Parents of newborns are sometimes surprised to find that their baby's face is covered in pimples. While the rough texture may not be what you envisioned before your child was born, acne is a common problem in babies, and one that usually clears up in the first few weeks of life.
This early form of baby acne is called neonatal acne and it does not require any treatment. The pimples do not bother your baby, and they will probably soon be gone. Parents should gently clean their newborn's sensitive skin as normal, without trying to scrub, squeeze, or pick at the spots.
Some babies, however continue having an acne problem well beyond the first weeks of life. This is called infantile acne, and it can affect both babies and toddlers. Infantile acne can be more severe than the neonatal form, and it can last for a short time, or hang around until around three years of age.
Baby acne looks a lot like the form everyone else gets. The baby will have red, raised bumps and pus-filled spots on his face or trunk. Newborn babies also frequently have spots called milia on their faces at birth. These small, firm, white bumps are not acne, and they will eventually go away.
If infantile acne persists, your child's doctor may prescribe a mild benzoyl peroxide gel that can be rubbed on the spots. Although benzoyl peroxide is commonly found in acne products, you need to see your doctor to get a prescription for a gel that is safe for a baby's sensitive skin. You should not try to experiment with over the counter products yourself.
In some cases, a doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to treat infantile acne. Antibiotics are sometimes used as a baby acne treatment mainly because they decrease the amount of pimple-causing bacteria on the skin. Very rarely, a fungus can contribute to severe acne, and this would require an antifungal medication. In extreme cases, a pediatric dermatologist may prescribe stronger drugs to treat baby acne.
Very rarely, a hormonal problem can cause a young child to have pimples. Baby acne is certainly common, and it is not likely that a hormonal problem is to blame in most cases, but if your child is showing any other signs of early puberty your doctor will want to check for an underlying condition.
Sensitive newborn skin frequently has imperfections, but following normal baby skin care advice is usually all that is needed. Wash the skin gently with warm water and pat it dry. If your baby has severe acne that doesn't clear up within the first three months, your doctor can help you get to the root of the problem and prescribe any necessary treatments.