Baby Acne: What Zit all About?

Baby Acne: What Zit all About?

Parents of newborns have been asking me about pimples that appear to be forming on their babies’ faces, and wonder if they could be experiencing acne.  Believe it or not, babies can get acne, so let me tell you what’s zit all about!

At around three weeks old, more than one in five babies will develop red pimples – some of which may look like they contain a tiny amount of pus similar to the whiteheads teenagers get – almost exclusively on their face.  Why does this happen?  Researchers are not sure, but think it may be due in some part to lingering hormones from mom – the same hormones that stimulate the oil-producing glands in the faces of teenagers. –

But there is lots of good news about infant acne.  Though it may not make for your baby’s best photo opportunities, this type of acne goes away with tincture of time – usually in a few weeks – and rarely lasts beyond a few months of age. 

What can make it worse?  A rough fabric or blanket can inflame the skin and make the acne look worse, as can vigorous scrubbing.  Use of over-the-counter acne medicines used for teenage acne will also make the rash worse, because these are not dosed for babies and can cause more inflammation and slow down the healing process.

So what should you do if your baby has acne or to prevent acne from getting worse?  Simply wash baby’s face once a day with water and mild baby soap, and pat it dry.  Don’t overdo the cleansing or wash the face repeatedly – once a day is fine.

Remember that your baby’s acne does not bother him or her, so don’t let it bother you – it will go away. If you find the rash still present after several months, it is not likely to be baby acne but perhaps a different inflammatory rash called eczema, which is also treatable. 

Hopefully tips like this will be “rash-ional” ones when it comes to staying calm about your baby getting acne.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids