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What is Neonatal Acne?

By Alex Terris
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Neonatal acne — sometimes known as baby acne or acne infantum — is a relatively common form of acne that occurs in newborn babies. Although the exact cause of neonatal acne is not yet known it is thought to be related to certain maternal hormones that are released during pregnancy. This hormone activates the sebaceous gland which in turn causes acne as well as other skin conditions. In the majority of cases treatment is not required for acne infantum.

Although neonatal acne isn’t a particularly well-known problem it is thought to affect around one in five newborn babies. For this reason parents sometimes assume that the condition is more serious than it actually is. In reality, the problem nearly always disappears naturally, although in some cases a cream will be used to speed up the process. Although the duration of neonatal acne varies the symptoms will usually disappear within a few months.

Often, the symptoms of acne in babies don’t set in right after birth but instead take several weeks to appear. The acne is usually focused around the nose and cheek area and is composed mainly of pustules and papules. Pustules are the smaller whiteheads which occur on the face of someone who has acne. Papules are often more noticeable as they are redder and are raised above the skin.

In the most severe cases of neonatal acne some form of treatment may be required. Creams such as retinoids are sometimes used as well as benzoyl peroxides. These forms of treatment, however, should not be used without the prior advice and recommendation of a doctor. Even though baby acne can be a distressing problem for the parents it is not a dangerous condition and hence no risks should be taken when trying to treat it. The fact that the condition usually clears up relatively quickly and without treatment is another reason why treatment is not usually prescribed in all but the worst cases.

Infantile acne is a similar condition but occurs in children who are older than three months. It is considered to be a separate condition to acne infantum due to the fact that it doesn’t occur in newborn babies and hence probably doesn’t have the same cause. Like neonatal acne, however, infantile acne nearly always disappears naturally although it can take several years depending on the severity of the problem. Treatment is usually not required for infantile acne unless the condition is particularly severe.

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.
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