Baby Acne: Causes, Prevention and Treatment.


When your perfect newborn has unexpected and unusual blemishes it’s natural to worry. The cause of your baby’s bumpy skin could be baby acne – but don’t stress, as it’s not of any harm to your baby and it won’t bother them in the least, it just looks very odd and out of place on a newborn.

We’ve done some research on why this happens and how you can help your baby get rid of their early acne, read on to understand what’s going on in your newborn’s body.

What is acne?

Acne (acne vulgaris) is the most common skin condition in the world, with every 3 in 4 people experiencing it at some point in their lives.

Generally, acne is at its worst during puberty when the male hormone, testosterone, stimulates the oil production in your skin. This can result in excess oil which sits on the surface of your skin and mixes with dirt and bacteria to clog up pores and hair follicles. When this happens, you can experience four kinds of spots in increasing severities:


  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads
  • Blind pimples
  • Pimples


Depending on what severity of acne you’re experiencing, you can have a mixture of these spots or a few of one kind – it’s different for everyone.


Mild acne is generally not actually referred to as acne as it’s non-inflammatory and you will only experience one or two spots every now and then. These spots will appear infrequently and will most likely fade quite quickly with little to no scarring (unless picked at or popped).


Moderate acne is characterized by quite a few different spots and can will be a bit more inflamed. This can still be treated with over the counter acne treatment products.


Severe acne will need to be treated with prescription medications as it is very inflammatory and damaging, often leaving a lot of scarring and causing pigmentation issues.


Cystic acne is the worst kind of acne you can experience, you will have large, swollen, cyst-like pimples deep under the surface of the skin that are filled with pus. If one of these cysts burst, the infection will spread and become much worse. Similar to severe acne, this type of acne must be treated with prescription medication which will often be a combination of topical retinoids and oral medication.


There are many other factors, aside from excessive oil production, that can have an effect on the severity of your acne. When pregnant, suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or going through hormonal changes and imbalances, you may notice your breakouts are worse. Other factors like not exercising enough, being overweight, having a diet high in sugar and feeling stressed can all exacerbate your acne.


If you’re unsure what could be causing your acne or making it worse, book an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist. They will be able to let you know what your options are and this is an essential first step to treating any kind of acne.


What is baby acne?


Baby acne (neonatal acne vulgaris) is actually very similar to adult acne, it’s not quite as common but around 20% percent of newborns will experience it before they are 6 weeks old (more common in boys), as this medical publication states. Although it’s worrying, the good news is that your bouncing bub is not in any pain and this acne will generally disappear on it’s own within a few weeks. More good news is that the same medical publication briefly mentions that neonatal acne will not cause any scarring to your baby’s flawless skin.


Acne in babies is thought to be caused when the mother’s hormones are transferred to the child’s bloodstream whilst they are still in the womb. These intruder hormones will then hang around for a few months afterwards until they are naturally flushed out of the infant’s system. These hormones  stimulate the baby’s oil glands which are obviously not ready for such an influx of hormones, they go into overdrive and then bam – baby acne.


Another factor that causes baby acne is the fact that they have such sensitive, new skin with tiny pores. This leaves them prone to dirt and bacteria being lodged in those pores and unable to be flushed out naturally. This is less common but it can definitely have a bearing on whether the child’s skin will break out or not. Additionally, a reaction to Malassezia, a fungus naturally found on many mammals’ skin that feeds off our skin oils and secretes an acid that some people are intolerant to, can cause baby acne.


Baby acne will look similar to normal acne, just on a very small scale. You’ll see the classic pimple spots but they will all just be red bumps without pus in them. These will appear all over your baby’s face, including their cheeks and eyelids and can even appear on the head, neck, back and chest in more advanced cases.


Baby acne is not to be confused with milia – a condition that leaves tiny white bumps and whiteheads on the infant’s skin. This is a completely different condition but both will be treated similarly, by waiting patiently for it to clear up and maintaining good hygiene for your baby’s skin.


It’s important to note that baby acne is quite similar to many other skin conditions that infants can experience in the first few weeks of their life. Conditions like eczema, cradle cap, diaper and heat rash all look similar but have small differences. The most important thing to do first is go to the doctor or your pediatrician to get them to diagnose it properly.


Which products are safe for babies?


As babies have extremely sensitive skin, it’s best to consult your doctor or pediatrician so they can give you a recommendation of a prescription medicine or over the counter treatment that can be used safely.


Any products you’ve been advised to use will be extremely mild and gentle and will not be abrasive, such as an exfoliant or scrub. It is never okay to use an adult acne product on a baby as their skin is way too sensitive for this!


If you’ve been advised to get a product over the counter for your baby’s skin, be sure to check the labels thoroughly and ask your doctor or pediatrician if you have any questions. It’s best to look out for products with very mild ingredients – natural ingredients are usually the best. Steer clear from extra chemicals or unnecessary fillers, you want to be sure your baby’s skin will not become irritated in the process of curing their acne.


