,” one former editor shared about the dermatologist-approved formula.

Best acne products

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser

What we like
  • Good for oily skin
  • Fights acne and blackheads
Something to note
  • Can be drying

When it comes to treating acne, Camp says you should "look for over-the-counter ingredients like salicylic acid, which helps remove excess oil and clear pores, and benzoyl peroxide, which is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory."

This cleanser contains the former ingredient as well as exfoliating lip-hydroxy acid. Dermatologist Dr. Ted Lain, who previously recommended this product to us shared that the two ingredients work together to fight breakouts. “The use of 2% salicylic acid ensures a quick exfoliation within the pores, where acne develops. In addition, the lipohydroxy acid takes a longer-term approach, diving deeper within the pore and causing a more gentle exfoliation that develops over days and does not increase dryness or irritation," he said.

Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment

What we like
  • Targeted treatment
  • Start to clear skin "on day 1"
Something to note
  • Irritating for some

Need to target a pesky pimple that popped up overnight? This dermatologist-recommended treatment, which contains benzoyl peroxide, is designed be used on breakouts. According to the brand, it is lightweight, absorbs quickly and helps your skin start "getting clearer on day 1."

Differin Gel

What we like
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Prevents future breakouts
Something to note
  • Drying

Along with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, Gandelman says adapalene is one of her favorite ingredients for treating acne over the counter.

The star ingredient of Differin's formula is adapalene, a topical retinoid. And it doesn't just help with acne. One dermatologist previously told us that Differin "is a fantastic anti-aging product," since it stimulates collagen production. "This is what helps with fine lines and overall skin thickness.”

How we chose these products

The Shop TODAY editors and writers search the internet to find the best products out there. We interview expert sources and use our own personal experiences with the product and brand to make shopping easier for our readers.

As an editorial team, we independently create content and determine coverage based on research, reporting and what we think readers would like to read about. The goal of our content is to provide a service and inform readers who are on the hunt for the latest products to help make their life better. Items are sold by retailer, not TODAY. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time. Learn more about Shop TODAY.

Meet our experts

  • Dr. Brendan Camp, MD is a double board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. He is an expert at helping patients manage medical conditions such as acne and rosacea, as well as cosmetic concerns.
  • Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, MD,  is a board-certified cosmetic, medical and surgical dermatologist specializing in facial rejuvenation at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. She is a clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.
  • Dr. Jocelyn Gandelman, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. She practices medical and cosmetic dermatology and cares for both adults and children in her practice.