How to Treat Baby Acne

What To Do When Your Baby Is Breaking Out

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Peering at the face of their otherwise perfect infant, many parents find it hard to believe what they're seeing: What appears to be acne, sometimes referred to as pediatric acne or "baby acne."

Infantile acne often clears up on its own but sometimes requires treatment. It may also be a sign of an underlying health condition.

This article explains what baby acne looks like, what causes it, and how it's diagnosed and treated.

An infant with some acne
princessdlaf / Getty Images

Symptoms

Infantile acne, just like other types of acne, is characterized by blackheads, papules, and pustules. Acne nodules and cysts may develop, too, though they're rare. Breakouts typically occur on the cheeks, but they can appear on the chin, nose, and forehead. The breakouts are usually mild to moderate in severity, though some babies develop inflammatory acne. (Bacteria triggers inflammatory acne; clogged or closed pores cause non-inflammatory acne.)

Baby acne typically lasts for six to 12 months, though in some cases it can last for a few years. The condition affects about 2% of infants ages 2 months to 12 months and is more common in boys than girls.

Causes

It's been difficult for researchers to pinpoint a cause of baby acne. But the general consensus is that it's rooted in the same factors that cause teen acne—namely, androgen hormones within the body that stimulate the sebaceous glands to create more oil.

The excess oil plugs the pores, creating impactions called comedones. Bacteria that exist normally on the skin begin to multiply in the blocked pore, leading to irritation, redness, and swelling. All this results in an inflamed pimple.

Some experts believe that children who have acne as babies are more likely to have severe acne as teens. There may also be a genetic component. Babies with acne often have parents who have had acne at some point in their lives.

Don't Fret An Imbalance

Acne doesn't mean your baby has a hormone imbalance; most babies with infantile acne have hormone levels completely within normal range. Instead, babies with infantile acne are just more sensitive to the hormones that contribute to acne.

Diagnosis

If you're concerned about your baby's acne, consult your pediatrician, who can determine if it is, in fact, acne or another skin condition. If the acne is severe, you may be referred to a pediatric dermatologist.

Rarely, acne at this age can be a sign of an underlying hormonal problem, such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia. To rule this out, your healthcare provider may need to do blood tests to check hormone levels and look for other physical symptoms. If testing reveals a hormonal condition, you'll most likely be referred to a pediatric endocrinologist, someone who specializes in how hormonal glands function in young people.

Similar Conditions

Not all bumps and breakouts are signs of baby acne. There are other reasons your baby might have a pimple-like rash, including:

Your pediatrician should be able to home in on the correct diagnosis.

Newborn Acne vs. Infantile Acne

Though the terms are easily confused, there are significant differences between acne in a newborn and acne in an older baby.

Newborn Acne
  • Appears within the first six weeks of life

  • Affects up to 20% of newborns

  • Doesn't last long and usually resolves on its own without treatment

  • Doesn't leave scars

Infantile Acne
  • Typically appears between 3 and 6 months of age

  • Affects less than 2% of infants

  • May last as long as two years or more and may require prescription treatment

  • Can cause scarring

Treatment

The most common course of treatment for infantile acne is the "wait it out" approach. Since most cases of infantile acne clear up without treatment, this is probably what your baby's pediatrician will recommend, especially if the acne is mild.

As a parent, you're probably eager to do everything you can for your baby. Some pointers should help you:

  • Gently cleanse your baby's face, especially after feedings. Use a soft washcloth and plain water or a mild fragrance-free soap with water when needed.
  • Don't scrub your baby's skin. It's delicate. Scrubbing or vigorous washing won't clear up breakouts faster; it will only irritate the skin.
  • Don't pick, pop, or squeeze the blemishes. Let them heal on their own.
  • Don't try to treat infantile acne yourself with over-the-counter acne medications. The products can be very harsh on your infant's skin.
  • Avoid using greasy ointments.

If acne is more severe, or if it's leaving scars, your baby may be prescribed an acne treatment to help get it under control. Infantile acne is treated in much the same way as teen acne. In fact, your pediatrician may even prescribe a medication like:

Summary

Acne is simple enough to identify because you've probably seen it before—in a teen or maybe in a mirror. Infantile looks similar to teen or adult acne: a cluster of pimples somewhere on the cheeks, chin, nose, or forehead. Baby acne usually occurs when a little one is between 3 and 6 months old. It could fade quickly or it could last several years. And it's more common in baby boys. Keeping your infant's skin clean, without fussing over it, will help baby acne disappear faster.

A Word from Verywell

Seeing acne on your baby's face can be alarming, but it's not unusual. And it's rarely a sign of anything serious. To ease your mind, consult your pediatrician.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you treat baby acne at home?

    In most cases, baby acne clears up on its own, so you don't have to do much of anything except clean your baby's face gently with water or a mild baby soap. Also, avoid putting greasy products on the baby's face.

  • What type of soap can you use to treat baby acne?

    It's best to wash your baby's face with plain water or water with a mild, fragrance-free soap.

Was this page helpful?
4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Eichenfield LF, Krakowski AC, Piggott C, et al.  Evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric acne. Pediatrics. 2013 May;131 Suppl 3:S163-86. doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-0490B.

  2. Solman L, Layton AM. Acne in childhoodPaediatrics and Child Health. 2019;29(2):85-89. doi:10.1016/j.paed.2019.01.004.

  3. Samycia M, Lam JM. Infantile acne. CMAJ. 2016;188(17-18):E540. doi:10.1503/cmaj.160139.

  4. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Is that acne on my baby's face?