Baby acne (acne in babies): symptoms, cause and treatment

Baby acne or baby pimples are common. Acne is common during puberty, but newborn babies can also develop small pimples and pimples. Baby acne usually appears on the cheeks and sometimes on the forehead, chin, and even the back. The pimples can be present in infants from birth, or they develop during the first weeks of life. Two forms of baby acne are distinguished: acne neonatorum and erythema toxicum neonatorum. The pimples often disappear on their own within a few weeks to months and, if necessary, the doctor can prescribe a remedy. No scars are left behind. The prognosis is favorable.

  • What is baby acne?
  • Types of acne in a baby
  • Baby acne symptoms
  • Acne neonatorum
  • Erythema toxicum neonatorum
  • Cause of baby acne
  • Cause of acne neonatorum
  • Cause of erythema toxicum neonatorum
  • Preventing baby acne
  • Examination and diagnosis
  • Treatment of baby acne
  • Treatment of acne neonatorum
  • Treatment of erythema toxicum neonatorum
  • Self-care
  • Prevention
  • Complications
  • Prognosis

 

Baby acne (on the forehead) / Source: Sage Ross, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

What is baby acne?

Baby acne is a common condition that is completely harmless and heals spontaneously without leaving scars. Newborn babies quite often get small pimples on the face or elsewhere on the body. This acne is called baby acne . If your newborn baby suffers from pimples, spots and bumps on the face or other places on the body, it is usually a form of baby acne. Baby acne often goes away on its own, but in some cases it does not hurt to consult your doctor.

Types of acne in a baby

Two types of baby acne are distinguished:

  • acne neonatorum; and
  • erythema toxicum neonatorum (ETN).

 

Baby acne symptoms

Acne neonatorum

Acne neonatorum is characterized by both closed and open comedones (blackheads) and papules and pustules, especially on the face (forehead, cheeks and chin). After a few months, the pimples disappear spontaneously.

Erythema toxicum neonatorum

Erythema toxicum neonatorum can be recognized by small urticaria-like papules of 2-3 mm in size, which develop into pustules. Sometimes it concerns a few places and sometimes hundreds. The condition occurs on the trunk and face and sometimes spreads to the extremities. It does not occur on the hands and soles of the feet. ETN usually manifests itself between the second and third day, but can also be present from birth. Erythema toxicum neonatorum occurs more often in children born at term (‘born at term’) than in premature babies. The spots disappear spontaneously within a week and rarely last for several months.

Cause of baby acne

Cause of acne neonatorum

It is not clear how acne neonatorum develops. The cause is probably an increased sensitivity of the sebaceous glands to neonatal androgens, which increases sebum production and clogs the pores with sebum. This variant occurs after an inflammation of the sebaceous glands in the skin.

Cause of erythema toxicum neonatorum

The cause of ETN is also unknown. It is less common in premature babies. An allergic predisposition may play a role. In any case, erythema toxicum neonatorum has nothing to do with the use of (wrong) baby oil, food allergies or breastfeeding.

Preventing baby acne

Up to 20% of newborns develop acne neonatorum. More boys than girls get it. Erythema toxicum neonatorum develops in 40-70% of term children, compared to only 5% of preterm children (premature children).

Examination and diagnosis

The diagnosis can be made immediately; blood tests show no abnormalities. A biopsy or tissue examination is not necessary.

GP examines baby / Source: Istock.com/Zdenka Darula

Treatment of baby acne

Treatment of acne neonatorum

Acne neonatorum disappears spontaneously within weeks to months. Local agents can be applied, such as horn dissolving agents. This can shorten the duration of the illness somewhat. Ask your doctor for advice.

Treatment of erythema toxicum neonatorum

Erythema toxicum neonatorum often resolves within one to two weeks without scarring. Sometimes the rash lasts for months. It may happen that the bumps and pimples have almost completely disappeared, after which they return in full force. Treatment is not necessary.

Self-care

These tips are helpful for caring for your baby’s skin if he or she has acne:

  • Keep your baby’s face clean. Wash your baby’s face daily with warm water and mild baby soap.
  • Gently dry your baby’s face. Pat your baby’s skin dry.
  • Do not squeeze or scrub the acne. This can cause more irritation or infection.
  • Avoid using lotions or oils on your baby’s face.

 

Prevention

In 2023, there is no known way to prevent baby acne.

Complications

Baby acne disappears without complications.

Prognosis

Baby acne or baby pimples normally appear sometime in the baby’s first three months and usually disappear after three months. Baby acne usually lasts for a few months and disappears on its own at some point, but sometimes it lasts longer. If the symptoms are present for several months, it is wise to make an appointment with your doctor.

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