Why Does My Baby Have Acne?

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It may be scary to see your newborn with acne. But here's the good news: Baby acne is common, and there's generally nothing to worry about as it will usually go away on its own. However, there are some conditions to be aware of that can cause similar symptoms.

This article will explain the causes of baby acne, the other conditions that can resemble it, as well as treatment options and remedies you can try to reduce it.

Baby with acne
princessdlaf / Getty Images

Newborn baby acne, also referred to as neonatal acne, is a condition that appears within the first six weeks of a baby's life. The exact cause of neonatal acne isn't certain, but It's thought to develop because of hormones or a reaction to yeast that lives on the skin.

It's important to note that there's a difference between acne in a newborn and acne in an older baby. Infantile acne appears on babies after six weeks of age. It's not nearly as common as newborn baby acne, but it's more persistent, typically lasting six months to a year or more.

If your baby develops infantile acne, it's best to consult a pediatric dermatologist to make sure that your's baby's acne is not caused by an underlying condition or a certain skin product. But just like with newborn baby acne, infantile acne is typically harmless and goes away on its own eventually.

Symptoms

Newborn baby acne may look similar to the acne you may have had during your teenage years. Your baby might have clogged pores, red papules, and possibly small pustules. On some babies, newborn acne looks like a rough, bumpy red rash.

The acne commonly appears on an infant's face, notably on the cheeks and nose. However, it can extend to the scalp, neck, chin, back, or chest. Newborn baby acne may come and go over the course of several weeks and can look worse when the baby is fussy or crying.

Newborn baby acne typically appears during the first two weeks after birth, although it can occur anytime before six weeks of age.

Rash vs. Acne

Acne is not the only skin condition that can affect infants. Rashes from conditions like eczema or even heat rash may be mistaken for acne.

While acne causes pimples, a simple rash, also known as dermatitis, may also involve redness and swelling of the skin. The skin may also be dry, scaly, or itchy. With a rash, bumps and blisters can also appear.

A common cause of rashes is coming into contact with things that may irritate the skin, like diapers, cosmetic products, chemicals, and poison ivy. Rashes can also be a result of other conditions like chickenpox, measles, and insect bites.

Causes

The direct cause of newborn baby acne is unknown. While it may be from high levels of hormones, some research suggests that an inflammatory reaction to skin colonization with Malassezia yeast is the cause.

In addition, since a baby's skin is delicate, it can be irritated by contact with milk, formula, or spit-up, which may lead to acne. Rough fabrics or clothes laundered in harsh detergents can also aggravate delicate skin and make baby acne look worse.

If your newborn has acne, talk to your healthcare provider about which soaps, lotions, or creams are best to use, as some can cause irritation.

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

Similar Conditions

Some conditions may resemble newborn baby acne.

Eczema

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory skin condition that damages the skin barrier function and makes the skin more susceptible to dryness, irritation, and infection.

When your baby has eczema, their immune system overreacts to allergens and environmental triggers such as air pollutants and tobacco smoke, which can inflame the skin and cause symptoms.

Symptoms of eczema can include:

  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Red rashes
  • Bumps
  • Swelling

Food Allergy

If your baby has a food allergy, it means that their immune system thinks that a food protein is harmful and works to fight against it. Symptoms of allergic reactions can include hives or a skin rash, swelling of lips, and stomach pain, and in some cases a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Heat Rash

Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is a rash that's most common in babies and children. It occurs when sweat ducts become blocked and inflamed and sweat gets trapped under the skin. This typically happens when the baby is overdressed or exposed to hot weather. Symptoms of heat rash include itchy, irritated, or reddened skin, in addition to small blisters.

Milia

Milia are small cysts that form due to dead skin cells getting trapped under the skin. Newborns are prone to developing milia during their first few weeks of life. Milia are completely harmless and, just like with newborn baby acne, will in the vast majority of cases disappear without treatment.

Treatment

Unless an underlying condition is the cause of your baby's acne, there is no need to treat it. Newborn acne doesn't harm your baby at all and is purely a cosmetic issue.

In rare cases, topical acne medications may be used to treat baby acne. But doctors will only prescribe them if there is a compelling reason to do so.

Home Remedies

There are certain things you can do at home that may help minimize your baby's acne. First, always be gentle with your baby's skin, making sure not to scrub or pick at their blemishes. Also, try to wash their skin gently with lukewarm water using a clean and soft washcloth at least once or twice daily. Avoid using oily or greasy skincare products on your baby too.

A Word From Verywell

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 beautiful, even with a few pimples. Enjoy these fleeting first months with your new baby!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What makes white dots appear on a newborn nose?

    White dots can appear on a newborn's nose due to milia. Also called milk bumps or milk cysts, while milia may resemble whiteheads, they are not acne. The bumps are created when keratin (dead skin) becomes trapped beneath the skin. Milia often persists for a few weeks and then goes away on its own.

  • Can kisses cause baby acne?

    Kisses are unlikely to cause baby acne. However, there are certain things that can irritate a baby's skin if it touches them. A few examples of these include milk, formula, spit-up, and some soaps and lotion.

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8 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.
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