If your newborn starts developing an inflammatory condition usually associated with changing hormones during puberty, you will probably have some questions.
It’s not like your baby eats inflammatory foods or uses cosmetic products that could trigger acne. So, what might be causing acne in newborns?
It turns out baby acne is actually a common occurrence that’s usually easy to treat.
Therefore, this article will explain everything you need to know about baby acne: what causes it, how to prevent it, and home remedies you can safely use to treat it.
Table of Contents
What is ‘Baby Acne’?
Baby acne is also known as neonatal acne or cephalic pustulosis, which means pustular acne, and is what baby acne looks like.
Babies cannot develop deep, cystic acne, so the rash usually appears as small red or white bumps surrounded by redness and can be seen on their face and neck.
Baby acne is actually very common, affecting up to 20% of infants, and it tends to show up on the skin 2-3 weeks after a baby is born, as their skin starts to get accustomed to the environment.
The cause of baby acne is not entirely known; however, it is thought that newborns have many maternal hormones circulating in their system due to being exposed to many chemicals that are in the mother’s bloodstream. This exposure can potentially trigger certain skin conditions that are sometimes genetically predetermined, like acne.
Another possible cause of baby acne is thought to be due to an overgrowth of yeast organisms on the skin, which we know as fungal acne, or Malassezia folliculitis. This is quite a common condition in newborns and can appear as redness, bumps, and a rash.
Baby Acne vs. Baby Rash
Certain conditions, although appearing as acne, may actually be something else, which is why the condition must be diagnosed correctly in order to determine the most appropriate treatment.
Here are some conditions that are common in infants and may appear as acne but are something else entirely:
Cradle cap is by far a condition that looks the most like acne. The symptoms include excessively oily skin, red or white bumps usually surrounded by redness, and, in severe cases, yellowish or brown scaly patches.
This condition is caused by excess oil production, which is likely due to the mother’s hormones still circulating in the infant’s bloodstream after birth.
This extra oil interferes with the natural shedding of skin cells on the baby’s skin and creates a build-up, which results in bumps on the skin.
Contact dermatitis or contact eczema is a condition caused by direct contact with an allergen. It’s incredibly common in infants because their immune system is much more sensitive to irritants and allergens.
Some potential causes could include sensitivity to detergents, and softeners, a reaction to an ingredient in a diaper cream or lotion, and even saliva from excessive drooling.
The allergy results in redness and bumps on the skin that can look like acne.
ETN (Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum) is a condition that appears on an infant’s skin as red patches or small, fluid-filled bumps that may form on the face and body.
This condition is similar to baby acne but usually lasts a shorter period of time, and the risk of an infant developing it increases when a baby is born in a hot and humid environment, has a diet that includes powdered milk substitutes, or has a higher weight at birth.
Home Remedies for Baby Acne
Baby acne is a common condition, and luckily it’s not a complicated one to get rid of. Here are some home remedies that can help treat baby acne:
Cornstarch is a white to yellowish floury powder that provides a pleasant feel on the skin and can soothe inflammatory conditions like pustular acne.
Found in almost every kitchen cabinet, you can dab a little bit of cornstarch on a cotton round and gently apply it to the baby’s skin. The cornstarch will absorb the excess oil and reduce redness and inflammation.
Breast milk baths are another common home remedy for baby acne. The lauric acid found in breast milk has antimicrobial properties, which can help reduce bacteria on the skin and provide a calming effect.
Calamine powder is an effective remedy for redness, irritation, and inflammation and can be used as a leave-on treatment or mixed with water and applied to the baby’s skin as a mask.
How to Prevent Baby Acne
Luckily, there’s a lot that you can do in terms of preventing baby acne and minimizing potential triggers by incorporating the following lifestyle and hygiene habits:
Use a Gentle Cleanser
Since baby acne sometimes shows up due to the overgrowth of yeast and bacteria on the skin, you want to make sure the baby’s skin is always kept clean.
Therefore, use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser to wash the baby’s skin and help minimize flare-ups.
While cleansing the baby’s skin, make sure to avoid scrubbing or using washcloths on the affected area, as this will only irritate and worsen the condition.
Picking is never a good idea, and avoiding this is especially important when it comes to baby acne, as squeezing the bumps will only make them worse and increase the chance of infection.
Additionally, baby skin doesn’t have the capacity to heal very well; therefore, permanent scarring due to skin breakages from picking is also more likely.
Natural oils like coconut or almond oil might sound like a good idea because they soften the skin, but they can actually worsen baby acne by clogging the pores and contributing to the accumulation of bacteria and yeast on the skin.
Repair The Skin Barrier
A healthy skin barrier is crucial for healthy skin. When the skin barrier functions optimally, bacteria and yeast that reside on the skin are kept under control, and everything is in harmony.
Therefore, to reduce the risk of acne flare-ups, the baby’s skin barrier must be healthy. One of the most efficient ways to maintain a healthy skin barrier is to use a fragrance-free, non-irritating, and non-comedogenic moisturizer to soothe, protect, and nourish the baby’s skin and encourage repairing components like ceramides to do their job and keep the skin healthy and functioning.
Professional Treatments for Baby Acne
If home remedies don’t seem to work and baby acne persists for longer than a few weeks, visiting a doctor or dermatologist for professional treatments might be necessary.
In this case, a health provider will likely prescribe an antifungal cream or antibiotic cream to reduce the inflammation and help clear up the condition.
How Long Does Baby Acne Last?
The good news is that baby acne rarely lasts longer than a few weeks at the most. And while most cases of baby acne usually start to clear up as quickly as 2-3 days after introducing an effective treatment, the exact time it takes to clear up ultimately depends on the severity of the condition.
In any case, if baby acne persists for more than a few weeks, it’s always best to consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.