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Neonatal or baby acne is common and affects approximately 20 percent of infants younger than six weeks. Boys are more likely to develop it than girls, and most cases resolve on their own by four months. Baby acne presents as a red, sometimes flaky-looking rash, most often on the face. A doctor will likely diagnose it through examination and may or may not suggest further treatment.

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Symptoms

Like teenagers or adults with acne, baby acne produces tiny red or white bumps on the cheeks, forehead, and nose. It usually develops within two to four weeks of birth and only rarely affects areas other than the face, such as the upper back or neck. Parents should keep in mind that crying can make acne appear worse because it flushes the cheeks.

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Causes

While the cause is mostly a mystery, one theory suggests baby acne can pass through the mother's hormones in the final pregnancy stage. Meanwhile, research studies show an inflammatory reaction could be to blame. Certain viral illnesses and allergic reactions can cause a rash similar to acne, so it's best to discuss any skin issues with the doctor right away.

baby with a skin rash Osobystist / Getty Images
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Prevention

Unlike in adults, it's nearly impossible to prevent acne in babies. Practicing good hygiene and keeping babies face clean may help minimize the appearance but won't stop breakouts altogether. Always talk to a doctor before trying any preventative measures or natural products; because babies have delicate skin, certain products can easily cause damage.

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Treatment

Because baby acne usually clears on its own, treatment is likely not necessary. Sometimes, if it lasts longer than a few months, a doctor might suggest medicated topicals like benzoyl peroxide or antibiotics. Always check with a doctor before trying any over-the-counter products that could damage a baby's delicate skin or worsen symptoms.

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Home remedies

If you want to use natural home remedies to fight baby acne, there are several to try, but again, always check with a doctor first. Applying a few drops of extra virgin coconut oil to the affected area up to four times a day may help soothe and moisture the baby's dry skin.

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Care

Besides home remedies, a few things could help alleviate baby acne. Firstly, keep the baby's face clean by using warm water and a mild baby soap — washing once a day should suffice; too much could dry out the skin and cause more issues. Keeping your newborn's face dry will help with acne but only pat gently to avoid irritating the skin. Never scrub the acne rash or try to pinch the skin; this will only worsen symptoms.

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Diagnosis

A doctor can diagnose baby acne on sight without any additional testing. It's a smart idea to keep track of when the acne started and if your baby has any other symptoms besides the rash. For example, roseola infantum can cause a rash that looks similar to baby acne, but it also results in symptoms such as irritability, decreased appetite, and diarrhea.

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Preparing for your appointment

When your baby develops acne, it's a good idea to take them to the doctor to ensure there isn't any cause for concern. To prepare for the appointment, consider writing down a few questions you might have. Common examples include whether the condition is temporary, which treatments are available and will the acne cause any scars.

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Avoiding lotion and oils

Using lotion or oil on your baby's face won't treat acne and may even worsen the condition — except for coconut oil. While there is conflicting research on what is safe for babies' skin, there are general recommendations. Avoid olive and sunflower oils until a baby is at least one month, and essential oils are not safe on children younger than three months — even then, consult with a doctor before use.

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Infantile acne

While neonatal — or baby acne — affects newborns, babies six weeks to one year experience infantile acne. Research shows the main difference is the absence of whiteheads or blackheads in the former. In contrast, babies older than six weeks may develop comedones or cysts that could lead to scarring.

baby comedones Richard Ernest Yap / Getty Images

Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.