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What you need to know about baby acne

What you need to know about baby acne
PHOTO: Unsplash

Don't be alarmed if you notice that your little one's skin is far from smooth. Baby acne is real and very common, and there is nothing to worry about.

Still, it's best to arm yourself with knowledge about this skin condition to avoid unnecessary anxiety.

What is baby acne? 

Baby acne is a condition that causes red and white bumps on a baby's skin. These bumps are often found on the cheeks, forehead and chin.

Baby acne is not serious and will go away on its own without treatment. However, it can be upsetting for parents to see their babies with acne-like bumps on their faces.

Baby acne usually starts around two months old and goes away by about three months. Most babies grow out of baby acne by the time they turn one.

What causes baby acne?

According to Web MD, recent research suggests that baby acne may be connected to yeast rather than oil production.

The experts also mention that the condition is "often caused by exposure in the womb to maternal hormones".

Baby acne is most commonly seen on a little one's forehead, nose and/or cheeks and sometimes on the back. It is a common yet temporary skin condition.

There are many theories about what might lead to baby acne, including:


One of the most significant determinants on whether your child will develop acne is genetics. It determines how sensitive your child's skin is and how quickly it regenerates.

So if your family has a history of adult acne, your toddler will likely experience some form of it too.

Environmental factors

Another factor that causes baby acne is environmental factors such as pollution and humidity levels in your area.

If there are high levels of these things where you live or if they tend to fluctuate significantly from season to season or day to day, you might want to consider ways to limit exposure, or moving if necessary, to protect your child as much as possible.

Exposure to hormones in the mother's bloodstream

The exact cause of baby acne isn't known, but it's thought that hormones in the mother's body may be responsible for these breakouts.

The mother's hormones cross the placenta and enter the baby's bloodstream, increasing the amount of oil on the skin.


Bacteria also plays a role in baby acne. Babies often have higher levels of bacteria than adults because they spend more time on their faces when lying on their backs or sitting up – and those are prime spots for bacteria to grow.

Irritation from saliva, spit-up and sweat

One common cause of baby acne is irritation from saliva, spit-up and sweat.

Saliva contains lipids that can clog pores and cause inflammation, which leads to acne breakouts. Spit-up also contains lipids and can create blockages in the pores, leading to pimples on a baby's chin or cheeks.

Sweat also has chemicals similar to those found in lipids and can cause an increase in skin oiliness and grease production, which may also lead to acne breakouts.

What does baby acne look like?

Similar to acne that appears in adults and teenagers, baby acne looks like pimples – red bumps, white pustules or even whiteheads. Sometimes, the bumps are surrounded by reddened skin, according to Healthline.

Many babies also get little white bumps on their noses, cheeks or chin, known as milia.

These emerge when dead skin cells are trapped within tiny pockets of skin. They are unrelated to baby acne and, according to paediatricians, do not need treatment.

When does baby acne appear?

While you might notice acne on your little one's face at birth, medical experts think it usually develops two to four weeks after birth.

It can last anywhere from a few days or weeks to several months.

What could aggravate baby acne?

You may notice an increase in this skin condition if your baby is fussy or cries a lot.

Also, rough fabrics may irritate and worsen the acne, as can saliva or spit-up on the skin if left there for too long.

How long does baby acne last?

The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the severity of your child's acne.

If your baby has mild to moderate acne, it may clear up within six months. However, severe cases can last for years.

What does severe baby acne look like?

How do you know if your baby's acne is severe? Several signs indicate when it's time to see a dermatologist:

  • The acne is widespread (ie, it covers the entire body)
  • The skin around the acne is red or inflamed
  • The pimples are large and deep
  • There are multiple pimples on one area of the face or body


Can baby acne be prevented or treated?

Unfortunately, there's not much you can do to prevent baby acne. But the good news is that it almost always clears up on its own – and without scarring – say medical experts at Mayo Clinic.

While it usually doesn't linger for more than a few days or weeks, sometimes it persists for months. In this case, some paediatricians may recommend treatment in the form of a medicated cream or ointment that could help get rid of the acne.

Do not use over-the-counter ointments or other acne remedies available in pharmacies. Your baby's skin is susceptible and may react, possibly worsening the acne or resulting in another, far more serious skin condition.

What can you do to help your baby's acne until it clears?

Here are a few things you can do to keep your little one's skin as healthy as possible while waiting for his or her acne to clear, as recommended by Healthline.

1. Do not squeeze the pimples

Doing this will only irritate your baby's tender skin and worsen the condition.

2. Keep your little one's face clean

Wash your baby's face daily with warm water and a soft cloth, or just use your hands during bath time to gently clean your little one's skin.

3. Avoid scrubbing

Rubbing your baby's skin with a washcloth could worsen the acne and hurt his or her skin. Instead, gently sweep a warm wet washcloth over your baby's face in a circular motion.

4. No lotions

These could worsen the acne, so skip the lotions until your little one's skin clears. However, some mums say applying a little expressed breastmilk to the acne can help.

5. Be patient

You might be itching to try various ways of getting rid of your baby's acne, but only time can heal, so be patient.

Does breast milk help baby acne?

Baby acne is a common skin condition that affects many newborns, and parents often search for natural remedies to alleviate it.

One such remedy that has gained popularity is using breast milk to treat baby acne. But the question remains, does putting breast milk on your baby's face help?

According to an article on Healthline, using breast milk to treat baby acne has benefits because it is natural, free, widely available and gentle on a baby's sensitive skin.

Breast milk contains lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties that can help to fight the bacteria causing acne.

It also has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce redness and swelling associated with acne.

However, there is limited scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of breast milk in treating baby acne.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that breast milk was effective in reducing the severity of infantile seborrheic dermatitis, which is similar to baby acne, but the study had a small sample size and more research is needed to confirm the findings.

In conclusion, while there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that breast milk may help to treat acne, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness.

Parents should always consult with their paediatrician before using any natural remedies on their baby's skin.

When to call a doctor

If you are worried about your baby's acne, seek a doctor's opinion without delay. You could even bring it up during your baby's regular check-ups.

In some babies, baby acne may be confused with an allergic reaction or even eczema. Your baby's paediatrician can determine if this is the case and suggest appropriate remedies.

ALSO READ: Think twice before buying these baby items second-hand

This article was first published in theAsianparent.

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