Baby Acne: What to Do About Infant Pimples
On This Page
Is that acne on your baby?! While pimples may be synonymous with teenagers, infants aren’t immune. In fact, about 20% of newborns have what’s called neonatal acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). But before you reach for the pimple patches, read this! You’ll learn what causes baby acne, how to treat baby acne, and when to call a doctor about your baby’s pimples.
Causes of Baby Acne
There are a few reasons little ones may develop baby acne, including…
Excess oil: Hormones from the placenta are still circulating in your baby’s system in the days and weeks following their birth, which may cause your baby’s skin to overproduce sebum. (Sebum is the skin’s natural oil that work to protect your bub’s skin and hair.) That excess oil can clog your little one’s still-developing pores and cause baby acne (also called neonatal acne).
Inflammatory response: It’s thought that baby acne is an inflammatory response to the high level of a specific type of yeast called Malassezia present on newborn’s skin.
Sensitive skin: Babies have extra sensitive skin, so sometimes drool or spit up that lingers on the skin causes a baby breakout, too. Baby acne can be made worse if your bub snoozes on sheets soiled by spit up and/or laundered in harsh detergents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Their sex: Experts note that baby boys tend to get more baby acne than baby girls.
Endocrine abnormality: Children between the ages of 1 and 7 don’t produce significant amounts of androgens (so-called “male” hormones), so toddler acne may be due to an endocrine abnormality that must be evaluated by a pediatric endocrinologist, who specializes in hormone issues.
When does baby acne develop?
While some babies are born with pimples, most cases of baby acne develop between 2 and 6 weeks of age. These baby breakouts usually only last a few days to a couple of weeks. With that, it’s important to note that any baby acne that appears after your little one turns 2 months old is called infantile acne. At this point in time, your baby’s pimples may include blackheads, too.
What does baby acne look like?
Baby acne looks much like the mild breakouts you may have experienced during adolescence, minus the blackheads. It most often appears on your little one’s cheeks, scalp, neck, back, and/or chest. Baby acne usually starts as small, discolored, flat dots on the skin and then develops into…
Small and swollen red or purple bumps, called papules
Bumps surrounded by a red, purple, or dark brown ring, called pustules
Baby acne may be more noticeable when your baby cries
Milia vs. Baby Acne
Neonatal milia (also called “milk spots”) and baby acne look very similar, but they’re not the same thing. For one, milia is more common than baby acne, with about 40 to 50% of newborns affected. Milia, which is present at birth and harmless, comes from dead skin cells that form little cysts just below the surface of your baby’s skin. Milia appear as teeny white or yellow bumps on your newborn’s cheeks, chin, or—most commonly, on their nose. Milia usually disappears within the first two to three weeks of life.
Baby Acne Treatment
Pulls out bullhorn: Never apply acne treatment to your baby’s skin—unless a dermatologist recommends it! And don’t pop any baby pimples! Instead try these tips…
How do I get rid of my baby’s acne?
Gently wash your baby’s skin once a day with mild baby wash and lukewarm water. Pat your baby’s skin dry.
Promptly clean up any food residue or vomit from your baby’s skin.
Refrain from using oily or greasy skincare products, such as lotion.
Regularly change crib or bassinet sheets, especially if your baby has spit up on them.
Use gentle detergent to wash your baby’s sheets.
If your little one has baby acne, place a soft, clean receiving blanket under their head while awake.
Does breastmilk help baby acne go away?
Maybe! While there are no double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on breastmilk treating baby acne, we do know breastmilk contains multiple benefits, including natural antibacterial properties. So, it’s possible that a few drops of breastmilk may help baby acne go away if the breakout is due to bacteria. After all, some research has shown that expressing a few drops of breastmilk and rubbing it into sore, cracked nipples then allowing it to dry may aid healing…so there’s no harm—and possible benefits—in applying breastmilk to baby acne.
When should I be worried about baby acne?
While baby acne is not dangerous, the AAD recommends taking your little one to a board-certified dermatologist or pediatric dermatologist if they develop baby acne after 6 weeks. At that point in time, neonatal acne is now called infantile acne. Most cases of baby acne are considered moderate, require no special treatment, and resolve within 6 to 12 months, however, a dermatologist can…
Make a proper diagnosis. Because it’s less common for baby acne to start after 6 weeks, it’s a good idea to make sure your little one’s breakouts are actually baby acne and not baby eczema, a skin infection, or something else. Any child who has acne from age 1 to 7 should be evaluated for hyperandrogenism, which occurs when there’s an excess of androgen hormones in the body.
Recommend baby-friendly skincare. Some littles ones develop baby acne because of irritating and pore-clogging ingredients found in baby skincare products. A dermatologist can point you in the direction of better-for-baby skin care.
Help prevent scarring. Newborn acne rarely causes scars, but infantile acne that starts after 6 weeks can. While it’s difficult to figure out who’s at risk for potential baby acne scarring, more severe acne and having darker skin color does appear to increase one’s risk for scarring. Early and effective treatment from a dermatologist can help prevent baby acne scarring.
More on Baby Skin:
- Dr. Harvey Karp Answers: Do Babies Need Lotion?
- Is Organic Cotton Better for Your Baby's Skin?
- All About Baby Contact Dermatitis
- How to Give Your Baby a Bath
- Diaper Rash Need-to-Know
- American Academy of Dermatology Association: Is That Acne on My Baby’s Face?
- Cleveland Clinic: Baby Acne
- Infantile acne. Canadian Medical Association Journal. December 2016
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): First Month: Physical Appearance and Growth
- Infantile Acne. January 2023
- Up To Date: Acne in infants, young children, and preadolescents
- Cleveland Clinic: Milia
- Milk Therapy: Unexpected Uses for Human Breast Milk. Nutrients. April 2019
- AAP: How Your Newborn Looks
Have questions about a Happiest Baby product? Our consultants would be happy to help! Submit your questions here.
Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.