Infant Acne

Lynsey Keep, RN
tiny baby

Every parent wants their baby to be perfect, and for those whose newborn infants develop infant acne, the condition can be upsetting and detract from the happy event.

Conditions in the Newborn

Many infants are born with no medical or health problems and go on to thrive without issues arising that pertain to their health and welfare. Some babies however develop medical problems days and sometimes weeks following birth as not all problems present immediately following the birth. Problems such as gastric reflux, constipation and even skin complaints such as infant acne often do not present in the very early stages, yet when they do can cause alarm and concern to parents.

Infant Acne: Yes it Can Happen

When we think of acne we tend to relate it to teenagers and puberty. Infant acne is a phenomenon which usually occurs when the infant is a few weeks old and presents as pimples found predominantly on the cheeks, chin, forehead and sometimes the back of the infant. It is believed that the problem affects male infants more than females. The pimples are similar to white-heads which are surrounded by a small red area. In most cases the acne disappears by approximately three to four months of age, and parents soon forget the problem ever existed.

As yet there has been no explicit cause attributed to the problem; however, suggestion is that the surplus hormones passed from the mother to the infant in the later stages of pregnancy can remain present in the infant for a time and culminate in symptoms such as acne pimples. Other suspected causes of baby acne include the use of certain medications by a mother while she is still pregnant or nursing, certain medications that may be given to newborn babies and certain diet elements consumed before birth.

How to Manage the Problem

Whatever the cause, infant acne is not a serious problem and requires no medical treatment or intervention. Parents are however advised to protect the skin and keep it free from exposure to potential skin irritants, such as perfumed products. Bathing the infant once a day in a mild baby soap is recommended, and the skin is to be dried thoroughly by patting the dry after bathing. Skin care products such as oils and powders are best avoided at this stage.

Switching washing detergents can help also. The rash may be exacerbated by certain elements of detergents so choosing a brand that is kind to the infant's skin is strongly recommended. Always opt for a non-biological brand as this is preferable for use with infants and young children to avoid skin irritation.

For the short time that the acne may pose a problem, it is advisable to keep the infant's skin uncovered where areas may be affected in order to avoid the irritation. Fortunately the acne tends to predominantly affect the face; therefore, clothing is not an issue. In these cases, keeping the face exposed to the air without coverage by hats and bonnets is a suggested action to avoid direct irritation to the skin, in particular the forehead.

Avoiding contact of formula or breast-milk to the skin is a good idea, as when left on the skin's surface the pores can become clogged making the acne appear worse. Occasionally infants vomit or allow milk to splash onto the skin, and this can be aided by keeping a muslin or cloth nearby to wipe away any spills or splashes. Anything which may be deemed as an irritant is best avoided especially if the cause of the acne is not known.

It is never advisable to use acne treatment on the skin of an infant. These preparations are likely to be abrasive on the delicate skin of the infant and therefore must be avoided at all costs.

Try Not to Worry

Surprisingly acne in an infant is not something which will cause pain or distress. When acne affects a teenager it is often the cosmetic and psychological issues that are the real problem and obviously this is not an issue for a newborn.

Often parents worry unnecessarily which is perfectly understandable, but the best advice is not to stress too much over the problem as it will disappear as quickly as it arrived. In some cases the acne may not disappear within the anticipated time, and if this occurs then advice needs to be sought by a pediatrician as there may be an underlying cause for the problem which ends up not being acne related.

Infant Acne