Baby Acne: All Your Questions Answered

By Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

WHAT IS BABY ACNE?

Baby acne is when spots develop on a newborn's skin, often when they are two to four weeks old. The medical name for baby acne is erythema toxicum neonatorum- This may sound alarming but it is a simple skin condition which clears up by itself and does not harm your baby. Baby acne is more common in boys.

Baby acne is different to acne that affects young people and adults. It is also different to skin condition called infantile acne. Baby acne happens in your baby's first few months, while infantile acne can last into their second year, and infantile acne is far less common than baby acne.

HOW LONG DOES BABY ACNE LAST?

Baby acne usually clears up within a few weeks, and leaves no trace. Your baby won't have any scars. Sometimes it can come back but it is often mild if it does.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF BABY ACNE?

The main symptom of baby acne is a red, blotchy rash on your baby's skin with little, raised spots called papules. Babies usually get spots on their face, often on the cheeks, nose and forehead. But baby acne can appear on their body too you might notice spots on your baby's neck, back or chest. Less often, baby acne affects the arms and legs. Your baby might have little pus-filled spots called pustules.

How many spots your baby has can vary, as can the size of them. How long the rash lasts can vary too. Sometimes spots can disappear within hours while new ones crop up somewhere else.If you press on the spots, they will fade.

Baby acne does not cause your baby to be unwell, and although it might look alarming. try not to worry, as it doesn't affect their overall health.

WHAT CAUSES BABY ACNE?

It is not clear why some babies develop acne but there are a number of theories. One theory is that it is a reaction of a baby's immune system. Another theory is that baby acne is a result of overactive glands in the skin responding to hormones from the baby or their mother, from hormones that crossed through the placenta when the baby was in the womb.

Allergies have been ruled out as a cause of baby acne and it is not thought to be related to whether a baby is breast-fed or bottle-fed.

WHAT DOES BABY ACNE LOOK LIKE?

Baby acne on face often appears as a red, blotchy rash on your baby's skin with little, raised spots called papules. Babies usually get spots on their face, often on the cheeks, nose and forehead.

BABY ACNE OR ECZEMA? HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE

Don't panic, it's often easy to get confused between eczema and baby acne. The way you can tell the difference between the two is:

  • Eczema normally appears as red bumps on the face and may also appear on the knees and elbows
  • Eczema can also become infected and appear yellow or crusty
  • Eczema can also begin to get a little worse as your baby begins crawling around

Whilst it may be tricky for you to tell the difference, it's often very easy for a doctor to see the difference, so if you're unsure, drop you doctor a call.

HOW IS BABY ACNE TREATED?

There is not any particular treatment for baby acne; the rash will settle down on its own without any treatment, so you do not need any creams or lotions, and you should not put any baby acne cream or medicines intended for older children and adults on your baby's skin. It is a good idea to take extra care with your baby's skin while they have baby acne.

  • Be very gentle when you wash your baby and do not scrub the acne.
  • Make sure the bathwater is lukewarm (not hot).
  • While only water is advised for use on a baby's skin in the first 4 weeks of life, after that time only use products to wash and moisturise the skin which are formulated for babies.

Be gentle when you dry your baby. Pat your baby's skin dry rather than rubbing it. However strong the urge, never pick, squeeze or burst any pus-filled spots, as they might get infected.

CAN BREAST MILK HELP BABY ACNE?

Breast milk is full of goodness! And so it's always worth trying breast milk and baby acne; especially if your baby has sensitive skin. Simply soak a cotton ball in breast milk and softly pat it on your baby's face.

WHEN SHOULD YOU SEE A DOCTOR?

You do not normally need to see a doctor if your baby has baby acne as it clears up on its own. If your baby developed acne after the age of six weeks, they may have infantile acne. This is a more severe baby acne and can scar the skin, so you may wish to see your doctor. There are treatments for infantile acne.

It is also important to consider contacting a doctor if you are in any doubt as to whether your baby has acne, particularly if they are unwell, as some rashes can be more serious. If your baby has a temperature, is not feeding, and is more sleepy than usual or just seems different to you, see a doctor. You know your baby best so if there is anything that is worrying you, seek advice.

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