What is Baby Acne?

Also known as Neonatal Acne, baby acne is a temporary skin condition that develops in about 20 % of newly born babies. Baby acne is small red or white bumps or pimples on the face or neck, and very rarely on the back of the baby. Acne does not need any proper medication as in almost all cases, acne resolves on its own. Baby acne develops in 2-3 weeks-old babies, and it is quite different from infantile acne.

Infantile acne generally develops after six weeks of age, and it is different from infantile acne in that it is open comedones with blackheads, and generally grows at the openings of the skin pores. Infantile Acne may also appear as nodules or cysts. The life span of baby acne comprises of few months of the age of the baby, while Infantile acne may last until your baby is 2 years old. Baby acne is much more common than Infantile acne.

Symptoms of Baby Acne

  • Baby Acne can develop anywhere on the face, neck, and in some cases on the back of the newly-borne babies.
  • They appear in the form of tiny white pimples or bumps, with reddish skin around them.
  • More than 80% of Baby Acne develops on the cheeks.
  • In the case of fussy babies, acne may become more profound.
  • Sliva and Vomit can increase the irritability of the baby’s acne. Rough fabrics, the mother’s hands, and even breasts can irritate the baby’s face.
  • Baby acne may occasionally be present at birth. But, in most cases, it develops within two to four weeks after birth.
  • It may last for a few days or weeks, though some cases may last for several months.
Baby with Acne
Baby with Acne. Source: Getty Image

What causes Baby Acne?

Baby Acne develops within six weeks of the age of a newly-born baby. The exact cause of acne is still uncertain. Some researchers believe it is caused by maternal and infant hormones, while others say that acne develops as a hormonal reaction to yeast present on the skin. The good news about acne is it disappears on its own, however, newborn babies with acne may scare parents.

There is nothing to worry about acne if it is within the first six weeks of the baby’s life. However, if you see acne on the face of your baby after the age of six weeks, you need to consult a doctor. The acne after six weeks is not included in baby acne, but rather it is Infantile acne. The color and condition of infantile acne are quite different from baby acne.

In the case of infantile acne, it is better to consult a pediatrician or pediatric dermatologist to make sure that there is not any underlying condition behind it. Meanwhile like newborn baby acne, Infantile acne is also harmless and finally disappears on its own. In rare cases, infantile acne may last until two years of age, which needs medical treatment.

When does Baby Acne go away?

Baby acne is not to be scared of, because it disappears on its own. Acne generally develops during the first few weeks of a baby’s life and lasts for several days and completely goes away after two weeks. Baby acne sometimes lasts for more than two weeks. Sometimes the acne spots appear to disappear immediately within a few hours. Sometimes it also lasts for a few months, but never proceeds to six months.

The acne after the age of six months is Infantile acne. Both types will disappear without any treatment. However, home precautions are necessary, in order to prevent irritation. Sliva and vomit can soften the skin tissue. The soft skin may easily be irritated and inflamed by exposure to rough fabrics. If the acne is irritating, antifungal cream should be applied to the affected skin. It will heal soon.

Locations of Acne

Neonatal Acne grows in the form of tiny white or red pimples or bumps, with surrounding red skin. It develops anywhere on the face, forehead, chin, scalp, neck, upper back, and upper chest, but mostly on the cheeks.

Neonatal and Infantile Acne:

Both types of acne are quite different in nature and appearance as well. Following are the differentiating features, that make diagnosis easier.

Neonatal acne symptoms

  • Appears at about two or three weeks of age
  • Lasts for a few days to a few months
  • It does not last more than six month
  • Develops in 20 percent of babies
  • More frequent in baby boys
  • Looks like red or white inflamed bumps and pimples
  • Appear on the cheek, forehead, chin, neck, upper chest, and, upper back
  • It is not scarring

Infantile acne symptoms

  • Appears at the age of six months
  • May last for a few weeks to the age of 2 to 3 years.
  • Affects less than two percent of infants
  • Similar to teenage acne
  • It is like pimples with blackheads
  • Generally grown on skin pores
  • May cause scarring and needs treatment

How to get rid of Baby Acne?

Baby acne disappears on its own. In some cases, they appear to disappear immediately. Some last for several months. If acne lasts for a longer period of time, it needs some home precautions.

  1. Keep your baby clean
  2. Wipe off the saliva and vomit immediately from the face
  3. Use soft fabric to prevent irritation and inflammation
  4. Avoid lotions, creams, and oil, as they can aggravate the condition
  5. Never scrub the face with a towel or hand
  6. Never pinch or squeeze the acne, as it will irritate your baby and a fussy and crying behavior may aggravate the condition
  7. Be patient and let acne heel its own. Acne disappears on its own without any medical treatment
  8. Skin powders without fragrance may help reduce acne
  9. Harsh products like Retronoid and Erythromycin are used for adult acne. Never use these products for baby acne

When to see a Doctor?

