Baby acne is a natural skin condition or phase that many babies go through shortly after birth, and it clears up on its own and does not leave any scarring. Diet may be a contributing factor, but it does not directly cause baby acne.
What is baby acne?
Baby acne is a short-term skin condition that forms on your baby’s face, back, and chest.
Baby acne, or what resembles pimples appear as small bumps or blemishes on your baby’s skin, usually clearing up within a few days or weeks.
Baby acne can affect any newborn up to 2 months old and nearly 20% of healthy newborns in the United States.
In some cases, baby acne can persist up to six months old.
Baby acne is also known as newborn acne, neonatal acne, or neonatal cephalic pustulosis.
Baby acne resembles mild adolescent or adult acne and may appear as small reddish-purple swollen bumps known as papules.
They could also present as bumps that contain pus, surrounded by a red to purple or dark brown ring known as pustules.
Infantile acne or baby acne
Infantile acne, unlike baby acne, occurs between 2 months to a year, while baby acne occurs at about two weeks old.
Some babies are born with baby acne, which dissipates within a few weeks.
It is essential to recognize the difference between the two, as infantile acne can develop into blackheads which may require treatment and will take longer to clear up.
Where does baby’s acne appear?
Your baby’s acne may look more apparent when they cry, and it will be more prevalent on your child’s face, chest, and back.
Specifically, it can affect your baby’s:
Baby acne can appear suddenly or develop slowly as small, discolored dots on their skin before they turn into raised pimples.
When the inflammation of the pimples reduces, so does their size.
After the pimples clear up, scarring is very unlikely, and your baby’s skin will be blemish-free.
Not all raised or pimply-looking skin can be characterized as baby acne. Babies may develop similar signs of skin irritation that could result from milia, heat rash, infant eczema, or cradle cap.
It will be wise to raise this issue with your doctor and possibly arrange a consultation if you’re unsure.
Milia presents small white bumps that sometimes develop on an infant’s face and are similar to baby acne, yet unrelated.
Milia is typically present at birth, while baby acne usually develops a few weeks later.
These white bumps are tiny flakes of skin that become trapped in pockets just beneath the surface of the skin.
Milia affects about half of all babies and is usually visible on the upper cheeks, chin, or nose.
Like baby acne, Milia will resolve on its own within a few weeks, and no special treatment is necessary.
Possible causes of baby acne
Acne is usually the result of clogged pores that develop into pimples. But the exact cause of baby acne is unknown. But some possible reasons include:
1. Hormonal changes
Some medical specialists suspect that baby acne results from hormonal changes in the mother before childbirth.
This affects your newborn during birth or the first few weeks.
Hormones in the placenta can affect how your baby’s skin produces sebum, an oily substance that the sebaceous glands in your baby’s skin make to protect skin and hair.
An excess of sebum can clog pores and lead to acne.
2. Sensitive skin
In addition, babies generally have very sensitive skin from birth, and their pores can easily clog.
Babies may also react negatively to anything that remains in contact with their skin for too long, like food, drool, or vomit.
It is also possible that yeast living on the skin can trigger acne in some babies.
3. Breastfeeding hormones
Finally, hormones in a mother’s breast milk can affect her baby’s hormones, leading to acne.
Baby acne will clear up naturally as your little one grows and adjusts to their new environment.
It is widely agreed that baby acne is usually the result of hormonal changes that cause their pores to clog temporarily.
Does a mother’s diet affect baby acne?
Maternal hormones affect baby acne, triggering bumps in some infants.
Babies are exposed to fluctuating hormones in the womb before birth and from breastfeeding in the first few weeks of life.
Whatever you eat and drink after childbirth is carried to your baby through your breast milk, making checking what you eat very important.
It would be smart to keep a food diary of what you eat to find and eliminate potential trigger foods one at a time. This information also comes in handy when visiting your baby’s pediatrician for personalized advice.
Some food items like dairy or citrus may contribute to baby acne but are not a direct cause.
However, eliminating dairy and citrus from your diet may help to improve your baby’s overall skin condition.
Treating baby acne
Baby acne is a temporary condition that clears up naturally without treatment.
Every baby’s skin is different, but if your doctor recommends treatment, it could include an antifungal cream like ketoconazole or a low-potency topical steroid like hydrocortisone.
You would apply these to your baby’s skin like a lotion or moisturizer.
The best treatment for baby acne is to gently wash your baby’s skin with warm water.
You may be tempted to scrub your baby’s skin, but you should avoid this as it may irritate the skin.
After a gentle bath, pat your baby’s skin dry.
With post-bath papering, using lotions, oils, or greasy skincare products that may clog your baby’s pores should be avoided.
You should also avoid the temptation to squeeze or pop pimples on your baby’s skin.
You should also immediately clean up any food residue or vomit from your baby’s skin. It may sound like a futile exercise, but it will help to reduce skin irritation.
You should monitor your little one’s skin, and if their baby’s acne does not clear up after a few weeks, raise this concern with your doctor.
Keep in mind that in some cases, it may take up to a month for baby acne to clear up.
A home remedy that many mothers swear by is using breast milk to treat baby acne, and they claim it is an effective remedy. It’s also been used by moms in the past to treat cradle cap.
But there is no scientific research to support these claims.
Yet, breast milk is packed with antimicrobial properties that may reduce active bacteria on your baby’s skin.
Breast milk is not only used for baby acne but for most types of skin irritation, including eczema.
How do I know if my diet is the cause of my baby’s acne?
If you’re concerned that your diet is causing baby acne, don’t be.
Foods like dairy and citrus may promote the condition but are not necessarily the cause.
You could eliminate these items from your diet, which may help the baby’s acne to clear up faster.
Hormones may also be transferred to your baby through breast milk, but this should not be a concern as it will clear up without treatment.
How should I treat baby acne?
Treat baby acne with a lot of TLC, including gently washing your baby’s skin with warm water and dabbing it dry with a soft towel.
Avoid creams and lotions that may clog up your baby’s skin pores. Perhaps you could dab breast milk on the offending pimples and see if it helps. It’s harmless and worth trying.
Is baby acne a sign of an underlying medical condition?
No, baby acne is a natural skin condition that clears up on its own. It is thought to be caused by hormones before birth and shortly after.
Is it ok to put any lotion on my baby’s acne?
No, this may aggravate the condition by clogging your baby’s pores. It will be best to have your doctor prescribe a cream or ointment specifically for babies with sensitive skin.