Newborn Baby Acne: A Parent's Guide

What Causes Baby Acne in Newborns and What Parents Can Do About It

Baby with acne
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Newborn baby acne is an extremely common condition that appears within the first few months of a newborn's life. It's thought that newborn baby acne develops because of hormones passed from the mother to baby during pregnancy. In any case, newborn baby acne is completely harmless and will go away on its own, without treatment.

Newborn Baby Acne is Very Common

Your sweet little newborn's soft skin suddenly becomes covered in small, red pimples. It's hard not to freak out – what's happening to your baby's face?

Don't worry, Mommy and Dad. Despite how alarming it looks to new parents, newborn baby acne is super common. And there's no need to worry; newborn baby acne is a harmless condition.

Newborn baby acne typically appears within the first month or so after birth, although it can occur earlier or later. Some babies are even born with a mild case of baby acne. You may see a spike in breakouts between weeks two and four.

The good news is newborn baby acne is fleeting and nearly always goes away quickly and without treatment. Most cases of newborn baby acne completely clear by the time the little one reaches six months old.

Identifying Newborn Baby Acne

Newborn baby acne, also called neonatal acne, looks remarkably similar to the acne you may have had during your teenage years. Your baby might have clogged pores (called comedones), red papules and possibly small pustules. In some babies, newborn acne looks like a rough, bumpy red rash.

It's most common on infant's cheeks and nose, although it can appear anywhere on the face. Your baby may even break out on her back and shoulders. Baby acne may come and go over the course of several weeks and can look worse when baby is fussy or crying.

Newborns also are prone to developing milia during their first few weeks of life, and many babies are born with these blemishes. Milia look like tiny white bumps on the skin, similar to pustules but without the inflammation.

Although they are often lumped into the acne breakout category, milia are actually tiny cysts. They happen when a bit of skin oil becomes trapped beneath the very surface of the skin.

Milia are completely harmless and, just like with newborn baby acne, will in the vast majority of cases disappear without treatment.

Still, if you suspect your baby has acne, you should check with your pediatrician just to be certain. Many other skin conditions common in infants, such as eczema and heat rash, can resemble baby acne.

The Causes of Acne in Newborns

Baby acne develops during the initial weeks after birth, most likely due to hormones passed from mother to infant during the last stage of pregnancy. These same hormones can cause acne during pregnancy and acne after giving birth for mom too.

Since baby's skin is delicate, baby acne can be aggravated by milk, formula, or spit-up coming in contact with the skin. Rough fabrics or fabrics laundered in strong detergent can also irritate delicate skin and make baby acne look worse.

If your newborn has acne, don't use soap, lotion, or creams on his face. These can irritate acne, too.

Certain medications, viral illnesses, and allergic reactions can also cause an acne-like rash. So if, for example, your infant develops a rash or acne-like breakout after being sick or taking a new medication, let your doctor know right away.

Treating Your Baby's Acne

Unless your baby's acne is being caused by an underlying condition, there is really no need to treat it. Newborn acne doesn't harm your baby in the least and is purely a cosmetic issue.

All your baby's skin really needs is a gentle wipe down with plain water once or twice per day. Don't use soap on your baby's face and don't scrub. Cleansing that is too frequent or too vigorous will irritate your baby's tender skin.

In extremely rare cases, severe baby acne is treated with topical acne medications. But this should only be done if there is a compelling reason to do so and only under the recommendation of your child's doctor since acne medications are hard on infants' tender skin.

Newborn Baby Acne Versus Infantile Acne

It's important to note there's a significant difference between acne in a newborn and acne in an older baby.

Infantile acne appears in babies older than 2 months of age. It's not nearly as common as newborn baby acne but it's much longer-lasting, lasting from a few months to several years.

Just like with newborn baby acne, infantile acne typically is harmless and goes away on its own. But, in some severe cases, it causes scarring and may be treated with prescription medications. If your baby is older and developing acne, bring it to the attention of your pediatrician.

A Word from Verywell

Remember, nearly every case of newborn baby acne goes away without treatment in just a few short weeks. Bring it to your pediatrician's attention, but don't let acne worry you.

Your sweet little one is lovely and absolutely perfect, even with a few pimples. Enjoy these fleeting first months with your new baby!

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