Baby Acne. The Key Points to Know.

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Dr. Sandro Cantoni. Pediatrician.

Reading time: 7 minutes

If you’re a parent, then you’ve probably dealt with baby acne at some point. It’s a common problem that usually clears up on its own, but can sometimes require treatment. In this article, we’ll discuss the causes of baby acne and how to treat it. We’ll also talk about the differences between baby acne and other skin conditions like cradle cap and atopic dermatitis.

What is baby acne?

Baby acne is when your baby has red spots on their face. Don’t worry, this will go away. Everyone has bacteria or fungi on their skin, but some babies get more than others. This may cause you to think your baby has acne, but it is not the same thing as teen acne.

Baby acne usually happens when you first bring your baby home from the hospital. But it can also happen during or after your baby’s first month at home with you.

Baby acne is not the same as the acne you get when you were a teenager. So, washing your baby’s face with lots of soap and water will NOT make it go away.

If your child has large red bumps on their face, this may be a different skin condition called infantile acne.

In fact, there are two forms of acne in the baby. Neonatal acne occurs in the child of a few months of life. It is very frequent (20 % of infants). Infantile acne occurs later, beyond the first 2-3 months of life. It is less frequent (about 2% of children under one year of age).

The distinction is somewhat artificial but clinically speaking, infantile acne is more severe.

What causes baby acne?

What are the causes of neonatal acne?

It is not known precisely. Once it was thought that the cause was the hormones transmitted by the mother during pregnancy. But the cause of newborn acne is probably an inflammatory reaction to a fungus normally found on a newborn’s skin, which is called malassezia. 

What are the causes of infantile acne?

In this case, the cause is maternal hormones, transmitted during pregnancy. These are male sex hormones (androgens) that stimulate the sebaceous glands of the face. A bit like teenage acne. 

How to recognize baby acne?

Neonatal acne.

Neonatal acne appears as red pimples on the cheeks, nose, and forehead. The lesions begin around three weeks of age, then disappear in a few months without leaving scars.

In the newborn, there may also be other rashes that resemble acne but are due to different causes. The most common are as follows:

Milia. These are small white papules found on the sides of the nose and cheeks.

Miliaria. This is caused by an obstruction of the ducts, sweat glands. It is usually due to a hot, humid environment. It can have several different aspects. You can find little bubbles, like micro blisters on the infant’s face. Miliaria can also manifest as red papules all over the body, so not just on the face. It looks a little bit like a heat rash.

Infantile acne

The symptoms of infantile acne are usually more severe than the symptoms of neonatal acne. Infantile acne lesions are generally larger and may have a pus-filled appearance. The lesions are most commonly found on the cheeks, chin, and forehead.

Symptoms of infantile acne can include Blackheads, whiteheads, papules (small bumps), pustules (pimples with pus), and nodules (large lumps). Babies with infantile acne may also have excessive skin oil production, and the condition may cause the baby to become fussy or irritable.

What to do for baby acne?

There are a few things you can try to help neonatal acne. One of the best is washing their face with water and soap. Then, use a clean cloth to wipe off the dirt and oils. If your baby is still having problems, you can ask the doctor if they have any other suggestions.

The doctor may also see that nothing needs to be done at all. If your child has small red bumps on their face, this may just go away on its own.

How to treat infantile acne?

These lesions usually disappear spontaneously by the age of one year. Severe forms may require specific treatment because they can leave scars. 

When to see a doctor about baby acne?

Most cases of baby acne will clear up on their own without any treatment. However, sometimes baby acne can be a sign of an underlying skin condition or infection, so it’s important to see a doctor if your baby’s acne doesn’t improve within a few weeks or if it gets worse.

Warning sign: Blackheads or pimples that ooze pus

A baby’s skin can become infected with bacteria, which could lead to a boil (a tender, red bump). If this happens, bring your child to the doctor. Also, be alert for signs of infection in a baby who has acne on the face and neck because these areas are particularly vulnerable to infection.

If your baby is uncomfortable or has a fever, she may have an infection related to acne that requires treatment with antibiotics.

The difference between baby acne and cradle cap.

Baby acne is a problem where the baby’s skin gets red bumps. A cradle cap is a problem where the baby’s scalp gets a rash and it can also be on the face and on other parts of the body.

Baby acne does not usually itch or bother the baby at all; you do not need to treat it except for having patience for it to go away. Generally, the baby’s skin will clear up on its own in a few months.

Cradle cap is not very serious but may need treatment to get better.

The difference between baby acne and atopic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema, is a type of skin inflammation that usually occurs in infants and children. The condition is characterized by patches of dry, itchy skin.

The cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown, but it is thought to be related to genetics and environmental factors, such as allergens and climate.

Atopic dermatitis is a very common condition, affecting up to 20% of children. The condition often resolves spontaneously by the age of 5 years, but may persist into adulthood.

The main difference between baby acne and atopic dermatitis is that baby acne typically resolves without any treatment, while atopic dermatitis requires treatment to improve.

Breastfeeding and baby acne.

Breastfeeding is a great way to provide your baby with all the nourishment they need in the early months of their life. It also offers many other benefits, such as providing antibodies that can help protect your baby from infection.

Many mothers worry about whether or not they should continue to breastfeed if their baby develops acne. Acne is a common skin condition that can occur in both adults and children. It is caused by the overproduction of oil, which can clog pores and lead to the development of blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples.

There is no definitive answer as to whether breastfeeding causes or worsens baby acne. Some babies who are breastfed develop acne, while others who are not breastfed also develop it. No studies have shown that breastfeeding leads to an increase in infant acne.


Baby acne is a common condition that usually clears up on its own. However, there are a few things you can do to help clear it up faster. One of the best is washing their face with water and soap. If your baby’s acne doesn’t clear up in a few months, talk to your pediatrician about other treatment options.


About the author

Hi. My name is Sandro Cantoni. I’m a Pediatrician. I work in the General Pediatric Clinic. Hospital of Neuchatel, Switzerland.


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  • Herane MI, Ando I. Acne in infancy and acne genetics. Dermatology. 2003;206(1):24-8. 

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