About 20 percent of newborn babies develop baby acne shortly after birth. Though it may cause concern for new parents to see their baby's smooth skin mottled by tiny bumps, newborn acne is completely harmless to the child. Baby acne tends to be more common in boys than girls, and having newborn acne has no relation on whether or not the child will develop acne later in life.
Newborn acne is often visible just after birth, but sometimes it can take up to three weeks to develop. The pimples appear on the face and back, most commonly on the forehead, cheeks and chin. They can appear as small red bumps, called papules, or as whiteheads, called pustules, which contain a small white area of pus.
Baby acne develops mainly as a result of maternal hormones transferred to the infant while still in utero. These hormones come from the mother and cross the placenta into the baby. After birth, these maternal hormones stimulate oil production in the sebaceous glands of the skin, which leads to baby acne.
There is no treatment necessary for baby acne; it generally clears up on its own within four months after birth. Keeping the baby's face clean can help, especially because newborn acne can get worse in areas where the skin is exposed to spit-up or saliva.
Newborn acne isn't the only type of skin blemish problem in infants. Milia is a condition that often occurs in babies who are put into an incubator shortly after birth. Milia resembles baby acne but is made up of small white bumps and evenly distributed across the face. It usually goes away quickly. Infantile acne is caused by the same hormones as newborn acne, but it doesn't start until about 3 months of age. It generally lasts until the baby is about a year old. Scaly red patches are another skin condition sometimes mistaken for baby acne, but these symptoms are more likely a result of eczema or cradle cap.
Don't scrub your baby's face in an attempt to clean it and get rid of the acne. Vigorous scrubbing can irritate tender baby skin and make the problem worse. Adult acne products are also a bad idea. Babies generally cannot tolerate the ingredients in those products.
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