How to Treat Baby Acne

What To Do When Your Baby Is Breaking Out

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Infantile acne, sometimes referred to as "baby acne," affects approximately 2% of infants aged 2 months to 12 months old and is more common in boys than girls. The symptoms of infantile acne are comparable to other types of acne.

Infantile acne usually goes away on its own, but in some cases it may require treatment or may be a sign of an underlying health condition. Here's what to know about symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

An infant with some acne
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Symptoms

Infantile acne, just like other types of acne, is characterized by blackheads, papules, and pustules. Rarely, acne nodules and cysts may also develop.

Breakouts are typically found on the cheeks, but they can also happen on the chin, nose, and forehead. The breakouts most often are mild to moderate, but some babies develop more severe inflammatory acne.

Causes

Although no exact cause has been pinpointed, the general consensus is that infantile acne is rooted in the same factors that cause teen acne. Namely, androgen hormones within the body 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—i.e., an inflamed pimple.

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.

It's only in very rare cases that babies with infantile acne have abnormally high levels of the hormones that cause puberty. If so, your baby will likely also have the beginnings of breast development or testicular growth and underarm or pubic hair.

Some experts believe that children who have acne as babies are much 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.

Diagnosis

If you're concerned about your baby's acne, you should talk to your pediatrician, who can determine if it is 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 that 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.

Similar Conditions

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

If you are concerned about your baby's skin, it's important that you bring it up with your pediatrician to get the correct diagnosis. Don't just assume it's baby acne.

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 occurs 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 acne is mild.

Here's how to care for your baby's skin if acne is present:

  • Gently cleanse your baby's face, especially after feedings. Use a soft washcloth and plain water, or a mild fragrance-free soap when needed.
  • Don't scrub at the skin. Your baby's skin is delicate. Scrubbing or vigorous washing won't clear up breakouts faster but will 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. These can be very harsh on your infant's skin.
  • Avoid using greasy products on your baby's face.

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.

Some medications that may be prescribed:

A Word from Verywell

Seeing acne on your baby's face can be alarming, but it's not unusual and it is rarely a sign of something serious.

Usually, infantile acne clears up on its own and the best treatment is no treatment at all. If your child's acne is severe, if it's scarring, or if you notice other symptoms, talk with your pediatrician.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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 anything except clean your baby's face gently with water or a mild soap and avoid putting greasy products on their face.

What soap can you use to treat baby acne?

It's best to wash your baby's face with water or a mild, fragrance-free soap unless a pediatrician has prescribed something else.

Can you use breast milk to treat baby acne?

There is no scientific evidence suggesting that breast milk is effective for baby acne. However, breast milk is known to have antimicrobial and inflammatory properties.

How long does baby acne last?

Baby acne typically lasts for six to 12 months, though in some cases it can last for a few years.

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7 Sources
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