A Parent's Guide to Infantile Acne (Baby Acne)

What To Do When Your Baby Is Breaking Out

Infant having cream applied to pimples
Photo: Michele Constantini / Getty Images

So you're noticing bumps and breakouts on your sweet baby's skin -- bumps and breakouts that look suspiciously like acne.  But can babies even get acne?

Surprisingly, yes.  It's called infantile acne.

Infantile acne appears in babies two months to one year old.  Baby boys get infantile acne more often than baby girls.

Infantile Acne Versus Newborn Baby Acne

Although most people categorize any type of breakout on a little one as "baby acne," there really is a big difference between acne in a newborn and acne in an older baby.

Newborn baby acne (AKA neonatal acne) appears within the first six weeks of life.  It looks like little red bumps or whiteheads across the newborn's face or body. 

Newborn baby acne is very common.  It typically doesn't need to be treated.  The vast majority of cases will go away on its own within a few short months.

Infantile acne, on the other hand, is not nearly as common as newborn acne.  It first appears in babies older than two months old. 

Infantile acne is much longer lasting than newborn baby acne.  It can last several months to several years.  Unlike newborn acne, infantile acne can sometimes cause scarring and can be treated with prescription medications.

What Does Infantile Acne Look Like?

Infantile acne looks just like the acne you'd expect to see on a teenager.  You'll see blackheads, papules, and pustules

Breakouts are typically found on the cheeks, but they can also happen on the chin, nose and forehead.

  Usually the breakouts are mild to moderate.

Not all bumps and breakouts are "baby acne," though. There are other reasons your baby might have a pimple-like rash, so it's important that you talk with your baby's pediatrician if you notice anything questionable on your baby's skin.

Treating Infantile Acne

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.

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:

In rare cases, babies with infantile acne also have abnormally high levels of the hormones that cause puberty.  If your baby also has the beginnings of breast development or testicular growth, underarm or pubic hair, further testing will be needed.  You'll most likely be referred to a pediatric endocrinologist.

Some experts believe that children who have acne as babies are much more likely to have severe acne as teens.  Once your child hits puberty, it's worthwhile to keep a close eye on their skin, just in case, and see a dermatologist as soon as you notice acne breakouts.

6 Treatment Tips for You and Your Baby

  1. Gently cleanse your baby's face, especially after feedings.  Use a soft washcloth and a mild soap.
  2. 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.
  3. Don't pick, pop, or squeeze the blemishes.  Let them heal on their own.
  4. Don't try to treat infantile acne yourself with over-the-counter acne medications.
  5. Do talk to your pediatrician about your baby's acne.  You may also want to consider seeing a pediatric dermatologist if you're baby's acne is severe.
  6. Breakouts can be distressing to you as a parent, but they bother you more than they bother your baby.  Remember, this is a passing phase.  Enjoy your sweet little one!

Sources:

"Infantile Acne." AcneNet. American Academy of Dermatology, n.d. Web. 23 Oct 2013. http://www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/infantileacne.html.

Eichenfield LF, Krakowski AC, Piggott C, Del Rosso J, Baldwin H, Friedlander SF, Levy M, Lucky A, Mancini AJ, Orlow SJ, Yan AC, Vaux KK, Webster G, Zaenglein AL, Thiboutot DM.  "Evidence-Based Recommendations for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pediatric Acne."  Pediatrics 2013;131;S163.

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