Newborn babies are born with pure skin that is suddenly exposed to
a new environment. As a result, infant rashes are common and often temporary and benign. However, baby acne, or acne neonatorum, can make your newborn’s smooth skin look like an adolescent’s. So, what is baby acne, and how is it treated? Keep reading to learn more.
Baby acne is prevalent, benign, and goes away within a few weeks without treatment.
Typical newborn skincare guidelines can help limit the worsening of baby acne.
Skin application of breast milk may be a beneficial treatment for baby acne.
A newborn’s new skin
An infant’s sensitive skin changes during the first few weeks. While rashes, bumps, and birthmarks are common and frequently temporary, they may cause concern for many parents. Often, commonly seen infant skin conditions cause no discomfort for your newborn.
What causes baby acne?
Baby acne is extremely common and can affect up to 20% of newborns. Baby acne looks just like regular acne. The acne breakouts can appear on your baby’s cheeks, nose, chin, scalp, neck, and chest. Whiteheads, inflammation, and pus-filled bumps can occur as well.
The cause of baby acne is unclear. Most evidence points to the relationship between the stimulation of the sebaceous glands — a gland within your hair follicles that secretes oil to keep skin moist — and maternal and infant hormones.
How long does baby acne last?
Baby acne usually presents during the child's first two to four weeks and can persist until they're four months old, though it may not last this long. Thankfully, scarring is rare, and no medication treatment is often required or recommended.
How to treat baby acne
Generally, baby acne requires no treatment. However, some cases can be very severe and persistent. Treatment for severe cases may include a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide lotion directly applied to the acne spots.
Other causes of baby acne or similar conditions may need to be considered if your child’s acne begins after six weeks or lasts longer than four months. Some general guidelines for newborn skin care may help the appearance of your baby’s acne:
- Skin should be washed with lukewarm, not hot, water.
- Infants do not need to be bathed more than 2 or 3 times a week.
- Avoid skin soaps, washes, and lotions that contain fragrances or perfumes, which can be irritating.
- Be gentle when cleaning your baby’s skin. Do not scrub any acne or rashes.
- Do not use acne medication or face wash unless directed by a dermatologist or pediatrician.
- Do not attempt to squeeze or pick at any whiteheads or scabs on your baby’s face.
It is necessary and comforting to remember that normal baby acne does not cause discomfort for your newborn, though the appearance may be unsightly and concerning as a parent.
Does treating baby acne with breastmilk work?
There is no harm in putting breast milk on your baby’s skin. Applying breast milk to baby acne is an age-old recommendation by pediatricians and fellow parents. Breast milk carries no risk of allergic reactions or side effects. However, there is minimal evidence supporting the effectiveness of this practice. Breast milk may help the acne, or it may not, but there is no danger in doing so.
Power of breastmilk
Human breast milk is extraordinary and complex. Breast milk is a live, bioactive fluid. Breast milk is filled with many cells and “communication” proteins that impact the immune system. Breast milk also contains proteins that protect against infections, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Breast milk also contains prebiotics to promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
There is reason to believe that breast milk application to a variety of common newborn skin conditions may have some benefits. However, science is only beginning to understand all the components of human breast milk and its advantages for newborns. More studies are planned. Although baby acne may appear unsightly on your sweet newborn’s face, it is not problematic. Acne neonatorum is unavoidable for some infants, but gentle cleansing, limiting irritating fragrances, and perhaps, even breast milk may quicken the healing process.
How do I apply breastmilk to my baby’s skin?
Breast milk can be damply applied to your newborn’s acne with a clean cotton ball or cotton pad. It will dry quickly, and there is no need to wash it off.
What is the difference between milk spots and baby acne?
Milia is another common skin condition in up to 50% of newborns. Milia are 1 to 2-millimeter white or yellow bumps along the forehead, nose, cheeks, or chin. These bumps are trapped keratin, a protein found in the skin. Milia is often present at birth, but can also develop within the first few weeks of life. No inflammation or redness is associated with milia, as can be seen in baby acne.
When should I see a doctor about my baby's acne?
Acne that develops after six weeks old is called infantile acne.
Infantile acne may not be problematic, but you may want to see a dermatologist. A dermatologist will evaluate your newborn’s skin to ensure it's baby
acne, rule-out other causes, determine whether medication is necessary and
provide advice on avoiding acne scarring.
- American Family Physician. Newborn Skin: Part I. Common Rashes.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. Is that acne on my baby’s face?
- Pediatric Clinics of North America. Human Milk Composition: Nutrients and Bioactive Factors.
- Nutrients. Milk Therapy: Unexpected Uses for Human Breast Milk.