Acne in newborns is common, and generally not anything to worry about. Photo: A. Freeman Photography / Getty Images
Updated December 16, 2014.
Many parents are alarmed over the red, acne-like rash on their newborn baby’s face. But newborn baby acne is a common and harmless condition. It tends to appear within the first month or so after birth, although it can occur earlier or later. Some babies even make their appearance on their birth day with an already established case of acne. Luckily, this type of baby acne is fleeting, and nearly always goes away quickly and without treatment.
This article deals with acne in newborns, from birth to about six weeks old. Acne in older babies is called infantile acne, and is different from acne in newborns. If your older baby is breaking out, you’ll want to read this article: What to Do About Infantile Acne.
What Newborn Baby Acne Looks Like:
Newborn baby acne, also called neonatal acne, looks like a rough, red rash. It’s most common on the infant’s cheeks and nose, although it can appear anywhere on the face and back. Comedones and papules will be present, and possibly some small pustules. Baby acne may come and go, and tends to look worse when the baby is fussy or crying.
Causes of Newborn Baby Acne:
Baby acne develops during the weeks after birth, most likely due to hormones that passed from mother to infant during the last stage of pregnancy.
Baby acne can be aggravated by milk, formula, or spit-up coming in contact with the skin. Other irritants include rough fabrics or fabrics laundered in strong detergent. If your baby has acne, don’t use soap, lotion or creams on the face. These can irritate acne, too.
Certain medications, viral illnesses and allergic reactions can cause an acne-like rash. So, for example, your infant develops a rash or acne after taking any medications, please let your doctor know.
Treating Newborn Baby Acne:
Unless baby’s acne is being caused by an underlying condition, there is really no need to treat it. It doesn’t harm your baby and is purely a cosmetic issue. Gently wash your baby’s face with plain water once or twice per day, and don’t scrub. Cleansing that is too frequent or too vigorous will irritate your baby’s skin.
In very rare cases, severe baby acne is treated with topical acne medications. But this should only be done if there is a compelling reason to do so, and only under the recommendation of your child’s doctor, since acne medications are hard on infants’ tender skin.
Rest assured, nearly all cases of newborn baby acne resolve without treatment in just a few weeks time. So enjoy your new baby, and don’t let his acne worry you.
“Infantile Acne.” American Academy of Dermatology. 2007. AcneNet. Accessed 4 Dec 07.
Eichenfield LF, Krakowski AC, Piggott C, Del Rosso J, Baldwin H, Friedlander SF, Levy M, Lucky A, Mancini AJ, Orlow SJ, Yan AC, Vaux KK, Webster G, Zaenglein AL, Thiboutot DM; American Acne and Rosacea Society. “Evidence-based Recommendations for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pediatric Acne.” Pediatrics 2013;131;S163. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-0490B