Truly, your newborn’s skin is obviously impeccable yet as you get acquainted with every square inch of your lovely baby, you may see a few flaws on her generally shiny new skin.
So how long does baby acne last?
When babies are 3 weeks of age, 1 in 5 babies can develop baby acne, according to Dr. Fletcher Allen. It’s mostly caused by the stimulation of oil glands — just like what happens in teenagers. Baby acne will disappear in 3 weeks to one month. If you’re consistently seeing symptoms for a 4 months, see your pediatrician to discuss baby acne treatment options.
But why is that? It’s not as if the baby has been chowing down on fast food.
They may be red and raised, they may be tiny and white or they may resemble the acne flare-ups you experienced yourself.
But while these bumps may be disconcerting, they’re not surprising, when you think about it: Just like a teenager, a baby experiences profound hormonal shifts as she adjusts to the world outside the womb, and that can manifest as baby acne.
Here’s how to recognize baby acne and how to treat it when it pops up:
What is Baby Acne?
There are two different types of acne, depending on baby’s age. Newborn acne, otherwise known as neonatal acne, can appear when the baby is a newborn up to 3 months old—and it’s normal.
“Neonatal acne is a benign skin condition that roughly 20 per cent of newborns have,” explains Katie Pyle, DO, a pediatrician at UCHealth Pediatric Care Clinic in Firestone, Colorado.
“We don’t know the cause, but it’s likely either due to the stimulation of baby’s oil glands from mom’s hormones or an inflammatory reaction to a type of yeast that colonizes on a baby’s skin.”
The good news: While your baby may have a few pimples in her pics, newborn acne doesn’t point to future skin problems.
If the baby is older than 3 months, he may be experiencing what’s called infantile acne, especially if you notice larger red, raised blemishes or pustules, says Meagan O’Neill, MD, a paediatrician with Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis.
Like newborn acne, infant acne occurs in about one-fifth of babies. “While neonatal acne tends to go away on its own with age, infantile acne may stick around longer and, since it can be more severe than neonatal acne, may require treatment to avoid scarring.”
What Does Baby Acne Look Like?
The characteristic signs of newborn acne are small red or white bumps that can appear all over the body but are usually concentrate on the baby’s face and torso.
You might also spy tiny white bumps on your newborn’s forehead, cheeks or near his mouth, called milia.
These aren’t baby acne, per se—instead, the bumps are dead skin cells trapped in small pockets on the skin’s surface and tend to disappear within the first few weeks of life.
Infant acne can manifest as a crop or cluster of raised red bumps, sometimes filled with pus, and can appear anywhere on the body.
Sometimes they disappear on their own; sometimes they require treatment.
Unlike neonatal acne, they can be a predictor of skin issues later in life, so consulting a pediatrician or pediatric dermatologist can help set up a smart course of treatment, says Omar Baker, MD, FAAP, assistant clinical professor in the department of pediatrics at Columbia University and co-president of Riverside Medical Group in Northern New Jersey.
Is it baby acne or rash?
All this talk of red, raised bumps can sound suspiciously like describing a rash. So how do you know if it’s baby acne or a rash? Baby acne falls under the umbrella of a rash.
“A rash is defined as any skin change, and broadly speaking, neonatal and infantile acne are both considered rashes.
That said, it can be tough to tell the difference between baby acne and other benign skin conditions that commonly affect newborns and infants, like heat rash or eczema.
“Eczema and skin infections are generally red and inflamed, with areas of very dry and sometimes cracked skin,” says Baker.
“Eczema and other worrisome rashes will often cause the baby a good deal of discomfort and could present with other symptoms like extreme fussiness, excessive spit-up or fever.”
If you’re concerned about possible baby acne, flag it for your paediatrician, who can diagnose the problem and provide the best course of treatment.
Plus, discussing any skin breakouts or eruptions with your doctor can help you become familiar with your baby’s unique skin needs.
There are also several 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.
Here are some of the common breakouts:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
What Causes Baby Acne?
