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What is Infant Acne?

By Stacy Carey
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Infant acne, also called acne neonatorum, affects approximately 20 percent of newborn babies and is a common condition. Baby acne usually appears at birth or within the first few weeks after birth. This baby rash is believed to occur as a reaction to a mother's hormones reaching the baby through the placenta before birth or via breastfeeding after birth. The hormones cause the oil glands on the baby’s skin to produce bumps that resemble acne.

The condition of infant acne is found to be more common among boys than girls, and it is not painful or noticeable to the baby. Newborn acne typically appears as small whiteheads that might be surrounded by reddish, irritated skin. The appearance of the bumps might become more pronounced when the child or the skin is agitated. The infant pimples usually do not last more than a few weeks, but some babies will continue to have the acne bumps for as long as a few months.

Treatment for infant acne is not usually required, though there are options that will relieve itching and irritation for the baby. This baby skin rash usually dissipates by the time a child is a few months old or is no longer breastfeeding regularly. Newborn acne typically is most pronounced when the child is fussy or hot, because of the increased flow of blood to the skin. Skin irritation also generates more baby pimples, particularly when a baby becomes wet around the mouth area from milk or spit-up or when the baby has contact with clothing washed in harsh detergents. Some parents use oils or lotions to try to eliminate the bumps, but these treatments might agitate the condition further and typically should be avoided.

The condition of infant acne is a normal occurrence that usually will work itself out over time, but there are several things one can do to lessen or avoid the infant pimples. First, one should work to keep the area of the baby’s mouth and cheeks dry and clean. Parents should consider using a gentle, chemical-free detergent to wash clothing and should use mild baby soaps to wash the baby, especially around the mouth area. Parents will want to avoid oils, lotions or other topical remedies, because these can make the infant acne worse. One might also want to consider the formula used, because formulas containing soy milk contain ingredients that closely mimic hormones and might cause more baby acne.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By candyquilt — On Aug 15, 2013

@simrin-- My nephew had infant acne for a very long time and his pediatrician told my sister to use 1% hydrocortisone cream on the spots. But please consult your doctor first because I'm not an expert.

By fify — On Aug 15, 2013

@simrin- Don't do anything!

Acne treatments are not safe for babies' skin and benzoyl peroxide is very strong and drying. You will only make things worse. Just wash those areas with a gentle, hypoallergenic baby soap. You don't need to do anything else.

My son had infant acne for almost three months and then it just disappeared. I didn't do anything other than keeping his skin clean and dry. I also made sure that he was not too hot or sweating at any time.

Some mothers might advise you to put breastmilk on it but please don't do that either. For some reason, some people think that breastmilk is the cure for everything but it's not.

By SteamLouis — On Aug 14, 2013

My newborn has infant acne and I think it's getting worse. I see new bumps after I breastfeed her and when she gets hot.

Is there anything I can apply to her skin to help the spots heal faster? I think benzoyl peroxide is often used for acne. Will it be safe for her if I dilute benzoyl peroxide with water and wipe her acne spots with it?

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