This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Rosanna Spear, a partner at Lansdale Pediatrics, a private outpatient pediatric practice in Lansdale, PA. Spear has been practicing pediatrics for over 20 years, she is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and board-certified with the American Board of Pediatrics.
If you dealt with acne in your adolescence (*raises hand*), you undoubtedly celebrated when it finally cleared up. In addition to your no-more-pimples party, you probably also assumed the days of skin woes were now planted firmly in your past. Sure, you figured that one day, when you had kids, you might have to fight the good fight against zits with your own hormonal tween. What you may not have planned on, though, was your newborn baby suffering breakouts.
Yep, that’s right; your precious babe might give you pre-teen flashbacks. Since this isn’t a warm and fuzzy fact about new parenthood, it’s a lesser-known reality of those first few days and months after baby comes home. So, in the spirit of keeping things real, here’s everything you need to know about baby acne and how to treat it.
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What is baby acne?
Much like the acne you may have suffered as a teen (and perhaps even beyond), baby acne consists of tiny red or white bumps or pimples. They can pop up anywhere on your newborn’s body and are considered a common skin condition. In fact, it’s estimated that between 20 and 30 percent of newborns experience this little puberty preview.
When does it present?
According to the Mayo Clinic, baby acne often develops within the first two to four weeks after birth. It may develop any time before six weeks of age, though. Some babies are even born with it! This type of acne is also known as neonatal acne. When baby acne develops after six weeks of age, it’s referred to as infantile acne.
What are the signs and symptoms?
You’ll likely recognize the condition when you see it, especially if you ever experienced acne yourself. It presents as small red or white bumps that spread across baby’s cheeks and nose. The breakouts may also pop up on your little one’s scalp, forehead, chin, neck, back, or chest.
With baby acne, white pustules (or whiteheads) may develop. With infantile acne, blackheads are common. Later-stage acne might also include cysts or nodules.
What causes baby acne?
Alas, baby acne is a bit of a mystery. However, some researchers suspect it could be caused by a fetus’s exposure to maternal hormones during pregnancy that are still circulating in baby’s system. Another theory is that baby’s skin is simply extra sensitive and prone to clogged pores.
How long does baby acne last?
Fortunately, these pesky little pimples aren’t usually a long-term problem. Baby acne tends to go away on its own within a few weeks to months. Infantile acne may last longer, stretching into your child’s second year of life — but it’s much less common.
How do you treat baby acne?
In two words, you don’t. Well, usually. “Because baby acne typically disappears on its own within several months, no medical treatment is usually recommended,” explains the Mayo Clinic. “If your baby’s acne lingers for much longer, your baby’s doctor may recommend a medicated cream or other treatment.”
You definitely don’t want to try any over-the-counter medications without consulting your baby’s pediatrician. The last thing you want to do is exacerbate your cute little bubela’s skin woes even more. What you can do is keep baby’s face as clean as possible by gently washing it with warm water every day. And no matter how many Dr. Pimple Popper videos you’ve watched on YouTube, do not squeeze the bumps on your baby’s face!
What’s the difference between baby acne and a drool rash?
Have you noticed that your baby has a rash around their mouth? Are you wondering if it’s baby acne? Well, we obviously can’t rule that possibility out without seeing your baby. But we can point out that what your little one might actually be dealing with is a drool rash.
You know how babies are constantly drooling, right? The presence of saliva on baby’s chin, neck, chest, cheeks, and anywhere else they manage to get their slobber can cause irritation. That irritation, known as a drool rash, typically presents as flat or slightly raised patches of skin with small red bumps. To minimize the chance of this happening, keep a burp cloth handy and frequently dab baby’s face dry.
What is erythema toxicum?
Erythema toxicum is sometimes confused as baby acne, too. It is another unfortunate skin issue babies may face but, fortunately, is usually gone just as quickly as baby acne. It comes in the form of a rash, tiny bumps, or red blotches on their chest, face, arms, and legs. But no worries, Mama; it usually goes away about a week after your baby is born.
What is eczema?
Eczema looks a lot like acne but is actually very different and sticks around much longer than baby acne. It usually appears on a little one’s knees and elbows when they’re older, but as newborns, it comes in the form of red bumps on their face. If untreated, eczema can become infected, turning yellow and crusty. It’s important to get it under control before your baby begins crawling, which is around the time their knees and elbows begin to make more contact with the floor.
What is milia?
Milia is when your baby gets tiny white bumps across their nose, chin, or cheeks. They may appear on your child’s arms and legs as well. They are most common in newborns and usually go away in a few weeks or months. If they last longer than a couple of months you should give your doctor a call. However, milia can appear on your skin at any age. These bumps emerge when dead skin cells are trapped in the skin instead of falling off. This leads to the tiny white bumps you see on the skin. Milia usually goes away without any treatment so doctors don’t usually recommend ointment or creams. Milia isn’t usually prone to infection unless it is traumatic milia, which is usually caused by burns.
When should you speak to a doctor?
As with all things baby-related, it’s best to consult with their pediatrician anytime you have a concern. Generally, you can just make a note to bring it up at the next well-baby visit. But if your baby’s acne is characterized by blackheads, inflammation, pus-filled cysts, or pain, go ahead and call the pediatrician ASAP. They might want to rule out an allergic reaction, rash, or other skin conditions.
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