1. What is newborn baby acne and what does it look like?
So what is newborn baby acne exactly? Newborn baby acne is a baby skin condition where tiny red or white bumps or pimples appear on a baby’s skin, typically when they’re between one and four weeks of age – although some babies are born with it.
The medical term for baby acne is erythema toxicum neonatorum (ETN) but that makes it sound more alarming than it is. It’s actually a very common condition that affects up to four or five babies in every 10*.
Baby acne should not be confused with infantile acne which begins later (between three and six months of age) or adult acne. It should also not be confused with baby milk spots. If you’re unsure, please consult your GP.
“The spots first appeared on my son’s face when he was about 10 days old and I was convinced it was because I was doing something wrong – perhaps washing him too much or even not enough. I also wondered whether he could be allergic to his formula. I shared my worries with the other moms at my parents’ group, lots of whom were second and third-time parents, and they explained that it was just newborn acne and that lots of their older kids had had it just after birth too. I felt a lot better after that and stopped trying to ‘fix’ it. After a month it was gone. It’s frustrating but you do just have to be patient.” - Celine, mother to Ricky, one
2. What causes newborn baby acne?
Doctors don’t know for sure why newborn baby acne develops but one of the most popular theories for the cause of baby acne is that hormones passed from mother to baby through the placenta – and also breastmilk – are to blame.
These hormones aggravate the sebaceous glands causing pimples on the newborn’s face, usually on the cheeks, nose, and forehead, but sometimes on the baby’s neck, back, and chest too.
Interesting fact: Newborn baby acne is more common in boys.
3. How long does newborn baby acne last?
Newborn baby acne usually only lasts a few days, and in the vast majority of cases is completely gone within two weeks. Sometimes spots can appear only to disappear a few hours later and sometimes they will stick around for three to four months. Recurrences can happen but are generally very mild.
“It sounds awful, I know, but when my baby first developed the acne all I could think – once I knew it was nothing to worry about – was, ‘Oh no, she’s not perfect anymore. What will people say?’ Of course, nobody said anything. Well, nothing unkind anyway. If I brought it up (and it was always me), they just shared stories of their own child’s ailments, from newborn baby eczema to newborn baby cradle cap, and how they’d also been a mix of concerned and embarrassed which actually really helped and made me feel less like a Disney villain.” - Sarah, mother to Molly, one
4. Newborn baby acne treatment
Want to know how to treat newborn baby acne? Well, newborn baby acne usually clears up on its own after a few weeks but there are some things you can do to help it along.
Keep your baby’s face clean with cooled boiled water or WaterWipes vegan, cruelty-free, and sensitive baby wipes.
Always gently pat the baby’s skin when drying.
If you’re breastfeeding, try softly dabbing breastmilk on the spots. Lots of mums swear by it.
Do not use acne creams intended for older children and adults or harsh products generally.
A final tip for newborn acne treatment: Try not to pick or scratch the acne – it’ll disappear when it’s ready.
If the problem persists or is severe, ask your doctor about prescription or over-the-counter medication that might help.
Interesting fact: Newborn baby acne is also known as neonatal acne.
5. Why there’s no need to be concerned about newborn baby acne
While red blotches on your baby’s previously perfect skin might seem like cause for alarm, newborn baby acne really is nothing to worry about. It affects up to half of babies, clears up on its own in most cases, and leaves no scars or marks. It also doesn’t harm your baby. In fact, they’ll feel no ill effects whatsoever.
If your baby develops spots or a rash and you’re not sure what it is, always speak to your doctor, midwife, or health visitor. If your baby seems unwell and has other symptoms, such as a fever, go straight to your healthcare advisor.
If you found our newborn baby acne article useful and feel more confident about what it looks like, what it is, what causes it and treatment check out our other skin related articles on our Parenting Community below.
6. Other issues and baby skin care tips for newborns
Raising a newborn isn’t easy – and not just because of the sleepless nights. In addition to baby acne, you may encounter a range of other issues you’re not prepared for. Here are common issues that you may encounter.
Newborn baby eczema
Newborn baby eczema can affect the entire family, especially when it’s bad. Your little one’s skin is sensitive, so when eczema shows up it can be distressing and uncomfortable for your newborn. It’s hard to witness, but don’t worry. Even with a young child, there are options. Learn more about newborn baby eczema.
Newborn baby hives
Your baby is delicate and so is their skin. Hives may sound scary, but don’t worry – it’s one of the most common conditions for babies. Learn how to spot hives, how to prevent them, and what you can do if your baby suffers from them.
Newborn baby jaundice
Jaundice is an incredibly common condition in newborns, often recognizable by the yellowing of their skin. It’s so common that nurses often check specifically for this condition. Learn everything you need to know, with our helpful guide to newborn baby jaundice.
Baby Face Scratches
Your baby’s chubby cheeks are probably the cutest thing for you, but scratches and cuts can quickly become worrying. It’s surprising for something so small and soft, but a baby’s fingernails can get very sharp, very quickly. Keep your baby free of face scratches, with this handy guide.
Baby heat rash
Summer is the best time, and you’ll want some adventures with your little one. But your baby can’t handle the extreme weather as well as you can. Don’t let heat rash ruin the sunshine – keep your baby cool and smiling with some tips to treat baby heat rash.
Can breastmilk help baby acne?
While it may be surprising, breastmilk can ease breakouts and soothe your baby’s sensitive skin. Simply soak a cotton ball, pad, or tissue in breastmilk and dab your baby’s face with it gently. However, there are other solutions and baby acne should clear on its own – so it’s your choice.
Can kisses cause baby acne?
No – usually baby acne is the result of rapid hormonal changes which can back up their pores. It’s not much different from normal acne in other periods of hormonal changes you’ll experience.
Is baby acne genetic?
While the true cause is unknown, genetics could play a role. Usually, it’s due to overactive glands producing too much sebum oil. If you have a history of acne in the family, it may be worth looking out for.
Last updated: 10/12/2023