How to get pen off baby skin

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Babies get covered in all sorts as they navigate the world and grab on to all sorts of things. Most things come off easily with some wipes, or a bath but others not so much, such as pen ink. If us adults get pen on our skin we would just rub it vigorously with some soap and water and off it goes but with a baby this is no easy task.

Their skin is sensitive and they can be unsettled from the action of strong rubbing. So, what’s the best way to get pen ink off baby skin?

What is in ballpoint ink and is it harmful to babies?

Believe it or not, the major manufacturers of pen ink keep their ingredients closely guarded as their sales rely on their performance over competitors. But, generally speaking pen ink is made with:

  • Dye, to add the colour
  • A thickening agent, to control viscosity
  • Surfactant or detergent, to help smooth flow
  • Fungicide, for longevity
  • Additives, to control the PH of the ink & avoid pen damage
  • Perfume, to cover other strong scents and give it that classic pen smell

Read more about that, here.

Pen ink doesn’t penetrate past the first layer of the skin and they contain so little ink that it is harmless. Even when ingested it may cause some irritation but nothing long-term, even for babies. That doesn’t mean you should let your baby play with a pen and draw all over themselves but you shouldn’t panic if it happens. Pens contain so little ink in the tube that the greatest risk a pen can cause is choking and being cut by cracked plastic.

a pen

How to remove pen ink from baby skin

So, your baby has pen on them and you obviously want to get it off. Here’s how:

Soap and Water

Soap’s chemicals react with the warm water and the light rubbing to break down the pen ink to remove it. This is a relatively pain-free method of removing the ink as long as it doesn’t go anywhere near their eyes (it stings!). For babies with sensitive skin or eczema this may not be ideal but we have a solution for those babies, too.

This method may not get it all off, and it could take a couple of washes during the day (since you can’t or won’t want to rub very hard) but it will come off painlessly eventually.

Baby Wipes

Baby wipes are a good but more expensive way to get rid of pen ink on baby skin. Rubbing can be a little more abrasive with wipes since they’re thinner and there’s less water but they will work very well. For babies with sensitive skin or eczema use sensitive baby wipes.

Baby oil

Our last baby safe method of getting pen ink off is with baby oil. This greasy substance is great at lifting the ink off the skin before it can be wiped away with water or wipes. A bit messy as a greasy baby isn’t ideal but using the right baby oil prevents rubbing friction and discomfort. Make sure to use baby oil which is appropriate for your child’s skin – sensitive baby oil for sensitive babies and so on. Rinse away with warm water.


None of these methods are guaranteed to get the ink off in one sitting, the likelihood is that you’ll need to wash a couple of times in the day – the rest will come off naturally as it breaks down and rubs on clothes etc. It’s important to remember than pen ink isn’t a health concern and it won’t poison them if left alone. The biggest reason to wanting to get it off is because it looks like they’re wild animals and unsupervised…we as parents know this is never the case and these kinds of accidents are a part of a normal childhood.