Many parents are horrified to find that a baby can be born with acne, or develop it in the first few weeks of life.
In fact, most babies have some kind of rash as newborns. This may be baby acne, seborrhea (also known as seborrheic dermatitis), or eczema. Of these three possible rashes, acne is generally regarded as the least serious because it is the quickest to clear up. It is believed to be caused by hormonal changes occurring at birth.
Acne occurs in about 20% of babies, more commonly in boys than girls. It manifests as a red lumpy rash over the forehead and cheeks, sometimes with whitehead pimples. It is thought to be caused by transfer of hormones from the mother to the baby during the birth.
It looks a lot like the pimples that teenagers get but of course a baby does not know or care how it looks and the pimples do not cause any discomfort so you do not have to worry about it having any effect on your baby. In fact, the only way a baby might be affected by it is if the unattractive look of the rash makes you as parents treat the baby differently or show him or her less affection than you would if he or she had perfect skin.
Acne in babies will disappear by itself within a few weeks of birth. Most cases do not require any treatment. Definitely do not use any acne products designed for teenagers, these are much too harsh for a baby’s skin and could cause scarring. Also do not use lotions or oils as these can increase the problem. Simply wash once a day with baby soap.
Seborrhea looks a lot like acne except that in addition to a red bumpy rash, the skin will often form yellow crusty scales or flakes in places that have hair follicles, e.g. the scalp, eyebrows and even eyelashes. This skin condition starts within the first few weeks of life and again will clear up by itself without treatment, although usually not as quickly as acne. There are steroid treatments available if the condition is serious.
Eczema is a well known skin condition that can affect babies, usually starting before they are 5 months old but sometimes appearing for the first time in older children. Eczema causes itching and discomfort to the baby so treatment is often required. It usually starts on the face or head but often appears on other parts of the body too, sometimes all over. It can be caused by milk allergies but that is not the only possible cause.
If you think that your baby may have eczema, it is a good idea to speak to your pediatrician about it quickly. You will need to use a moisturizing cream for management and there may be some measures you can take in regard to the baby’s food or environment.
Many babies and children grow out of their eczema as they get older but it does persist into adulthood in some cases, with more or less severity. However, if your infant has a simple case of baby acne, there is no need to worry.