10 Things You Never Knew About Vernix

Is it cheese? Is it phlegm? Nope. That's vernix your newborn is covered in. Here's everything you ever wanted to know about the unsightly stuff.

10 Things You Never Knew About Vernix

Newborn baby with vernix Layland Masuda/Getty Images
1. It's protection. When a baby's skin in still developing in the womb, it's covered with a thick, white, cheese-like layer called vernix caseosa. Its main jobs? To help protect delicate skin from the acidic quality of the amniotic fluid and to help keep infection at bay.

2. It's a moisturizer! Vernix is also your baby's first beauty product. The thick substance acts as a sealant, shielding the baby's skin from the drying effects of amniotic fluid. Without vernix, your precious newborn would look like a big ol' wrinkled prune.

3. It's also a lube. That slippery slime does double duty as a lubricant, helping your baby slide out of the birth canal a bit easier.

4. It's a baby's first blanket. The cheesy coating is also as a baby warmer, insulating her body and maintaining a proper—and comfortable—temperature in utero.

5. It's only human. People are the only animals whose newborns are coated in vernix.

6. It muffles sound. Although your baby-to-be can start to hear your voice by about week 25, sound is pretty muffled because his ears are covered with sound-shielding vernix.

7. Sometimes it's not there. If your baby is overdue, the vernix may be scant or missing entirely. The reason: It was likely already absorbed in the amniotic fluid.

8. You can leave it be. Don't be so quick to wipe the goopy gunk off your newborn's skin. Research shows that removing vernix is not necessary for hygienic reasons, and leaving it may even provide antibacterial promotion and wound healing. The World Health Organization advises delaying baby's first bath for 24 hours.

9. It's not always white. If a newborn's vernix is not the expected creamy white, but a yellowish brown or green tinge instead, that's a good indicator that baby already passed meconium (aka the first poop). And it's a good indicator that, yeah, perhaps you should wipe this type of vernix off.

10. It lingers in folds. Don't be surprised if you find this sticky substance hidden in baby's under-diaper nooks and crannies. Vernix likes to hide in the folds of the vagina for several days or even weeks. Gently wipe it away or simply leave it.