Acne at Different Life Stages and Ages

Acne in Babies, Children, Teens and Adults

It's typically thought of as a teen problem. But acne can appear at any age, from birth to well into the adult years.

Acne is treated differently depending on what age it appears. Find out how and why acne happens at different stages of life, when to start treatment, when to let it be, and when to see a doctor.

Acne in Newborns (Neonatal Acne)

Baby Milia skin
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Bet you didn't think you'd have to deal with breakouts this early, right? Although moms and dads are often taken aback when their little one develops pimples, they aren't uncommon in newborn babies.

Newborn baby acne, also called neonatal acne, occurs within the first six weeks of life. Some babies even make their appearance into the world with a few pimples.

Although it's not true acne vulgaris, newborn baby acne causes red bumps and pimples on baby's cheeks, nose, and chin.

Newborn baby acne isn't serious and usually clears up on its own within a few short weeks. There's no reason to treat it. Of course, if you're at all concerned, talk with your pediatrician.

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Baby Acne (AKA Infantile Acne)

Infant having cream applied to pimples
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There's another type of "baby acne" called infantile acne. It happens in older babies, after six weeks of age.

Infantile acne isn't as common as neonatal acne, so if you're noticing pimple-like breakouts on your little one you'll want to bring it up with the pediatrician. Although most cases of infantile acne aren't a big deal and will clear up without treatment, in some cases your baby's doctor might want to check for an endocrine disorder.

Some infants may develop more severe papules, pustules, and nodules. Unlike newborn baby acne, severe infantile acne is treated with acne treatment medications (under your physicians's supervision, of course).

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Acne in Children (Ages 1-7)

Toddler with acne
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Acne in this age group is very rare and warrants a call to the pediatrician.

First, are you sure that what you're seeing is really acne? There are other skin problems that cause acne-like breakouts.

Heat rash and folliculitis, for example, both cause red bumps that can be mistaken for pimples. Anytime your child has a rash you're not sure about, call the pediatrician.

If your child really does have a case of acne vulgaris, especially if it's widespread or severe, your child's physician will probably want a full workup done, possibly even a referral to an endocrinologist. This is especially true if your child has signs of early puberty.

Acne in Preteens (Ages 7-12)

Preteen girl looking in mirror at a pimple
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You may think your eight-year-old is too young to have acne, but it's perfectly normal for kids in this age group to have the beginnings of acne. As puberty starts, so does acne.

Acne breakouts at this age are usually mild, mainly blackheads and comedones with the occasional pimple. Starting an over-the-counter acne treatment now is a good idea.

One thing to keep in mind here – preteens that develop acne early often get more severe acne during the teen years.

If your preteen has acne, keep a close eye on their skin. If you aren't seeing good results with an OTC product, you should also talk with a pediatrician or, ideally, a dermatologist.

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Teen Acne

Teen examining acne
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Hormones really start raging during the teenage years, and so does acne. It's completely normal, but that doesn't mean teens have to live with it.

There are so many good acne treatments available, so nearly every case of acne can be controlled. It's just a matter of finding which treatment works best for you.

Start with an OTC acne product, preferably one that contains benzoyl peroxide. If this doesn't work, make an appointment with a dermatologist. Depending on your skin, your doctor may prescribe a topical treatment, oral medication, or a combination of the two.

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Adult Acne

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Adults get acne too. Adult acne is caused by the same things as teen acne – primarily, hormones. This explains why women tend to break out more often than men.

Those treatments you used as a teenager might not be the best choice for adult breakouts, though. Unless your acne is very mild, OTC products won't do much good.

The better option is to see a dermatologist. You'll get faster results with a prescription medication.

No matter what your age, acne isn't something that you have to live with. With the right treatment, your acne can be cleared.

Sources:

"Adult Acne: Effective Treatment Available." AcneNet. 20 Sep 07. American Academy of Dermatology. Accessed 22 Aug 13.

"Early Acne Often Predicts Severe Acne." AcneNet. American Academy of Dermatology, n.d. Web. 26 Aug 2013. http://www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/early_acne.html.

Eichenfield LF, Krakowski AC, Piggott C, Del Rosso J, Baldwin H, Thiboutot DM, et. al.; American Acne and Rosacea Society. "Evidence-based Recommendations for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pediatric Acne." Pediatrics 2013;131;S163. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-0490B

Friedlander SF, Baldwin HE, Mancini AJ, Yan AC, Eichenfield LF. "The Acne Continuum: an Age-Based Approach to Therapy." Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2011 Sep;30(3 Suppl):S6-11.

"Infantile Acne." AcneNet. American Academy of Dermatology, n.d. Web. 26 Aug 2013. http://www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/infantileacne.html.

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