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Face Basting: Does a Diaper Rash Cream Treatment Actually Work?


Instagram and TikTok are full of skincare and beauty hacks. Among them? A claim that diaper rash cream can cure and soothe acne via "face basting" (aka "skin basting"). In an Instagram video posted by user Farah Dhukai, the beauty vlogger demonstrates how baby diaper rash cream used as an overnight spot treatment or as a full face mask acts as an "acne killer." But is it true?

Internet beauty fads are one thing, but when it comes to skincare you want to be more careful before you go experimenting. And as you might suspect, commenters have mixed opinions about smearing diaper rash cream on your face. To learn more, we turned to aesthetic physician Leslie Gerstman and physician assistant Ananda Fidani, MPAP, PA-C, who shared their professional insight into face basting.

 Leslie Gerstman, M.D., is an aesthetic physician in NYC. She specializes in laser and cosmetic medicine.

Ananda Fidani, MPAP, PA-C, is a certified physician assistant specializing in cosmetic, surgical, and laser dermatology. She is also the founder of Rivier Aesthetics in Westlake Village, California.

Keep reading to find out what experts had to say about diaper rash cream as a facial treatment.

What Is Diaper Rash Cream?

As its name suggests, diaper rash cream is a cream meant to treat diaper rashes. "Different brands have different ingredients, but the main ingredients are zinc and petroleum," says Dr. Gertsman. "Zinc oxide is known to act as a mild astringent, helping control oil production," says Fidani. "Zinc oxide also has anti-microbial properties and anti-inflammatory properties. This is why it is often added to diaper creams and other soothing creams worldwide as it has a calming effect and can lessen redness and the 'angriness' of the flare-up area," she explains.

Meanwhile, petroleum is a protective agent. "It's almost like having cellophane on the skin," says Dr, Gertsman. This is good for babies, but not necessarily for those with acne (more on that, below).

The Benefits of Diaper Rash Cream for Acne

"It makes sense that a cream with a high concentration of zinc oxide would help acne," Fidani tells us.  Some people notice similar benefits (read: less inflammation) when using sunscreen with zinc, she adds. "So, it is not actually the cream itself of the diaper cream that is helping, it is the active ingredient zinc oxide that is alleviating the symptoms," says Fidani.

What Is "Face Basting?"

Similar to slugging, "skin basting" or "face basting" locks moisture into the skin. It can do this with diaper cream, which has also been reported to help with acne, Fidani says. "Now, this moisture-locking property of skin basting is likely from the base of the diaper cream and this is where things can get sticky for acne-prone skin," she adds.

"For adult skin and non-acne prone skin, the rich moisture-locking ingredients in diaper cream such as triple paste can help 'occlude' or lock in the underlying skin products placed on the skin," Fidani says. "For instance, if serums are layered onto the skin, and then moisturizers, and then diaper cream is placed on top, this rich cream will help lock in the underlying products."

Why You Shouldn't Use Diaper Rash Cream for Acne

Although diaper cream has ingredients known to lock in moisture—white petrolatum, lanolin, beeswax, glycerin—these same ingredients can also be comedogenic, or pore-clogging, says Fidani.

"[In pimples,] there's a lot of inflammation and bacteria and it needs to be healed," Dr. Gertsman explains. Because of this, applying diaper rash cream formulated with occlusive petroleum is problematic, especially when you have acne. "That's why it's not a good idea," says Dr. Gertsman. "Basically you're taking oily, inflated, and potentially infected skin and putting a barrier on it and potentially making it worse."

What to Use Instead

Despite its proponents on social media, "skin basting" with diaper cream should not be your go-to acne-fighting hack. "For short-term helpful results, it could cause long-term complications like pore clogging and residual acne," says Fidani. She recommends switching to a non-comedogenic acne care product instead.

The Final Takeaway

As much as we love a good skincare hack, it's important to do your research before acting as a guinea pig. As we learned from diaper rash cream as a facial treatment, while zinc oxide wields benefits for acne-prone skin, certain occlusives, like white petrolatum, do not.

"My advice for people who come across these viral skin hacks is to take them with a grain of salt," says Fidani. "Although in theory, they seem like they may work, there may be long-term implications or some side effects that aren’t discussed. Always check in with your local board-certified dermatologist or skincare provider to be sure you are not hurting yourself in the long run."



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