A Parent's Guide to Newborn Baby Acne

Learn What Causes Baby Acne and How Its Treated

Baby with acne
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Despite how alarming it may look to new parents, newborn baby acne is a common and harmless condition. It tends to appear within the first month or so after birth, although it can occur earlier or later. Some babies have a mild case of acne when they're born. Luckily, this type of baby acne is fleeting and nearly always goes away quickly and without treatment.

What Newborn Acne Looks Like

Newborn baby acne, also called neonatal acne, looks like a rough, red rash.

It's most common on the infant's cheeks and nose, although it can appear anywhere on the face and back. Comedones and papules will be present, and possibly some small pustules. Baby acne may come and go and tends to look worse when the baby is fussy or crying.

If you suspect your baby has acne, you should check with your pediatrician. Many other conditions common in infants, such as eczema, erythema toxicum, and heat rash, can resemble baby acne.

Causes of Baby Acne

Most baby acne develops during the weeks after birth, likely due to hormones that passed from mother to infant during the last stage of pregnancy.

Baby acne can be aggravated by milk, formula, or spit-up coming in contact with the skin. Other irritants include rough fabrics or fabrics laundered in strong detergent. If your baby has acne, don't use soap, lotion, or creams on his or her 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.

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. It doesn't harm your baby and is purely a cosmetic issue.

Gently wash your baby's face with plain water once or twice per day and don't scrub. Cleansing that is too frequent or too vigorous will irritate your baby's skin.

In very 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 is much longer lasting than newborn baby acne, lasting from a few months to several years. Unlike newborn acne, infantile acne can sometimes cause scarring, but can be treated with prescription medications. Infantile acne looks similar to acne on a teenager, with 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.

But as far as newborn baby acne is concerned, nearly all cases resolve without treatment in just a few weeks time. So enjoy your new baby, and don't let his acne worry you.

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