What is Baby Acne and How Can You Treat It?

Team Peanut10 months ago7 min read

Baby acne is a skin condition that can develop on your baby’s face and body in the first few months after birth. Sounds scary. But the good news is that it’s really common, it’s temporary, and it’s almost always totally harmless.

Baby acne

So, take a big deep breath. It’s all okay. We get that it can be a bit disconcerting when you see unfamiliar pimples, bumps, or imperfections on your little one’s skin (we’ve been there). Don’t worry, there are many mamas on Peanut whose advice and experience can help guide you through it. You’ve got this.

So, what is baby acne, and how long does it last? And, maybe most importantly, is there a way to get rid of it? Here, we’re sharing everything mamas need to know about baby acne – or neonatal acne, as it is sometimes known.

What is baby acne?

Baby acne is a baby skin condition common in the first three months of life. About 20% of babies are thought to get it. The sight of these little pimples on your baby’s skin is enough to worry any mama. But it usually all clears up without treatment. And it’s almost certainly not causing any discomfort for your little peanut.

This neonatal acne – or neonatal cephalic pustulosis, if you want the full lah-de-dah title – tends to come out in pimples and bumps on your baby’s face, neck, and shoulders. Although they share the name, there won’t be any of the blackheads or whiteheads that we typically associate with acne. And it shouldn’t leave any long-term blemishes on your little one’s skin either.

Baby acne or infantile acne?

If you see it at all, expect baby acne to show it’s face after about two weeks. Some mamas see it even earlier. And, strangely enough, it’s also not unheard of for babies to be born with it.

What you’ll want to look out for, though, is that it often clears up after about three months. After this, baby acne becomes infantile acne. This thing can be a bit more serious – as it’s uncomfortable and has the risk of scarring. Yet, there is a bit of good news here: it’s a lot less common.

Infantile acne can come with whiteheads and blackheads, too. If you and your baby have passed that three-month mark, it might be best to get it checked out. Just to be on the safe side.

Baby acne vs rash?

A poorly baby isn’t what any mama wants. We have enough on our plates already. However, “the acnes” aren’t the only thing that might bother your baby.

Heat rash, for example, looks a bit like baby acne. When babies get too hot, they can develop little blisters on their skin. These are the result of blocked pores, which can be a little itchy.

How to tell them apart? Have a peep under the armpits and groin as well as on the neck, shoulders, and chest. You’ll see heat rash hiding there where you won’t see baby acne.

Similarly, eczema and baby acne are often confused. Eczema is the common skin condition that comes up when the skin is dry or gets irritated by something like dust, detergent, or an animal.

This one is red, itchy, and sometimes painful. But a doctor can help if you think your child has eczema.

What causes baby acne on the face?

The weird thing about baby acne is that no one really knows for sure what’s behind it. Like adolescent acne, it is reckoned to be down to overactive oil glands in the skin. But what makes them overactive in the first place is anyone’s guess.

Most doctors put it down to hormones – both yours and your baby’s. Baby acne is more common in boys, and it is believed to be the result of a higher quantity of testosterone in their system.

However, this is nothing to fret over. The hormones thought to cause acne won’t affect any other part of your baby’s development. It’s just a little skin blemish for now – which will almost certainly pass without a trace.

How long does baby acne last for?

Baby acne is usually a temporary condition – and it usually clears up within weeks of you first spotting it. By two or three months of age, it will have disappeared completely in most cases.

With infantile acne, though, things can be a little different. If your baby develops the condition after three months of age, it can sometimes last up to two years.
As we said above, though, if in doubt, you might want to get it checked out. A doctor will rule out any other possibilities – and show you some ways to manage it.

How do you treat baby acne?

How to get rid of baby acne? We’re going to tell you something you might not want to hear. Unfortunately, there’s no “all-powerful treatment” for baby acne. However, as we mentioned, it usually clears up by itself without you actually needing any.

What you really shouldn’t do is use any skin creams, soaps, or ointments that you would use on your own skin. Baby skin is incredibly sensitive at the best of times, and harsh medications or toiletries can make things worse. The same applies to over-the-counter acne cream (which isn’t designed for babies!).

In the meantime, you can help to keep your little one’s skin healthy by keeping it clean. Baby baths in lukewarm (not hot!) water is a great place to start.

Mind that you don’t scrub or squeeze the acne, because this can be sore and can make it worse. You’d do best to avoid particularly oily or greasy products too. A gentle, fragrance-free soap is best.

Finally, a bit of patience will be your best friend through this. (How many times have you heard that as a mama!) We know it’s not pleasant to feel your baby’s suffering – but it will pass. You just need to give it the time to settle down.

Can breast milk help with baby acne?

Finally, a head’s up! Some people swear by breast milk for treating baby acne. So if it works for you and your child, then why not – you go for it!
It could be that the anti-microbial properties in breast milk might help any acne that is caused by infection or bacteria. However, there have been no scientific studies to support this – and it may not work at all. In fact, most acne is not actually caused by bacteria in the first place.

Should you be worried about baby acne?

We get that baby acne can be a concerning sight for any mama. Yet, don’t let it get you down. All of those pimples and bumps should clear up by themselves after only a matter of weeks.

If they don’t, get your little one to a doctor, who will help you find a treatment that works.

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