The 3 Different Types of Diaper Cream Explained

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Diaper rash is an unfortunate part of the baby phase.

No matter how careful and diligent you are about prompt diaper changes, your baby is bound to get irritation or a full blown rash eventually.

That’s why one of the first newborn essentials you should stock up on is a healthy supply of diaper cream.

But which kind? If you walk the store aisle you’ll find dozens of different ointments, creams, and pastes to choose from.

Let’s break them all down.

The 3 main types of diaper cream parents need to consider are:

  1. Gentle prevention & daily use ointments
  2. Creams & ointments for moderate & severe diaper rash
  3. Medicated (bacitracin, hydrocortisone, nystatin)

Based on my experience and talking with experts, either Aquaphor or Vaseline are extremely handy for preventing diaper rashes (I prefer Aquaphor because it absorbs into the skin and is less messy). Apply regularly to protect baby’s sensitive skin and heal minor irritation.

When a bad rash develops, Desitin is one of the best choices around for quick relief — though some parents prefer other options depending on how their baby responds.

For extremely severe or infected rashes, a doctor may recommend a medicated ointment.

Let’s take a closer look.

Best for prevention & daily use: Aquaphor & Vaseline

Your best bet for fighting diaper rash is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Along with remembering to change your baby’s diaper frequently and promptly, you’ll want a daily use sort cream or ointment to apply regularly.

Aquaphor or Vaseline will be a great option for this. Both protect the skin and can help heal any signs of diaper rash before they get out of control.

Let’s take a look at the two main options.


Click to see Aquaphor on Amazon

This wonder working cream has healing and restoring properties that work magic on your baby’s bottom. Its main ingredient is Petrolatum, which plays the all important role of healing and soothing the skin.

It’s been one of the most trusted diaper creams by parents for the longest time.

A crucial point to note is that all babies have different skin types. This means each of them will react to Aquaphor diaper cream differently, but in general Aquaphor is considered mild and safe for most skin types.

Aquaphor performs other functions such as;

  • Preventing the occurrence of diaper rash
  • Relieving the pain that comes along with diaper rash
  • Soothes burns
  • Maintains your baby’s smooth skin

Aquaphor is a multipurpose product which also keeps your baby’s skin from drying up. Lanolin is actively involved in healing cracked or chapped skin.

According to Kealy Hawk, a Registered Nurse with Little Bear Care, Aquaphor contains about 40% petroleum jelly which is the active ingredient. It also has others which include mineral oil, lanolin, glycerine, among others.

What’s more, she advises strongly on finding out whether your baby is allergic to lanolin first.

If they’re okay with it, use it consistently to ensure that your baby’s skin remains moisturized after every diaper change.

(Pro tip: Aquaphor’s healing properties make it great for minor cuts, scraps, and rashes on other parts of baby’s body, and for adults too!)

Pros of Aquaphor

  • Facilitates rapid healing on damaged skin: The speed at which wounds heal is dependent on how consistent you are when using it.
  • Keeps the skin moisturized: As mentioned earlier, Aquaphor contains extra ingredients such as lanolin that have amazing skin benefits
  • Minimizes the appearance of scars: Use Aquaphor daily if your baby is experiencing minor wounds on their bottom.
  • Forms a barrier on the skin to protect it from agents of irritation ie full diapers.


  • Thick and somewhat greasy: It can be difficult to work with at first, though it eventually absorbs into skin.
  • Not the best choice for severe rashes: Best for prevention and minor irritation

(Load up on Aquaphor Baby from Amazon here.)


Click to see price on Amazon

No one would dare doubt the credibility of Vaseline especially since it has stood the test of time.

Our grandparents used it on our parents and level no complaints against it!

After years of careful scrutiny, Vaseline is still up to its exceptional and unmatched duties. It contains 100% Petroleum which is basically composed of a mixture of waxes and mineral oils.

These components prevent moisture loss and keep your baby’s bottom free from the effects of diaper rash.

A misconception about Vaseline is that it contains some hydroactive properties that moisturize, similar to a lotion.

Vaseline will simply help in keeping the moisture in your baby’s skin locked. It will neither add nor subtract the level of moisture present — so applying it to extremely dry skin won’t help.

Vaseline is a multipurpose product but has specific uses when babies are involved. Kealy Hawk sheds some light on these uses. They include;

  • Soothes burned or broken skin: Apply gently on your baby’s bottom to relieve the feeling of soreness.
  • Protects the skin from harsh diaper effects.

Pros of Vaseline

  • Prevention of diaper rash: Including Vaseline into your diaper changing routine makes it easier to keep diaper rash at bay with a thick, durable protective layer.
  • Keeps your baby smelling fresh at all times: It works best when you use it as a base before sprinkling some scented baby powder.
  • It’s quite affordable: Vaseline is the cheapest cream or ointment on this list by a mile!

(Stock up on Vaseline Baby from Amazon here.)


  • Can clog pores and promote infections when the area is not cleaned properly before application.
  • Messy to work with: Doesn’t absorb well into skin

Vaseline is also extremely easy to find in any major store around the globe — you’ll never be without it!

Confused about the difference between Aquaphor and Vaseline? Read here.

Best for moderate to severe diaper rashes (Desitin, Balmex, Triple Paste, Butt Paste & more)

In an ideal world, you’d change your baby frequently, use gentle products like Aquaphor, and never have a single diaper rash to deal with!

In the real world, that won’t happen.

Eventually, you’ll have a moderate or severe diaper rash on your hands and you’ll need to call in something with a little more firepower.

