Introduction and background
If you notice those red bumps you used to see on your face as a teenager on your baby’s face, don’t be alarmed. This skin problem is considered common among newborns and is called baby acne or neonatal acne. While it may take a few weeks or months to clear up, there are only a few things that parents can do to help speed up the healing process.
Baby acne is a rash of red bumps and/or whiteheads that occurs typically at three weeks of age. The rash usually is found on the cheeks, possibly the chin or forehead and sometimes the back. This is different from milia, which are tiny white bumps present at birth or in your baby’s first few days. Another type of baby rash is infantile acne, which develops after the first few months of age, and most often occurs as yellow pustules on the nose and cheeks.
Doctors believe baby acne is most likely due to the mother’s hormones crossing over into the placenta before birth and stimulating the oil glands in the baby’s skin. Developing baby acne does not mean the child is at risk for teen acne later in life. Occasionally, a nursing mother could be taking medication that might cause baby acne.
The appearance of baby acne may be frightening to new parents. Baby acne is fairly common, though not often talked about. Your child will probably not be born with baby acne. It may take a few weeks for baby acne to fully develop, but it will not last longer than a few months. If your baby’s complexion looks very different from other babies the same age, take your child to the pediatrician.
Baby acne forms when the baby’s sebaceous glands try to clear out remaining maternal hormones that have passed through the placenta. Baby acne does not signify anything but blocked pores. Baby acne does not mean that your baby is more predisposed to acne, or that your child is more mature than most babies. In 4 months, babies who suffered from baby acne will look identical to babies who did not suffer from baby acne.
Acne bumps on infants usually look red and raised, about the size of a normal adult pimple. If your child has smaller bumps similar to goosebumps on the face, this is a condition called milia, which has nothing to do with baby acne. Baby acne has the same natural response to clogged sebaceous glands as adult acne–though having adult acne will not lead a parent to have a child with baby acne or vice versa.
After seeing red bumps on their infant’s skin, parents may overreact and take their children to the doctor for prescription lotions and pills. But the best treatment for baby acne is nothing at all. If you let the oil glands do their job, the problem will clear up more quickly than using a prescription drug that may be unsafe for your baby’s skin.
If you see red marks on your baby’s face, do not automatically assume it is baby acne and ignore it. Red splotches or marks on your baby could signify an allergic reaction. If you are unsure, take your child to the doctor as soon as possible. If your doctor prescribes you a cream or any other prescription medication, let your medication take its course before discontinuing it.
Some tips to cure baby acne
- Gently wash your baby’s face twice a day with warm water and a mild cleanser. There are several cleansers available that contain natural ingredients such as calendula, olive oil and chamomile. Washing your baby’s skin twice a day with a moisturizing cleanser will not only prevent the acne from getting infected, it will also prevent dryness and further irritation. Remember to pat the skin dry with a soft towel and avoid touching the infected areas with your fingers.
- Apply a moisturizer. While you may not need to apply creams or special lotions on your baby’s face to get rid of the acne, it is important that you keep your child’s skin well moisturized. Babies with acne tend to scratch and rub their skin in an effort to relieve the itchiness that the acne causes, so a hypoallergenic cream should be applied at least twice a day. Products from Aveeno, California Baby or Weleda are worth looking into because they contain natural ingredients and are made especially for babies.
- Dress or cover your baby in clothes and blankets not made of synthetic materials. The fabrics that touch your baby’s skin may be irritating it further, so dressing your baby in clothes made of 100 percent cotton or organic cotton will help reduce skin irritation. Also, washing the baby clothes and blankets in a natural detergent will prevent any chemicals from causing more breakouts.
- Allow the acne to heal on its own. This type of acne tends to heal on its own around three to six months of age. Until your baby’s skin heals, the most important thing you can do is continue to keep it clean, so that it will not become infected. Using special acne medicine or ointments is not needed to get rid of baby acne unless the acne gets worse at which point it will be best to consult a doctor.
Baby acne is a common condition, affecting about one in five babies. However, as with any kind of rash, it can be difficult for parents to be sure what is causing those bumps on their child’s face. Sometimes, home remedies only make things worse. Learning to tell the difference between different types of rashes that can affect babies is key in knowing what to do.