There is no proper treatment for acne, it is perhaps for its not being harmful, and its ability to disappear on its own. But still, you should consult your pediatrician if it lasts for a longer period of time because there might be some other underlying conditions behind the acne of your baby. In order to properly diagnose the condition and prevent any other concerning condition, it would be better to consult a pediatric dermatologist.

If the acne has blackheads, is puss-filled, or is inflammatory, see the doctor immediately. Because in such cases, acne is not the usual one. Meanwhile, if your baby’s acne doesn’t clear up after several months of home remedies, the doctor may recommend using a medicine. In rare cases, they may also prescribe some antibiotics, such as erythromycin.

The recurring of baby acne is not usually common, but if the child gets acne again before reaching puberty, it would be better to see a doctor.

Baby Acne and other resembling conditions:

Similar conditions may confuse you with diagnosing baby acne


Like Baby Acne, Eczema usually shows up as red bumps on the face, but in older babies, it may also appear on knees and elbows. Eczema becomes yellow and crusty after getting infected. Baby injures her knees during crawling. t may worsen as your baby starts to crawl around and scrape up their knees and elbows. Differentiating Eczema from Baby Acne is quite easy, as Baby Acne usually develops in the first few weeks of a baby’s life, while Eczema develops between the age of six months and five years. In very rare cases Eczema may also appear in babies under the age of 6 months, this type of eczema will usually appear red and weepy. If it becomes infected, the skin can develop a yellow crust or small lumps that contain pus.

Erythema toxicum

It appears as a rash, tiny bumps, or red blotches. Like Baby Acne, it is also harmless. Erythema toxicum may develop within the first few days of the baby’s birth. It may appear on the face, chest, belly, and limbs and usually disappear within a week on its own.


When dead skin cells are arrested in the skin pocket, Milia appears. Mila are tiny white bumps that appear within the first few days of the baby’s birth. It usually develops on the baby’s face. Milia are unrelated to Acne and Eczema, and never need any treatment or care.


Chickenpox is a viral disease, caused by Varicella-Zoster Virus. Chickenpox appears in the form of red, pussy pimples and bumps, which also feel pain and inflammation. It is a contagious condition, which spreads from person to person. It needs special care and treatment. Chickenpox pimples generally appear on the belly, and face, and may spread all over the body. But on the other hand, Baby Acne limits to the upper parts of the body.

Chickenpox (especially in babies) can lead to serious complications like infection in the skin, brain, and bloodstream. It also causes dehydration or pneumonia. Detection of chickenpox in babies must be reported to the doctor right away.

Bacterial folliculitis

Bacterial folliculitis is the medical name for an inflamed hair follicle, which tend to look very similar to Baby Acne. Infection and injury can cause bacterial folliculitis. Irritating substances, such as ingredients in creams or ointments, can also lead to folliculitis. Folliculitis is uncommon in babies. The difference between Bacterial Folliculitis and Baby Acne is the Bacterial Folliculitis has a red ring around it.

Food Allergy

Skin rashes, swelling of lips, stomach pain, and in some cases severe reactions known as anaphylaxis, are the symptoms of food allergy. Food allergy means the immune system thinks that a food protein is harmful and it works against it. If your baby has a food allergy, rashes develop on the face and body, which may confuse you with Baby Acne. In order to coup with food allergies, two types of medicines are used;

  • antihistamines – used to treat mild to moderate allergic reactions.
  • adrenaline – used to treat severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis)

Heat Rash

Also known as prickly heat, Heat rash is a rash that’s most common in babies and children that is caused by heat and exposure to sunlight. Due to extreme heat sweat ducts become blocked and inflamed and sweat gets trapped under the skin, and resultantly heat rashes/ prickly heat develops. Heat rashes are small itchy, irritated blisters with reddened skin. There is no special therapy for heat rashes. Only prickly heat powers and soaps are beneficial to reduce heat rashes. The heat rash disappears on its own.


Neonatal herpes is a very rare disorder, which affects only 1 in 10000 babies all through the world. It may develop a rash over the body, and a newborn baby with herpes may fall seriously ill. Hence it causes only cold sores or blisters around the lips and mouth, the caregivers may mistake for acne. Cold sores can be treated effectively with antiviral medicines. Moreover, cold sores may recur occasionally.