Some of the more popular options are Desitin, Balmex, Triple Paste, Butt Paste, and more. Let’s take a look at a few of them.


Click to see Desitin on Amazon

Desitin is a white, smooth cream that can be applied liberally either to prevent or treat diaper rashes. It’s a great choice for diaper rash because it’s highly affordable, especially to new parents on a budget.

How does it work? Desitin contains Zinc Oxide which forms a barrier on your baby’s skin to shield from diaper rash or protect irritated skin, allowing it to heal quickly.

If you find that regular Vaseline or Aquaphor aren’t quite getting the job done, Desitin can often help with more moderate to severe diaper rashes.

(Moderate to severe diaper rash is when the pinkish color spreads wide on your baby’s bottom or begins to turn red with bumps.)

Desitin has been tested and proven by certified pediatricians who can vouch for its credibility, plus its been around for ages and parents all over the globe rave about its effectiveness.

Pros of Desitin

  • Hypoallergenic: Desitin is gentle as it contains no harmful chemicals and ingredients.
  • Multi-purpose: Can be used for preventive as well as treatment purposes.
  • It’s affordable: This benefit mostly favors new parents that are on a budget.


  • About twice as expensive as Vaseline: Desitin is affordable for treating rashes but could be pricey for everyday use

Your best bet is to keep Desitin on hand for moderate to severe diaper rashes that aren’t responding to simpler products like Aquaphor or Vaseline Baby.

Get your stash of Desitin from Amazon here.


Click to see Balmex on Amazon

As the name suggests, this is a balm that’s meant to soothe irritations and burns originating from diaper rash. 

Like Desitin, Balmex also contains Zinc Oxide, which creates a lasting barrier between your baby’s skin and the diapers.

The main difference between Balmex and Desitin is the presence in Balmex of botanical extracts like evening primrose oil, meant to further soothe skin and block irritation.

It works miracles by removing the redness effect completely and restores the normal healthy skin color in as little as 3 hours.

Like Vaseline, Balmex has been around for over 50 years which translates to a vast wealth of experience when it comes to skin care.

Pros of Balmex

  • Protects & soothes rashes with zinc oxide
  • Botanical extracts make it slightly more powerful and diverse than Desitin


  • Not for use on babies with allergies due to botanical extracts
  • Slightly more expensive than Desitin per ounce

If you’re using Balmex for the first time, consult your baby’s pediatrician to avoid harsh side effects.

Triple Paste 

Click to see Triple Paste on Amazon

One of the very first things you’ll notice about Triple Paste is that it has no fragrance — there’s very little in Triple Paste besides the active ingredient Zinc Oxide, making it hypoallergenic and safe for almost all babies.

It is also quite pricey owing to its quality standards.

Triple Paste is essentially an extremely thick Zinc Oxide ointment meant to last longer on the skin without getting absorbed into the baby’s diaper.

Most parents consider Triple Paste to be the “top dog” of diaper creams, using it for the most severe rashes.

It works extremely well, and you can even combine it with Vaseline for extra protection.

Pros of Triple Paste

  • Contains no harmful ingredients and hypoallergenic
  • Creates an extremely thick and durable protective layer for tough rashes


  • Expensive: Per ounce, this is the priciest option on this list outside of medicated ointments

Medicated Creams & Ointments (Nystatin, Bacitracin, Hydrocortisone)

In the case of extremely severe diaper rash that becomes infected, or a rash that’s triggered by a fungal infection, your pediatrician may recommend a medicated option.

Zinc Oxide or other simple barriers are great for healing skin, but sometimes you need something more powerful to treat bacteria, an infection, fungus, etc.

Nystatin, for example, is commonly used to treat a fungal infection and can be used in the diaper area at the direction of a pediatrician.

Bacitracin is an antibiotic ointment that can also be used to fight extremely severe rashes that have become infected.

Hydrocortisone cream is used on skin for intense itching, swelling, and redness.

Any of these, at the direction of your doctor or pediatrician, can be combined with your usual stock of barrier creams like Aquaphor, Vaseline, or Desitin.

Which diaper creams do parents really need?

This may sound like a lot of information, and it is!

But here’s what new parents really need to know.

Keep a regular supply of Aquaphor and/or Vaseline handy at all times — This will be your primary weapon against diaper rash. You can use it at almost every diaper change to moisturize skin and create a gentle barrier.

These petroleum-based products can also be used to protect and heal moderate rashes on their own.

For a more severe rash, RN Kealy Hawk recommends Desitin above all other options. It’s gentle, hypoallergenic, and relatively affordable compared to more heavy duty options. 

Keep some Desitin around but be prepared to try a heavier-duty option like Triple Paste for really bad rashes.

For extremely severe rashes, consult a pediatrician on whether you need to use a medicated ointment.

(Chronic diaper rash at daycare? Read tips here.)

Wrapping Up

Newborns need frequent diaper changes, and no matter how diligent you are, you’re bound to end up with a rash to treat eventually.

Always ensure that you have a quality diaper cream close by to safeguard your child’s safety and comfort!

Aquaphor and Vaseline are must-haves for any new parent. Keep a healthy supply of both for daily use and protection — they’ll usually be enough to heal up most minor rashes.

Desitin is a top choice for most rashes too stubborn for petroleum-based products to handle, but you can feel free to try Triple Paste, Butt Paste, Balmex, and more as needed — just keep an eye on ingredients and watch out for allergic reactions.

It’s best to work closely with your baby’s pediatrician to find the right diaper cream if rashes become a problem.

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Hope this helps!