What is Baby Acne?

Britt Archer

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 generally disappears without scarring when left untouched.
Baby acne generally disappears without scarring when left untouched.

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.

Neonatal acne is a result of a baby's contact with hormones in the womb.
Neonatal acne is a result of a baby's contact with hormones in the womb.

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.

Newborn acne occurs is about 20% of infants.
Newborn acne occurs is about 20% of infants.

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.

Baby acne is relatively common, and usually harmless.
Baby acne is relatively common, and usually harmless.

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Discussion Comments


Both of my babies had persistent baby face acne that took a long time to clear up. Does this mean they will possibly have bad acne as teenagers as well?

Does anyone know if there is any kind of connection between the two? I had bad acne as a teenager, and when I saw that both of my kids had baby acne, began worrying they are going to have the same problem.


All of my kids had newborn baby acne which showed up shortly after birth. The only time it really looked bad was when they were crying and their face was really red.

I have seen some babies with bad baby acne and I always feel so bad for them. Even though I know it probably doesn't bother the baby, your first instinct is to put something on it to help clear it up.


If your baby has what looks like baby acne, I think it is always a good idea to get it checked out. My son had what I thought was baby acne, but it didn't clear up.

I found out he had baby acne eczema which looked like a rash on his face. At first they thought he may be allergic to the formula we were using, but it turns out he wasn't.

I did use a cream to treat this, and I know I felt better putting something on his face to help clear it up. The rash didn't seem to bother my son at all, but I sure felt a lot better once it cleared up.


When I had my first baby I worried about everything. When my daughter started getting some baby acne when she was about 3 weeks old, I immediately asked the pediatrician about it.

She told me it was baby acne and the best thing to do was let it run its course. She said a lot of parents want to use a baby acne cream, but she recommended keeping the area dry and said it should clear up on its own.

It did clear up, and when the same thing happened with my son, I didn't worry so much about it.

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