Infant Illnesses: Spotlight on baby acne

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Should I be worried about these bumps? (Original image: FreshSplash/Getty Images)
Should I be worried about these bumps? (Original image: FreshSplash/Getty Images)
  • If your baby has suddenly started sprouting rash-like pimples within a few weeks of birth, baby acne could be the cause.
  • The condition is quite common, affecting up to 40% of all newborn babies.
  • The skin condition typically does not require any treatment but in some cases a visit to the doctor may be advised.

Having a newborn baby is overwhelming enough, and if they show signs of illness, it can be really scary.

At Parent24, we've put together a series on common infant illnesses to help guide you when baby is sick.

And we'll help you to decide when you should actually panic (it's probably not as serious as you think, but let's be sure!).

Catch more instalments of our #infantillness series here

A typical concern:

"My 5 week old has a bad rash and bumps on his face. Is there anything I can use on his skin to make it better? How long will it last?"

Answer:

It seems like your baby has "baby acne", a common condition affecting up to 40% of all babies.

It usually appears on areas of an infant's face, such as the forehead, nose and cheeks, from about two weeks after birth.

The tiny bumps may either be white or red which usually disappear without treatment.

What causes baby acne?

Not unlike teenage acne, baby acne is also due to hormones.

In infants, leftover maternal hormones from their time in the womb typically trigger oil-producing glands in the first few weeks.

Other causes include underdeveloped pores and skin sensitivity making newborns prone to blemishes.

ALSO READ | Infant Illnesses: Spotlight on Colic

Symptoms to look out for:

• Red or white spots

• Whiteheads

• Reddish, irritated skin may surround the bumps

How long will it last? 

Parent24 spoke to Professor Carol Hlela, a paediatric dermatologist from Ingress Healthcare about this common condition.

"Baby acne should resolve within a month, but can sometimes last up to three months," explains Professor Hlela, advising that if the condition persists further investigation may be necessary.

Similar conditions

"There are a few other skin conditions that appear as pink, red or yellow bumps on a baby's face. Most of these fall within a spectrum of transient physiological skin conditions that appear to develop because the underlying structures (skin appendages) are at this stage not yet fully functional because of immaturity," she says.

According to Professor Hlela, these skin conditions include: 

  • Milia
  • Miliaria (Prickly Heat) 
  • Neonatal Cephalic Pustulosis
  • Erythema Toxicum Neonatorum
  • Transient Neonatal Pustular Melanosis

"It's difficult to tear these apart, but the listed conditions tend to spread beyond the face and affect other parts of the body," Professor Hlela advises.

Treatment

Typically, no treatment is necessary. However, in some cases the acne takes time to go away.

"The best thing to do is to leave it alone," Professor Hlela says.

When to call the doctor

If the condition has gone beyond a third month and you suspect it might not be baby acne after all, speak to a doctor or paediatrician.

You can also ask a doctor or paediatrician directly via Health24 here: Ask an Expert

Tips for parents

Top tips to follow, according to Professor Hlela:

  • Resist the urge to scrub, pop, pick or squeeze the bumps on your baby's face. This can make the acne worse.
  • Do not use ointments or creams that teenagers or adults use for acne. Those are not designed for baby skin and will only inflame the skin more.
  • Daily cleansing with a mild baby wash or soap and warm water may be all that is required.
  • Parents need to avoid the use of oily creams or lotions until the condition settles.

What are you most concerned about when it comes to your baby's health?

Chatback:

Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback@parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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