Baby acne is a common skin condition, but there isn’t necessarily one clear cause. Even more frustrating:
There’s very little about it that you can control. Here, some of the main causes of baby acne:
• Hormones. Yup, just like when you were a teen, hormones are often to blame, experts say. For newborns, it’s your hormones that are likely the cause—at the end of pregnancy, a mother’s hormones can cross the placenta into baby’s system and can stimulate baby’s sebaceous (oil) glands on the skin, leading to breakouts.
For infants over 3 months, their hormones can drive an overgrowth of skin glands, O’Neill says.
• Yeast. The Malassezia species, a common type of yeast that colonizes skin surfaces, can sometimes create an inflammatory reaction in newborns, resulting in newborn acne.
How to Get Rid Of Baby Acne
Baby’s skin is incredibly sensitive, so it’s important to be gentle when dealing with baby acne.
That means whatever go-to techniques you used as an adolescent or currently turn to as an adult probably aren’t appropriate for a baby’s skin. Here’s how to treat baby acne properly:
- Don’t scrub. Or pick at or pop those pimples. “That can break the skin, introducing bacteria and increasing the risk of infant infection,” Baker says.
- Wash and moisturize. If your newborn has neonatal acne, keep baby’s face clean and moisturized. “Skin is the body’s first line of defence against infection,” says Baker. Try using a mild soap and a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizer to keep skin healthy and supple.
- Use a humidifier. Acne may be exacerbated by dry air, so using a humidifier can ensure that baby’s skin stays moisturized, Baker says.
- Consult your pediatrician. She may have product recommendations or can prescribe medication, like Retin-A or something with benzoyl peroxide, in an infant-friendly dose. “If severe infantile acne is left untreated, it could run the risk of scarring,” O’Neill says.
Natural remedies for baby acne
If you’re eager to test out natural home remedies to treat baby’s skin, it’s smart to first check in with your pediatrician, who can assess your child’s skin and make sure those treatments won’t cause any additional harm.
“Most natural remedies aren’t well studied in children, so it’s hard to predict what side effects may occur,” O’Neill says.
“Particularly with something you may be putting on your baby’s skin, you might run the risk of causing further irritation or inflammation.”
Some natural remedies for baby acne that you may want to discuss with baby’s doctor include:
• Coconut oil. Coconut oil is a tried-and-true baby acne treatment around the world and one Baker recommends to his pediatric patients. This ultra-hydrating oil can help moisturize baby’s skin—just add a few drops to a cotton ball and swab over the baby’s face.
• Breast milk. Breast milk for baby acne may sound like an old wives’ tale, but there may be something to it. “Breast milk contains lauric acid, which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory characteristics,” Baker says, adding that wiping a few drops of milk over baby’s skin and then letting it air dry may help.
“I swore by this,” says Jenna, a nursing mom of a one-year-old. “It seemed to clear up my daughter’s skin.”
• Changing your diet. Nursing? It may be worth discussing your current breastfeeding diet with your paediatrician, who may recommend cutting back on certain foods, like dairy or citrus.
While these aren’t t direct causes of baby acne, eliminating them may help improve baby’s overall skin condition, especially if he’s also dealing with eczema.
How to Prevent Baby Acne
While it’s impossible to prevent neonatal acne, the newborn period is the best time to develop smart infant skincare habits, which can help prevent future rashes and skin issues.
Even if your baby was lucky enough to be born with silky-smooth skin, many of the strategies used to treat baby acne can also help prevent it:
• Go fragrance-free. The chemicals that make up artificial fragrances can irritate baby’s sensitive skin. Try hypoallergenic products, including lotions, shampoos and laundry detergents, when possible.
• Wash, don’t scrub. Scrubbing can cause further irritation and make matters worse. Instead, gently wipe and pat the baby’s skin dry.
• Bathe baby regularly. For older, active infants, dirt and oil can get trapped in pores and exacerbate breakouts, just like with adults, so giving baby frequent baths can help minimize the possibility of breakouts.
When to call the doctor
Baby acne almost always goes away on its own with no intervention. But bring it to your pediatrician’s attention if the bumps look like they might be infected.
For example, her skin appears extra red, you notice swelling or discharge, 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.
Once you’ve identified the different types of acne, causes, sign, symptoms, and remedies, you can take care of your child without panicking but remember that if it last more than three to four week, seek your pediatrician’s attention.