Causes for baby acne have not been identified even though it’s a common skin condition. Baby acne is defined as tiny red bumps or pimples that develop on your baby’s face or body. Typically, the acne will resolve on its own, even without treatment. This condition should not be confused with milia, which are tiny white bumps on your baby’s face, as milia is not related to baby acne.
Like acne in adolescents and adults, baby acne usually appears as red bumps or pimples. White pustules or whiteheads may also develop and reddish skin may surround the bumps.
Babies can develop acne anywhere on their face, but it is most commonly seen on the cheeks. Some babies may also have acne on their back.
Acne may become more pronounced if your baby is fussy or crying. Rough fabrics may also irritate the acne, as can spit-up or saliva that lingers for too long on the face.
Baby acne may be present at birth. In most cases, however, it will develop within two to four weeks after birth. It may last for a few days or a few weeks, though some cases may stick around for several months.
Baby acne will usually disappear without treatment. Some babies may have acne that lingers for several months instead of just a few weeks. To treat this stubborn form of baby acne, your pediatrician may prescribe a medicated cream or ointment that can help clear up the acne. Do not use over-the-counter acne treatments, face washes, or lotions. Your baby’s skin is very sensitive at this young age. You might make the acne worse or cause additional skin irritation by using something that is too strong.
While you wait for your baby’s acne to clear, there are things you can do to help keep the skin as healthy as possible.
Keep your baby’s face clean
Wash your baby’s face daily. Warm water is gentle and soothing. Bath time is a great time to do this. Look for a soap that is mild and moisturizing. When in doubt, ask your pediatrician for a recommendation.
Scrubbing the skin with a towel can further aggravate the skin. Instead, gently sweep a soapy washcloth over the face in circular motions. Once the soap is washed off, use a towel to pat your baby’s face dry.
Skip the lotions
Lotions and creams may aggravate your baby’s skin. This can make the acne worse.
Do not squeeze
Avoid pinching or squeezing the acne. This will irritate your baby’s skin and may make the problem worse.
Though concerning, baby acne is typically harmless. It should resolve on its own in a short period of time.
There is no treatment for baby acne, but you should still consult your pediatrician if you’re worried about it. A well-baby visit or general checkup is a great time to ask questions about baby acne, as well as any other concerns you may have about your baby’s health.
In some babies, what you assume is acne may actually be an allergic reaction or eczema. If an allergic reaction is suspected, your doctor will review ways to determine the allergen. The rash should resolve once the allergen is found and removed from your baby’s environment. Eczema can be treated with over-the-counter products like Aquaphor and Vanicream, or a mild prescription medication if the doctor thinks one is necessary, or by removing food allergens and giving probiotics daily.