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Of all the challenges new parents must face, newborn health problems are among the most harrowing. The seeming fragility of a new life coupled with the inability of the child to express in words what problems he is experiencing are two factors that can make for a very stressful ordeal. Even problems that would be simple for an adult can become a disturbing ordeal for parents and their child. While some problems may be serious, baby acne, or acne neonatorum, is not one of them.
Baby acne is a fairly common affliction, occurring in about 20 percent of newborn infants. Symptoms of the affliction are much like the ones that mark adult acne, including small red bumps, lesions filled with pus and, on occasion, blackheads. The condition may appear as early as the first eight to 12 weeks of a child's life, and generally cease within about six weeks. The symptoms will generally disappear without scarring if they are left untouched.
The most popular theory on why neonatal acne occurs points to maternal hormones lingering in the child's system. A mother's hormones may pass into the baby's system via the placenta and can remain there for a few months postpartum. Baby acne was thought to appear when the part of the child's body that produces oils, the sebaceous glands, are stimulated by warm moisture or other irritants. While this theory was common for a while, most doctors and scientists are now pointing to another cause.
Malassezia sympolais, a type of yeast that is within the same species as the yeast that causes cradle cap (seborrhea), is now thought to be the common cause for infant acne. The yeast is a saprophyte, meaning it gains nutrients from dead organic matter. Dry skin is a type of dead matter, and a prime spot for the yeast to grow. While doctors are still uncertain as to which is the true cause of baby acne, the treatment for both is the same. Treatment for baby acne often consists of simply letting nature take its course and keeping the skin clean and dry. In rare cases, doctors may prescribe a low dose of topical anti-fungal solution.
As with other illnesses, it is always best to seek the opinion of a professional healthcare specialist. Newborn acne can often mimic the appearance of another dermatological problem known as milia, in which small, skin-colored bumps appear within the first few weeks of a child's life. For this reason, it is a good idea to seek the opinion of a doctor before pursuing any course of action or over-the-counter remedy.