Baby acne, or neonatal acne, is a skin condition that often appears on the newborn as red pimples, mild skin inflammation and rashes. For new parents, signs of acne on their newborn can be alarming but with baby acne affecting approximately 20% of newborns before they are 6 weeks old, it is a common condition that shouldn’t be of worry. To raise awareness and help new parents understand the symptoms, causes and treatment for baby acne, we spoke to the lead product developer and skincare specialist Patricia Boland from Colorescience UK.

What causes baby acne?

‘Baby acne consists of red and yellow small bumps that typically appear after the first month or so after birth. There are number of theories as to why newborns develop acne, but there is no definite answer. Causes of neonatal acne include medications the mother may be taking during breastfeeding, the remnants of the mothers hormones combining with the baby’s in the womb, harsh chemicals reacting with the baby’s delicate skin or overactive glands in either the mother or the baby.’

How often does it occur in newborns? (Is it common?)

It is a harmless condition and in almost all cases, the acne completely clears by the time the newborn reaches 6 months. Whilst new parents might panic about what is happening to their newborns face, baby acne is actually one of the most common skin conditions that develops amongst infants so there is nothing to be excessively worried about.

What are the symptoms?

‘With baby acne, your newborn is likely to break out on their back, neck, forehead, cheeks, nose and scalp. Although redness, tiny spots and pustules can be the main symptoms of baby acne, in some babies this acne appears more as a rough red rash. If your child gets hot easily or cries a lot, the acne can also look even more prominent, but this should not be a cause for concern. Your baby might have pus-filled spots, and the sizes in these spots can vary. In some cases, these spots can disappear within a couple hours and then reappear later either in the same place or somewhere else on the newborns body. If you are unsure whether your child has baby acne or whether it is a more serious skin condition, you should check with your local paediatrician.’

What are the differences between baby acne, a rash, or eczema?

‘Distinguishing baby acne from other skin conditions can be difficult but the key is to study the skin. Like eczema, baby acne can cause dry skin and redness, but eczema does not commonly cause bumps so that’s the main difference. Millia is also often mistaken for baby acne too, but these are primarily tiny white bumps rather than red, yellowy white bumps. With rashes, study where the rash has appeared. If it is a rash where sweat tends to occur such as the armpits, the neck, feet or even the back of the knee, these could be heat rashes. When in doubt, always consult your local paediatrician who will advise you the best way to care for your baby’s skin condition’

How can we treat it?

‘With no treatment! I can’t stress enough to leave the infant’s tender skin alone! The best solution is to simply wash your baby’s face with plain water once or twice a day and gently pat it dry. Don’t use any soaps or rough towels when doing this. Don’t use lotions, medicines or scrubs as your baby’s skin is delicate and aggravating it will only make the acne worse. The acne should clear up completely after approximately a month but if it persists, consult your local paediatrician about what to do.’

What can you do at home if your child has baby acne?

‘Your baby’s acne will naturally go, so the best thing you can do is be patient. Ensure that the infant’s clothes are clean and comfortable, but none of this should stray from your normal habits and routine. Continue with your normal breastfeeding routine, wash the skin with plain water once or twice a day and make sure the baby is getting enough sleep.’

When is the right time to be concerned and call/see the doctor?

‘Almost every case of baby acne goes away in a few weeks but if the problem keeps persisting or seems unusual you, as a parent, will generally know when the best time to be concerned is and call a doctor. However, if you are still unsure what your child’s skin condition is after educating yourself on baby acne you should see a doctor. Baby acne should not affect your child’s feeding, sleeping or temperature so if you notice any changes, consult a doctor immediately.’  

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