Baby Acne: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Baby acne, often called neonatal acne, appears in infants shortly after birth and can persist for weeks or even months. It usually manifests as tiny red or pustular bumps on a baby’s face, especially the cheeks, nose, and forehead. While it might be distressing for parents, it’s generally harmless and tends to clear up without leaving any scars.

What causes baby acne?

Baby acne, or neonatal acne, is a common condition in many newborns. The exact cause is not entirely understood, but several factors are believed to contribute:

Maternal Hormones: One of the primary suspected causes of baby acne is the hormones passed from mother to baby during the final stages of pregnancy. These hormones stimulate the baby’s sebaceous (oil) glands, which can lead to the development of acne.

Immature Skin: A newborn’s skin is still developing, and its oil glands can sometimes become overactive, leading to clogged pores, resulting in pimples.

Yeast: Some studies suggest that certain yeasts (specifically, the Malassezia species) on the skin might be involved in developing or exacerbating baby acne.

Skin Irritation: Baby acne can also be aggravated by milk, formula, or saliva residue, rough fabrics, or fabrics cleaned with strong detergents. Also, a baby’s skin might react to a lotion or soap.

What are the symptoms of baby acne?

Baby acne, also known as neonatal acne, typically presents with the following symptoms:

Red or White Bumps: These are often small, pustular bumps that resemble tiny pimples. They can be filled with pus or appear as raised red spots.

Appearance on the Face: Baby acne is most commonly seen on the cheeks, but it can also appear on the forehead, nose, and sometimes the chin.

Occasional Spread: In some cases, these bumps might also spread to the neck or the upper back.

Redness: The skin surrounding the pimples might appear reddish and slightly inflamed.

Not Itchy or Painful: Unlike other skin conditions, such as eczema, baby acne is not usually itchy or painful for the infant. The baby is generally not bothered by the acne.

Fluctuation: The severity of baby acne can fluctuate. For instance, it might become more noticeable when the baby is hot or fussy or if the skin is irritated by saliva, milk, or fabric that’s a bit rough.

Baby acne treatment

Baby acne is usually a temporary and harmless condition that often clears up without specific treatment. However, there are a few things parents and caregivers can do to manage and care for a baby’s skin during this time.

General Care:

Gentle Cleansing: Clean the baby’s face daily with mild baby soap and water. Gently pat the skin dry with a soft cloth. Avoid scrubbing, as it can irritate the skin.

Avoid Lotions and Oils: In areas with acne, it’s best to avoid using lotions or oils, as they can exacerbate the condition by clogging the pores further.

Keep the Area Clean: Wipe away any milk or saliva from the baby’s face, which can irritate the skin.

Avoid Pinching or Scrubbing: Do not pinch or scrub the acne, as it can lead to further irritation or scarring.

Loose Clothing: If the baby’s acne is also present on the body, make sure your baby wears loose-fitting clothes to reduce skin irritation.

When to See a doctor:

Persistent Acne: If the baby’s acne persists for over a few months or seems to be worsening, it’s a good idea to consult a pediatrician.

Possible Infections: If the pimples become larger, filled with pus, or appear to be spreading rapidly, they could be a sign of a bacterial infection, and you should seek medical attention.

Other Symptoms: If your baby displays other symptoms, like a fever, swelling, or lethargy, along with the skin condition, it’s essential to see a doctor.

Uncertainty about Diagnosis: Baby acne can sometimes be confused with other skin conditions, such as eczema, milia, or allergic reactions. If you’re unsure about the diagnosis, always consult a pediatrician.

Home Treatments:

Breast Milk: Some parents dab a small amount of breast milk on the acne, believing its natural antibodies can help. However, this method’s effectiveness is anecdotal.

Coconut Oil: It can be used as a natural moisturizer and has antimicrobial properties. However, use it sparingly and cautiously, as it can also clog pores.

Cornstarch: It can help absorb excess oil. If using, make a paste with water and apply it gently to the affected area. Rinse off after a few minutes.

Underlying Conditions:

While baby acne is usually benign and self-limiting, in rare cases, persistent skin issues might indicate an underlying condition. These could include:

Hormonal Imbalances: An imbalance might cause prolonged acne in a baby.

Allergic Reactions: If a baby’s rash is due to an allergy, there might be other symptoms like swelling or itching.

Eczema: This condition leads to dry, flaky patches on the skin and can be itchy. It requires a different treatment than acne.

Milia: These are small white bumps often mistaken for acne but tiny cysts resulting from skin flakes trapped under the skin.

Infections: Some skin infections can resemble baby acne but would generally have other accompanying symptoms. Always consult a pediatrician or healthcare professional if you’re concerned about your baby’s skin or health. They can provide guidance tailored to your baby’s specific situation.

If you’re concerned about your baby’s skin or health, always consult a pediatrician or healthcare professional. They can provide guidance tailored to your baby’s specific situation.