What is baby acne and what should I do if my tot has it?

by Oliver Birk |

Noticed your newborn baby has red or white bumps and pimples? It might be a case of the skin condition, baby acne.

Here's everything you need to know, from the causes and symptoms to the treatments that you can try at home.

We spoke to Patricia Boland, Lead Product Developer, and Skincare Specialist from Colorscience UK to give us an overview of the condition.

In this article:

What is baby acne

The symptoms

Differences between baby acne and eczema

How you treat it

What the NHS says

When to call the doctor

What is baby acne?

Whilst new parents might panic about what is happening to their newborns face, baby acne is actually one of the most common skin conditions that develop amongst infants. Baby acne consists of red and yellow small bumps that typically appear after the first month or so after birth. It is a harmless condition and in almost all cases, the acne completely clears by the time the newborn reaches 6 months.

There is a number of theories as to why newborns develop acne, but there is no definite answer. Causes of neonatal acne include; the remnants of the mother's hormones combining with the baby’s in the womb, the medications the mother may have taken during breastfeeding, harsh chemicals such as laundry detergents reacting with the baby’s delicate skin or overactive glands in either the baby or the mother.

What are the symptoms?

With baby acne, your newborn is likely to break out on their back, neck, forehead, cheeks, nose, and scalp. If your child gets hot easily or cries a lot, the acne can look even more prominent but there is nothing to worry about as this is quite common.

Your baby might have pus-filled spots, and the sizes in these spots can vary. In some cases, these spots can disappear within a couple of hours and then reappear later either in the same place or somewhere else on the newborn's body.

Although redness, tiny spots, and pustules can be the main symptoms of baby acne, in some babies this acne appears more like a rough red rash. If you are unsure whether your child has baby acne, you should check with your local pediatrician.

What are the differences between baby acne and rash or eczema?

Distinguishing baby acne from other skin conditions can be difficult but the key is to study the skin. When in doubt, always consult your local pediatrician who will advise you the best way to care for your baby’s skin condition. Like eczema, baby acne can cause dry skin and redness, but eczema does not commonly cause bumps so that’s the main difference.

With rashes, study where the rash has appeared. If it is a rash where sweat tends to occur such as the armpits, the neck, feet or even the back of the knee, these could be 'heat rashes'. Millia is often mistaken for baby acne too, but these are primarily tiny white bumps rather than red, yellowy white bumps.

How can I treat it?

Washing your baby's face with water and using a mild moisturiser may help, but Colorscience UK says the best treatment for baby acne is no treatment! Don’t use lotions, medicines or scrubs as your baby’s skin is delicate and aggravating it will only make the acne worse.

The best solution is to simply wash your baby’s face with plain water once or twice a day and gently pat it dry. Don’t use any soaps or rough towels when doing this. The acne should clear up completely after approximately a month but if it persists, consult your local pediatrician about what to do.

What can I do at home?

Continue with your normal breastfeeding routine, wash the skin with plain water once or twice a day and make sure the baby is getting enough sleep. Ensure that the infant’s clothes are clean and comfortable, but none of this should stray from your normal habits and routine. Your baby’s acne will naturally go, so the best thing you can do is be patient.

What the NHS says:

'Many things can cause a rash in babies and children, and they're often nothing to worry about.'

For baby acne, they recommend that washing your baby's face with water and a mild moisturiser will help their skin to heal, but, do not use acne medicines intended for older children and adults.

However, they do advise to go to A&E or call 999 if they have a rash and they:

- have a stiff neck
- are bothered by light
- seem confused
- are shaking uncontrollably
- have a fever you can't control
- have unusually cold hands and feet
- have a rash that doesn't fade when you press a glass against it

These symptoms are signs of meningitis.

Should I be concerned?

Having educated yourself on baby acne, if you are still unsure what your child’s skin condition is you should see a doctor. Baby acne should not affect your child’s feeding, sleeping or temperature so if you notice any changes, consult a doctor immediately.

Remember that almost every case of baby acne goes away in a few weeks but if the problem keeps persisting or seems unusual, you as a parent, will generally know when the best time is to be concerned and call a doctor. After all, you know your baby the best.

Meet the expert:  Patricia Boland is the Lead Product Developer, and Skincare Specialist from Colorscience UK

Now read:

Baby skin trouble? How to spot common conditions

Colic: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

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