Baby Acne: Causes & Treatments

Baby acne is acne that develops on a newborn’s skin. Babies can develop acne anywhere on their face, but it is most appears on the cheeks, chin, nose and forehead. Some babies may also have acne on their back.
Baby Acne: Causes & Treatments
It usually appears as red bumps or pimples. White pustules or whiteheads may also develop and reddish skin may surround the bumps.

Baby acne is harmless and temporary, usually clears up on its own, without scarring. In most cases, it will develop around 3 to 4 weeks after birth. Some cases may stick around for several months.

What Causes Baby Acne?

Causes for baby acne have not been identified even though it’s a common skin condition. As with adolescent acne, there’s no clear answer.

Experts often point to the hormones that babies receive from their mother at the end of pregnancy as a cause of baby acne. But researchers continue to study other factors and have yet to agree on one cause.

In the case of newborns, however, it’s not their own hormones that are probably prompting the pimple problems, but Mom’s — which are still circulating in baby’s bloodstream as a holdover from pregnancy.

These maternal hormones stimulate baby’s sluggish oil-producing glands, causing pimples to pop up on the chin, forehead, eyelids and cheeks (and, sometimes, the head, neck, back and upper chest).

If you take certain medications while breastfeeding, or if your baby takes certain medications, they might trigger baby acne. And in some cases, a baby is reacting to a skincare product, particularly an oily one that can block pores.

What’s more, the pores in a baby’s skin are not yet fully developed, making them easy targets for infiltration by dirt and the blossoming of blemishes. And babies typically have very sensitive skin (some more than others), which can also be a factor.

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.

Baby Acne Treatments

Baby acne generally goes away on its own after a month or so without treatment. Some babies may have acne that lingers for several months instead of just a few weeks.

Know the cause. Hormones are the likely culprit behind baby acne, which usually shows up on the cheeks, forehead, and nose. Genetics may also be a factor.

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.

Ask your doctor about prescription or over-the-counter medication that might help and be safe for your baby.

Avoid acne or other skin care products meant for adults.

Don’t squeeze, pick or scrub at your baby’s acne; you’ll cause scarring, she warns. Baby acne isn’t caused by dirt. In fact, too much washing can further irritate your baby’s skin, so don’t overdo it.

Simply wash your baby’s face with mild baby soap and warm water once a day. Pat skin dry gently.

Have patience. Your baby’s acne doesn’t bother him in the least, so try not to let it bother you, either.

What Else Looks Like Baby acne?

Baby acne can be confused with other conditions, although most of them are relatively rare: There are also a number of skin rashes and other skin conditions in newborn babies (which, unlike newborn acne, are often itchy and uncomfortable for your little one and tend to spread beyond the face). A few of the most common:

Baby heat rash

These clusters of tiny, moist, red bumps look similar to acne and often appear on baby’s arms, legs, upper chest and diaper area in addition to her face when it’s hot outside. Skin usually feels itchy or tingly, which may make baby moodier than usual.

Diaper rash

This rash — caused by moisture, irritants and too little air in baby’s diaper area — appears as red, irritated skin in (you guessed it!) baby’s diaper area.

Cradle cap

Also called seborrheic dermatitis, these tiny red bumps are smaller than acne and may be accompanied by yellow, flaky, skin that looks like scales, usually on the head (though it may spread to the eyebrows and upper body too).


Skin appears dry, flaky and red, usually in patches around the cheeks and on the scalp. The rash then spreads, often to elbow creases and behind the knees, and progresses to fluid-filled pimples that pop. Eczema isn’t usually serious. You can treat it by using a gentle hydrating lotion on your baby’s skin after bathtime.

Infantile acne

If your baby still has acne at 3- to 6-months-old, infantile acne may be the culprit. These bumps tend to be more red and inflammatory. You’ll see more of the different types of acne than with baby acne, including pustules and cysts, not just whiteheads and blackheads.


Sexually transmitted infections like herpes and bacterial infections like Group B strep can cause bumps that look similar to acne. But, since both infections are typically transmitted from mom to baby during delivery, this should only be a concern if you had one of these infections during your third trimester.

When to see your doctor

Baby acne almost always goes away on its own with no intervention. Check in with your pediatrician if your child’s newborn acne doesn’t clear up within a month or so, goes away and then comes back, appears to be painful, or is accompanied by unusual symptoms such as lethargy, poor appetite, or trouble sleeping.

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. For example, skin appears extra red, you notice swelling or discharge, or your child spikes a fever or has other symptoms) or if you suspect an allergic reaction or eczema (which may require a cream to keep the rash from spreading).

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