Lanugo, hair on the skin of the newborn

Muhammad Usman Babar
3 min readMar 30, 2021

Some babies, especially premature babies, are born covered in lanugo, a hair that can be long and dark. We explain what its functions are during pregnancy, and how it is detached from the body of the newborn.

Some babies are born with a lot of long, dark hair on the body, especially on the back and shoulders, but also on the face or ears. Some first-time parents might get scared thinking they have given birth to a furry little cave boy, but nothing could be further from the truth. This fine layer of hair is called lanugo, it is totally normal (and even recurrent in premature babies ), and it is shed from the body of babies in the first weeks of life.

What is lanugo and what is it for

Lanugo, as we said, is the hair that some newborns have, and is part of the vernix caseosa, a thin layer also known as sebaceous oil, which covers the delicate skin of the baby to protect it from the aggressions of some substances with irritant capacity. found in amniotic fluid.

Lanugo first appears on the fetal head, around the 13th week of pregnancy, and by the middle of the gestation period (20th week), it already covers all the baby’s skin.

As part of vernix caseosa, lanugo also helps the fetus maintain optimal body temperature during pregnancy, avoiding dehydration, dampness, and cold. Besides, it also plays a fundamental role at the time of delivery, since this sebaceous oil helps the fetus to slide better through the birth canal.

Lanugo first appears on the fetal head around the 13th week of pregnancy, and by the middle of the gestation period ( 20th week ), it already covers all its skin. This fine layer of hair is not completely shed from the body until about the 40th week of pregnancy, and being suspended in the amniotic fluid contributes to the formation of meconium. This data would explain why it is more common for premature babies to be born with lanugo, and is that due to its gestational age it has not had time to close the natural cycle of the shedding process.

Does the baby’s excess hair need any care?

As is often the case in any unexpected and unfamiliar situation, parents may show some concern, especially of an aesthetic nature, when they see their baby’s body full of hair. However, there is nothing to worry about, as the lanugo will shed itself from the newborn’s body during the first days and weeks after delivery.

This means that it does not require any type of treatment, action, or special care to eliminate it since it is a physiological process that has its own rhythms and that we must respect, although some experts recognize that gently massaging the baby’s skin can facilitate and accelerate the removal of lanugo.

However, these same sources remind us that this is not only not necessary, but it can also carry risks. We must not forget that the skin of babies is very delicate and that if we unconsciously rub too hard it can lead to redness and dryness in the massaged area. So it is best to wait patiently for the lanugo to come off just from your child’s skin.