Just as teenagers and adults contract acne, babies do too. There are two types of baby acne – acne neonatorum and infantile acne. Acne neonatorum appears in newborns. This form of acne affects male babies more than females. The main cause is said to be the stimulation by maternal androgens of the baby’s sebaceous glands. Baby acne looks worse when they baby is crying.
Acne neonatorum usually makes an appearance around 2 weeks after birth. These tiny pustules resemble red bumps and appear on the forehead, cheeks, chin, chest and neck. Sometimes, these bumps will be white in color and are called milia. They occur because the sebaceous glands have not matured in the infant.
The baby continues to carry its mother’s hormones for a few weeks after birth until its own system stabilizes. This hormonal imbalance could cause such outbreaks of baby acne. Usually baby acne disappears without treatment after a few weeks as the sebaceous glands shrink in size and become less active. All that you need to do is to keep the affected areas clean by washing with water. Do not squeeze the bumps or use soap for both these can aggravate baby acne.
Infantile acne appears in 3-6 month old babies. Unlike acne neonatorum, infantile acne is similar to teenage acne and could be a sign that the baby will develop similar problems as an adolescent. Babies of this age can develop both inflammatory and comedonal lesions. Sometimes this type of baby acne can result in scarring. Unlike acne neonatorum, infantile acne may not disappear on its own and requires treatment depending on the extent of the infection.
There are no specific causes for baby acne other than hormonal imbalance. You can consult your pediatrician if acne neonatorum does not disappear on its own or in the case of infantile acne.
Treatment for baby acne
All mothers who follow a well-baby exam schedule will meet with their pediatrician at regular intervals. If your infant has baby acne, you can consult your doctor about any treatment you can use and skin care restrictions. The doctor will check about family history of acne, any medications your baby has been exposed to etc. Usually baby acne disappears after a few weeks. Your doctor will recommend medication only in severe cases that persist.
Allopathic treatment: Unlike teenage or adult acne, over-the-counter medication is not recommended for baby acne, as a baby’s skin is very delicate. Doctor’s initially prescribe a gel with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide or a topical retinoid. This is usually tolerated well by babies although it can cause dry skin.
A topical antibiotic like erythromycin also clears baby acne. In severe cases, an oral antibiotic could be prescribed. If there is a fungal infection, an anti-fungal ointment maybe prescribed. If even this does not clear the acne, your doctor will consult a pediatric dermatologist. In severe cases that cause scarring, oral isotretinoin will be prescribed. If the acne does not clear, it could be the result of endocrinal disorder and further investigations will be suggested.
Alternative treatment: Since baby’s skin is so delicate, be careful about any kind of natural treatment you use. Honey and lemon are said to be excellent as natural remedies for baby acne. Honey is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial and lemon juice reduces swelling and redness.
Mix 1tsp (each) of honey and lemon juice. Use a cotton pad and gently pat on areas where there is acne. Let this dry for 30 minutes and then wash with warm water. Lemon juice can dry baby’s skin, so be careful and do not use too much.
Other natural remedies: A hypoallergenic lanolin-based ointment is also a good natural remedy for baby acne. Another alternative treatment is a mixture of 1 tsp baking soda and 1 cup water. This is dabbed on to your baby’s skin and blotted dry. This is said to reduce inflammation.
Home remedies for baby acne : Wash your baby’s face with warm water every day. Use mild moisturizing baby soap a few times a week and rinse well with warm water. Do not use oils or lotions on the affected areas. Pat dry with a soft towel and do not scrub the acne areas.
Usually baby acne disappears in a few weeks and requires no formal treatment other than good hygiene. It is recommended that all your baby’s clothes are washed with mild detergents so they remain soft and free from chemicals.
Very often, baby acne is confused with eczema or cradle cap. So, if symptoms do not clear in a few weeks, your pediatrician will guide you on the steps to take to clear baby acne. Do not use any form of medication without consulting a doctor for they could harm your baby’s skin.