What to Do About Baby Acne

mother rubbing cream on a baby's cheek
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Does it look like your infant has pimples on their face? They may have neonatal or baby acne (also called infantile acne). This is a very common problem that begins after a baby is a few weeks old and it is probably triggered by maternal hormones she got before she was born.

Infants with baby acne typically get whiteheads, blackheads, and pustules on their nose, scalp, cheeks, and forehead.

Neonatal acne is very rarely associated with hormonal problems, especially at this early age. In older infants, with severe acne and other signs of virilization, testing for hormonal problems might be considered.


Although no treatment is usually required, an article in the Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics does state that "if desired, the lesions can be treated effectively with topical tretinoin and/or benzoyl peroxide." Since they do so often go away without any treatment, you should talk to your pediatrician before trying something like benzoyl peroxide or Retin-A (a topical tretinoin medication).

Erythromycin gel is another possible treatment option.

Keep in mind that baby acne may not go away on its own for several months and sometimes not until a baby is six months old.

Also keep in mind that common things that parents do, like vigorous washing and scrubbing and using moisturizers and other creams and lotions, can make baby acne worse. Since it looks worse than it makes your baby feel, it is usually best to just leave it alone and understand that it will eventually go away.

Gentle cleansing with water alone, or a mild soap, is usually the best treatment until your baby's acne goes away.

Is It Baby Acne?

It often surprises new parents that their baby might not have great skin, at least not for a few months.

In addition to baby acne, other skin rashes that newborns and younger infants might have can include:

  • erythema toxicum - the classic red bumps that newborns may get when they are a few days old and last about a week
  • heat rash - small red bumps that last a few days after your baby gets overheated
  • milia - tiny yellow bumps on a child's face, especially their nose, that might last a few weeks

Infantile seborrheic dermatitis is another common baby rash and one that is often confused with baby acne. Infants with seborrheic dermatitis redness behind their ears and in the creases of their neck, arms, and legs. They will likely also have some redness and scaliness on their scalp (cradle cap) and on their face extending from their hairline.

Like baby acne, infantile seborrheic dermatitis often goes away on its own in a few weeks or months.

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