Does your infant have more pimples than an eighth-grader? Just when she seems ready for her close-up — head rounding out nicely, eyes less puffy and squinty — baby acne might be next. This pimply preview of puberty is incredibly common, usually beginning at 2 to 3 weeks of age and affecting about 20 to 40 percent of all newborns. Fortunately it’s temporary, and it doesn’t bother your baby a bit. Here’s what to do in the meantime.
What causes baby acne?
Believe it or not, as with adolescent acne, hormones are believed to be mainly to blame. 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.
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.
How to get rid of baby acne
Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about infant acne, besides being patient. A few baby acne treatment tips:
- Don’t squeeze, pick or scrub acne.
- Cleanse the area with warm water two or three times a day. Pat skin dry gently.
- Don’t use soap or lotion on affected areas.
- Avoid acne or other skin care products meant for adults.
- Try natural baby acne home remedies to treat it: Some moms suggest that dabbing the affected area with breast milk can help speed the healing process.
- Ask your doctor about prescription or over-the-counter medication that might help and be safe for your baby.
Is it baby acne or a rash?
While it’s possible to confuse infant acne with that other common newborn skin condition, milia, the two aren’t the same. Baby acne looks like red pimples, while milia are tiny white bumps or whiteheads. But you need to treat both conditions the same: with washing, watching and waiting.
More on Infant Soothing and Care
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 — 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. While it usually appears on the head, it may spread to the eyebrows and upper body too.
- Infant eczema: 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.
How long does baby acne last?
Baby acne usually clears anywhere from a few weeks after she's born to the time she's about 6 months old — which happens to be a terrific time to schedule those professional pics — leaving that beautiful baby skin you’ve been waiting for in its place.
And just in case you're already worrying about your little one being teased in middle school, know that baby acne doesn't leave permanent scars like the grown-up version can, and it doesn't predict future teen acne problems.