Baby acne is characterized by tiny red or white bumps or pimples that develop on your baby’s face or body. It usually appears on the cheeks, chin, and forehead. Some babies may also have acne on their back. This condition is very common and tends to develop a couple of weeks after birth. Fortunately, it is temporary, and it normally doesn’t bother your baby.
This condition may appear worse when the baby is crying or when the skin blood flow increases. Rough fabrics could lead to further irritation, as can fabrics washed with strong laundry detergent.
Baby acne can sometimes be confused with other skin conditions. One is milia – tiny white bumps on your baby’s face that typically show up a day or two after birth. These are not related to acne and disappear within a few weeks. There are also some skin rashes in children that can resemble baby acne. If the irritation looks more like a rash or if you notice any scales on your baby’s skin, it can indicate another condition, such as cradle cap or eczema.
What is causing baby acne?
Although it is a common skin condition, it is not clear exactly what causes baby acne. Some experts blame the hormones that babies receive from their mother at the end of pregnancy. These maternal hormones stimulate baby's oil glands, and with the baby’s pores not being fully developed, this causes pimples to pop up. Another theory is that acne may be triggered if the mother takes certain medications while breastfeeding or if the baby takes certain medications. In some cases, acne can be caused by a skincare product, especially an oily one that blocks the pores.
How long does baby acne last?
Baby acne usually appears at 2 to 3 weeks of age and clears up within a few weeks without leaving permanent scars. However, it can sometimes persist for months. If you are concerned about your baby’s skin condition or if the acne doesn’t clear up within three months, speak with your baby’s doctor.
How to treat baby acne
Baby acne is harmless and usually resolves on its own, even without treatment. While waiting for your baby’s acne to clear, you can do the following:
• Don’t squeeze, or pick acne because it will irritate your baby’s skin and may make the problem worse.
• Wash the areas affected daily with a mild baby soap and water. Gently pat skin dry.
• Don't scrub. Scrubbing the skin can further irritate it.
• Don’t use oily lotions in affected areas. It can make the acne worse.
• Avoid over-the-counter acne treatments you would use on yourself. Your baby’s skin is very delicate and using something that is too strong might cause additional skin irritation.
• Be patient. Keep in mind that your baby is not bothered by the acne.
When to see a doctor
If you are concerned that your baby’s acne isn’t going away, you should consult your pediatrician. Some babies have acne that persists for several months. Your doctor can recommend or prescribe safe treatments that can help clear up the acne.
Also, bring it to your pediatrician's attention right away if the acne look like they might be infected, for example, if the skin appears more red than usual, or if you notice any swelling or discharge.