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Treatment and Help for Baby Acne


Causes and treatment of baby acne

No one wants to see acne on their sweet newborn. We all expect babies to have flawless skin, but the reality is that baby acne happens to about 20-30% of infants.

While your newborn photo shoot might require some touch-ups, the good news is that baby acne doesn’t bother your baby and usually clears up on its own.

What is baby acne?

Baby acne looks like, well, acne! It may appear as red bumps or whiteheads with a red base, usually on the cheeks, nose, forehead, and even the neck or upper back. It’s most common between 2 weeks until 2 months of age.

Is it my fault?

No one knows for sure why babies develop baby acne. Some believe that it may be related to hormone exposure during pregnancy, or genetics may play a role.

What can I do?

While we don’t know for sure what causes baby acne, we do know that it is not dangerous and will clear up with time. While no medical treatment is needed for most cases, there are a few things you can do at home to help.

  • Gently cleanse your baby’s skin daily with a very mild soap (or just a wet washcloth), rinse, and pat dry. Don’t scrub!
  • Avoid harsh soaps or adult acne medications. These can irritate baby’s skin and make the acne look worse
  • Avoid lotions or baby oil–these can clog your baby’s pores and make the problem worse.
  • Avoid picking at the bumps or attempting to pop the whiteheads. This could lead to more irritation or even scarring.
  • Be patient! In almost all cases it will get better in a month or two.

What if it’s not baby acne?

There are some skin conditions that can mimic baby acne. Here are some of the most common:

  • Milia: These are tiny white bumps that tend to show up about the same time as baby acne. They’re caused by skin flakes getting trapped near the surface of the skin, usually on the nose, chin, or cheeks. These are also harmless and do not require any treatment.
  • Erythema toxicum: This is a larger red area with overlying white or yellow bumps. It tends to appear in the first 1-2 weeks of life and goes away within a week or so without any treatment.
  • Eczema: This is a red, scaly, bumpy rash that may appear flaky. It shows up on baby’s faces but can also be anywhere else on the body, especially on the knees and outside of elbows. It tends to be quite itchy.
  • Heat rash: This is caused by blocked pores trapping sweat under the skin. It tends to happen in areas that get hot and sweaty, such as the neck, arm pits, and creases of elbows, knees, wrists, and feet.
  • Cradle cap: The scalp is where you are most likely to find cradle cap, which looks like scaly or crusty patches. They tend to look greasy and might be white or yellow.

Do I need to see a doctor?

You don’t generally need to see a doctor, but if the bumps become very large or inflamed, if blackheads develop, or if there are other symptoms such as unusual hair growth or very oily skin, you might want to check with your pediatrician. If you think it might be baby acne, but are worried or stressed about it, it’s always okay to ask.

Where can I learn more?

Camber Hess is a Family Nurse Practitioner working at a family practice in Utah seeing all ages and treating a wide variety of conditions. She has 2 kids of her own, ages 3 and 4 months.

Natalie Monson

I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.

Learn More about Natalie

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Great tips! I’m a big fan of the Baby Balm from Beautycounter. It works like a charm even for the most challenging eczema.

I am very happy to see this type article. It is very useful and exciting. The best blessings of this article is giving properly idea to each and every readers and also it’s giving correct impressions. I found your website very interested and informative. I have read about this first time. By The way, I have learned new things from this post. Doing an experiment gives us the inspiration of new invention. Thanks for sharing the ideas with us. Carry on!!!

My nephew has drool rashes on his mouth, neck, and chest. The rashes have started to blister, developed pus. He rubs off any ointment or lotion we apply. what shall we do?

Hi Fatimah, congrats on your new baby! The best way to confirm what kind of rash your newborn has is to take him/her to your family’s pediatrician. A drool rash can usually be left to heal on it’s own, but your baby’s doctor may recommend testing or feeding changes if she suspects an allergy.

Newborn baby acne on the face or other parts of the body is a common issue for every newborn. This article helps me avoid lotions or baby oil–these make the problem worse. It may be the result or effect of a mother’s hormone which circulates in the baby’s system since pregnancy. Thanks for your super tips.

Hi Adeyemi, if the rash is on your baby’s head and legs too, it may not be baby acne. I suggest seeing your baby’s doctor to find out exactly what the rash is before treating. Good luck!

It’s better to avoid moisturizer as it can clog their pores and make the acne worse- but you can consult with your pediatrician!