Caring for skin from birth to 18 months
Baby acne are small bumps (whiteheads and pimples) on an infant’s skin. These bumps are usually closed, but open, inflamed or rash-like eruptions can also appear. Acne usually arises within the first few weeks of life and generally resolves within a couple of months. Babies normally get acne on their cheeks, but baby acne can also occur on the nose, forehead, chin, neck, arms and back.
Baby acne is known by many names - neonatal acne, infantile acne, acne neonatorum, acne infantum or pediatric acne. It is an extremely common skin ailment and is usually mild. Up to 20% of newborns develop acne, with it being more prevalent in boys than girls.
The pimples are typically caused by the transfer of hormones from mother to baby. These hormones stimulate glands in the baby’s skin to produce excess oil (sebum) which blocks pores. Baby acne does not cause any discomfort to a child, though at times parents may find the outward appearance concerning or distressing.
Treating baby acne
In most cases, no treatment is considered necessary for baby acne as it usually clears itself by three months of age without intervention. When bathing, it is recommended that the affected areas be gently washed with water and a mild, baby cleanser. Rough abrasion should be avoided because the skin is not dirty and excessive scrubbing will only cause additional inflammation. By the same token, touching or squeezing the acne can cause scarring and prevent the outbreaks from healing.
In the case of persistent acne, which continues for several months or more, it may be wise to seek medical advice. Similarly, if the acne is particularly severe, or becomes infected, further treatment may be required. Treatment is usually in the form of creams or lotions containing 2.5% benzoyl peroxide. Though rare, in extreme cases oral isotretinoin (a treatment derived from vitamin A) or antibiotics may be prescribed. It is important to note that topical lotions and oral medications should not be applied or administered without the advice of a pediatrician. Upon consultation, the physician will be able to provide a diagnosis and determine the most appropriate course of action for the individual child.
American Academy of Dermatology n.d., ‘Infantile Acne’, retrieved 24 November 2010, <http://www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/infantileacne.html>.
Jackson, C 2010, ‘Rashes and Skin Conditions’, American Academy of Pediatrics, retrieved 24 November 2010, <http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/bathing-skin-care/pages/Rashes-and-Skin-Conditions.aspx>.
O’Connor, NR, McLaughlin, MR & Ham, P 2008, ‘Newborn Skin: Part I. Common Rashes’, American Family Physician, 77(1):47-52.