How to get rid of baby acne


Generally, baby acne will go away on its own as long as you keep your child’s skin clean and fresh with water and a mild baby soap. However, if the acne is sticking around for longer than a couple months, you may have to consider using a topical cream that has been recommended to you by your doctor or pediatrician.


Here’s some tips to help your baby’s acne clear up faster:


  • Don’t use normal soap or any kind of cleansing product on the area except for a mild baby soap and warm water at bath time.
  • Don’t use adult acne products on your baby under any circumstances.
  • Never try to squeeze, rub at or exfoliate any of the pimples.
  • Don’t use any oils or lotions on your baby’s affected areas, this may clog their pores and make it worse.
  • Be patient, this condition will most likely disappear within around 6 weeks of first starting.
  • Contact your doctor or pediatrician if it has not cleared within 2 months of appearing. Only use a medicated treatment if they have recommended it.


5 best products for baby acne


Once you’ve been to your doctor and it’s been recommended to you that you start a course of treatment for your baby’s acne, these are some products you may be able to use:


#5 Honest Purely Simple Hypoallergenic Face And Body Lotion


This moisturizing face and body lotion has made it onto the list because it’s plant-based and hypoallergenic with great natural ingredients like olive, shea, safflower and jojoba oil designed to be gentle on your baby’s skin whilst cleansing it thoroughly. There’s no nasty fragrances, dyes, parabens or anything that could irritate their soft, new skin. It’s also a budget-friendly option at just under $7 a bottle.



  • Moisturizing
  • No added fragrances, silicones, parabens, etc.
  • Cheap
  • Lots of great, mild and gentle natural ingredients



  • Not specifically made for babies


Price: $6.55 (8.5 fl oz) on Amazon


#4 Mustela Hydra Bebe Body Lotion


This is a product made for babies with a specific ingredient that’s been patented and deemed safe for baby skin. That ingredient is avocado perseose, it comes from the seed of the avocado and is designed to moisturize and work with the skin to keep it healthy and happy. So if your baby has dry skin around their acne, this product will give them the relief they need and have their skin looking supple again – the way all baby skin should be!



  • Designed for babies
  • Ingredient from avocado deemed safe for baby skin, moisturizes and protects
  • Hypoallergenic



  • Slightly expensive


Price: $39.92 (23.35 fl oz) on Amazon


#3 Mustela No Rinse Cleansing Water


Due to the mother’s hormones still floating around in the baby’s bloodstream, there’s going to be a little oil on the skin that shouldn’t be there – this is usually what’s causing the acne. To get rid of it, a gentle cleansing water is a great option. Keep your baby fresh and clean with this product from Mustela. As it comes from the same brand as the product above, it’s also got the same avocado perseose special ingredient which will moisturize and protect the skin – and there’s no need to rinse at the end with this convenient, minimal-fuss product.



  • Ingredient from avocado deemed safe for baby skin, moisturizes and protects
  • Gentle enough to be used on newborns
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Will remove excess oils to clear up acne quickly
  • No need to rinse it off



  • Contains fragrance, possible irritant


Price: $14.50 (10.14 fl oz) on Amazon


#2 Cetaphil Baby Daily Lotion with Organic Calendula, Sweet Almond Oil and Sunflower Oil


Cetpahil is a super well-known brand in the skin care sphere, famous for it’s simple and effective products. They’ve formulated this product specifically for babies, it’s designed to moisturize and protect their skin from dryness. It’s been tested by dermatologists and is gentle enough for baby skin with calming calendula, sweet almond oil for moisture and sunflower oil. The product is also free from parabens, mineral oils, colours, and is hypoallergenic – which are all great features when dealing with super delicate baby skin that could be dried out from the acne.



  • Well-known brand
  • Dermatologist tested
  • Designed for babies
  • Some natural ingredients
  • Cheap



  • Contains fragrance, possible irritant


Price: $6.55 (13.5 oz) on Amazon


#1 Aquaphor Baby Wash & Shampoo


This product makes it to the top of our list because of all the positive reviews it’s received on Amazon. With just over 400 reviews and a 4.5 star rating, so many people can’t be wrong! Aquaphor has created a gentle, tear-free formula with soothing chamomile and panthenol, which is a form of vitamin B5 and is ultra moisturizing. The product doubles as a wash and a shampoo that’s gentle enough to be used on the face, their scalp and all over their tiny bodies. Your baby’s acne will be soothed and cured with this awesome, gentle product



  • Chamomile and panthenol
  • Tear-free formula
  • Reasonable price
  • Lots of positive reviews on Amazon
  • Moisturizes and cleanses
  • Doubles as both a shampoo and a skin cleanser
  • No added fragrance



  • Reported that the product smells like chemicals


Price: $17.89 (8.4 fl oz) on Amazon

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