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Understanding Baby Acne and How to Treat It

Newborn baby with a case of baby acne

When my second daughter was born, I was naturally concerned when I noticed she had dry, red, and inflamed patches on her skin. “What do I see here?” I wondered. I wanted to know whether she had acne, an allergic reaction, or eczema. After she reached the six-week mark and her red, itchy skin continued to irritate her and even keep her up at night, my husband and I decided it was time to ask her doctor to look into it further. It turned out our daughter has eczema as well as an allergy to dairy and gluten. But some children with red and itchy skin are actually just experiencing baby… Read More

When my second daughter was born, I was naturally concerned when I noticed she had dry, red, and inflamed patches on her skin. “What do I see here?” I wondered. I wanted to know whether she had acne, an allergic reaction, or eczema. After she reached the six-week mark and her red, itchy skin continued to irritate her and even keep her up at night, my husband and I decided it was time to ask her doctor to look into it further.

It turned out our daughter has eczema as well as an allergy to dairy and gluten. But some children with red and itchy skin are actually just experiencing baby acne, also known as neonatal acne. As with a lot of skin conditions, sometimes it can be hard to tell what your baby may be struggling with. Baby acne is common, however. Here’s the lowdown on this common skin condition and what you can do to help clear it up.

What is Baby Acne?

Baby acne is a common condition that looks like small red bumps or pimples on the face and body, is often fleeting, and doesn’t require treatment. It typically resolves on its own, is a generally harmless skin condition and affects around 30% of newborns.

What Causes Baby Acne?

It is thought that baby acne is possibly caused by a lack of gut flora, which can be addressed by taking probiotic supplements or ingesting probiotics in your food (see below in “How Is Baby Acne Treated” for a list of probiotic-rich foods). This is because the gut is directly related to the skin. Research also suggests that maternal hormones leftover from birth may be present in your baby’s bloodstream, leading to an overall short-term increase in oil production.

What are the Symptoms of Baby Acne?

You may see red bumps, pimples, white pustules, whiteheads, or reddish skin around the bumps. You may see these developing on your baby’s face, cheeks, chin, forehead, eyelids, upper back, chest, or neck. Sometimes, rough fabrics or harsh detergents can irritate your baby’s skin or the acne itself. So be sure to use detergents made for sensitive skin. Also, heat can further agitate skin conditions, so make sure baby is well-ventilated and not wearing scratchy or irritating clothing.

How Is Baby Acne Treated?

Since baby acne is harmless and usually clears up within 3 months of age without any scarring, it is best not to disturb the pimples. Keep your baby’s skin clean and dry, but be thoughtful when treating and washing baby’s skin. Skin is like a sponge and is the largest organ on your little one’s body. Your baby will essentially ingest anything that is put on his or her skin.

Research suggests that increasing your baby’s and your own probiotics will strengthen the gut, and this has a direct correlation with improving skin conditions, as well. Natural sources of probiotics found at your local grocery store or online include the following:

  • sauerkraut
  • yogurt
  • kefir
  • kimchi
  • fermented vegetables
  • miso

You can also find probiotics sold in pill or liquid form over-the-counter.

What is the Difference Between Baby Acne and Infantile Acne?

Baby acne is different from infantile acne in that blackheads aren’t a symptom of baby acne. Instead, it typically presents as tiny red or white bumps or pimples. Cysts and nodules may appear with infantile acne, which is much less common than baby acne and can last until your child is two-years-old.

What Causes Infantile Acne?

Infantile acne may be the result of testosterone that causes an over-activity of the skin’s oil glands for a short period. For some young children, this may lead to the development of acne.

How is Infantile Acne Treated?

Check with a doctor, naturopath, or skin care professional to determine what is best for your child. Treatment of infantile acne is usually with topical agents such as benzoyl peroxide, retinoid cream or antibiotic gel, but should be used only by advice of a medical professional. Oral treatments, such as antibiotics (erythromycin), or isotretinoin, may be needed if the condition is severe. These will help to prevent permanent scarring.

Though our daughter has eczema rather than baby acne or infantile acne, when treating her skin condition, we found the greatest success with the help of a local naturopathic doctor. She prescribed supplements and topical treatments that helped calm our daughter’s skin and improve her condition, far better than any of the mainstream medicines we had tried before.

Remedies You Can Use to Treat Baby Acne at Home

Several natural tried-and-true remedies can help alleviate the symptoms of your baby’s acne, as well as a list of mild baby soaps that can be used to keep baby’s skin clean and dry.

Calendula Oil

This plant-based oil comes from marigold flowers and has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial qualities, which help to soothe baby acne as well as prevent infection.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has been a successful at-home medicinal for ages. Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar with water and using a cotton ball, gently apply to the affected area of your baby’s skin. You can also rinse your baby’s whole body in a mild bath. Run the bathwater (lukewarm) and add a capful of apple cider vinegar and lukewarm water regularly, but avoid over-washing your baby’s skin as this could further irritate his skin.

Witch Hazel

To aid in reducing inflammation of your baby’s acne, try diluted witch hazel. Consult with your child’s doctor for directions on how much to dilute the solution. Then wet a cotton ball with the solution and apply to the affected areas on your baby’s dermis.

Aloe Vera Gel

Choose a natural aloe vera without additives or added chemical components. Test a small spot on their skin before applying. Aloe vera has medicinal and healing properties that can reduce redness and inflammation related to your baby’s acne. Aloe vera also provides hydration without an oily finish.

Mild Soap & Warm Water

Dermatologists emphasize the remedy of keeping your baby’s face and other areas affected by acne, clean and dry. They recommend using lukewarm to warm water and mild soap to keep the area clean. Try the following 12 mild baby soaps that come highly recommended for baby skincare:

After treating your baby’s skin regularly with one of these and keeping it clean and dry, you should see your baby’s skin clear up.

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