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Some people are putting diaper cream on their faces to combat dryness and redness. Does ‘face basting’ actually work?

Smearing your face in diaper rash cream might sound like an unconventional step in your skin care routine, but it’s gaining popularity thanks to a dermatologist who swears by the anti-inflammatory effects of the product typically reserved for soothing babies’ bottoms after a day in Huggies. Dr. Shereene Idriss, founder of Idriss Dermatology in New York City, named the technique “face basting” and claims to have done it for years in an effort to heal her skin when it’s particularly dry and irritated.

After sharing her secret on social media, Idriss has watched countless others give face basting a go. Below, she and other dermatologists explain the science behind the viral diaper cream trend.

What is face basting?

It’s a “hack” to achieve supple and happy skin, according to Idriss. She considers the practice of using diaper cream on the face an alternative to the skin care trend of “face slugging,” which involves coating the face with Vaseline or another petroleum-based product to lock in moisture. While face slugging helps to prevent surface water loss, Idriss felt that it didn’t do enough in terms of healing the skin. That’s when she decided to bring a product with zinc oxide into the mix.

“Zinc oxide has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce redness, swelling and irritation associated with inflamed skin,” she tells Yahoo Life. “It’s also known to promote wound healing, which is particularly beneficial for inflamed skin that has been compromised due to conditions like eczema.”

The dermatologist has previously used thick barrier creams on her lips when they’ve been dry and cracked — a method she’s referred to as “lip basting.” During a trip to Utah, she figured her face could use a similar treatment to deal with the dry climate. “Barrier cream is pretty much like Vaseline, but there’s usually the addition of zinc to it, because zinc offers a lot of added benefits to your skin,” she said in a YouTube video explaining her thought process behind the hack.

As it happens, her son’s diaper rash cream was on hand. Figuring that the amount of zinc oxide (12%) contained in the ointment did wonders for his skin, she decided to give it a try for herself. Idriss coated her face in a generous amount of the cream before bed, “much to the dismay of my husband,” she has noted. “When I wake up the next morning, my face is as soft and smooth as my baby’s butt,” Idriss now tells her TikTok followers.

Do you have to use diaper cream?

The use of diaper rash cream has certainly caught the attention of people online, but it isn’t the only product fit for face basting. In reality, any moisturizing product with zinc oxide can work, as that is the hero, or main, ingredient being highlighted. For Idriss, diaper cream just happened to be what she had on hand.

“My diaper cream of choice is Triple Paste,” she tells Yahoo Life. “Along with 12% zinc oxide, it has a mix of cornstarch and oat kernel extract. The cornstarch is beneficial for your pores if you are dry, but get a bit oily or acne-prone in your T-zone. Oat kernel extract is also anti-inflammatory and a natural humectant to help attract moisture to your skin.”

Idriss notes that diaper creams are “not all created equal.” Dr. Elizabeth Houshmand, a dermatologist and fellow at the American Academy of Dermatology, agrees that it’s important to take a look at a product’s entire ingredient list.

“Diaper creams can contain ingredients like lanolin, mineral oil, wax or petroleum jelly,” Houshmand tells Yahoo Life. “These ingredients can cause facial irritation, clogged pores and acne. You can achieve better results with a rich facial moisturizer and products that help with the skin barrier.”

The cost of a diaper cream like Triple Paste in comparison, however, is a selling point — as is the convenience for parents who might already have the product on hand. “Moms are particularly amazed and in love with this hack because you practically get a two-for-one with a product you already own,” says Idriss.

Is face basting right for you?

The dermatologists agree that it depends on your skin type. “If you have oily or acne-prone skin or are someone who suffers from blackheads and pimples, this technique with this type of product may only exacerbate oiliness and flare your acne,” warns Houshmand.

It’s also important to note that zinc comes in different forms, which Idriss points out as a factor for determining what product is right for someone who wants to give it a try. Zinc oxide, which is her preferred form, works best for dry, inflamed, irritated skin but might cause some irritation for someone who is acne-prone, she says. In that case, she would suggest a product with zinc gluconate, which appears in popular barrier creams like La Roche Posay’s Cicaplast Balm B5.

Houshmand also recommends taking a conservative approach to applying diaper cream on the face.

“The trend of face basting using ultrathick barrier-protective ingredients is best for skin exposed to extreme cold outside and drying heat inside. … I don’t recommend it every night, only on an as-needed basis,” she says. “[When applying the cream] the eye area and eyelids should be avoided, as this may cause severe irritation. Also avoid use on any open wounds or cuts.”

Ultimately, she thinks it’s best to get skin care advice from a professional — in person — before trying any trends off social media. What works for one person may not work for all.

“I recommend seeing your board-certified dermatologist who discusses this with you and helps to create a regimen customized for you and your skin type,” says Houshmand. “There are so many options, it’s best to find a customized routine to achieve healthy skin and your skin goals.”

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