By: Dr. Loretta Lanphier, ND, CN, HHP, CH
Many parents think that their baby’s skin should be perfect – peaches and cream – without any imperfections or blemishes. However, this is not typically the case, much to the dismay of mom and dad. It is not uncommon for babies to be born with acne or to develop it later in infancy or childhood. Infant acne blemishes may occur on the face, back, chest, or buttocks. But this condition is not usually anything to be concerned about, and it often disappears on its own within several weeks. However, let’s learn a bit about infant acne so that we can better understand what causes it and how to effectively treat it.
What Is Infant Acne?
Newborns often exhibit small acne lesions on the face or body. Infants can develop baby acne in the form of whiteheads, blackheads, or pustules on their nose, cheeks, scalp, or forehead. Their ultra-sensitive skin may also appear rough and irritated.
Infant acne results when skin oil becomes trapped in hair follicles. This often occurs due to hormonal factors experienced in the womb prior to birth. During the final stage of pregnancy, hormones from mom cross the placenta into the baby. These needed hormones help baby’s lungs to mature and stimulate the necessary production of oil on the baby’s skin. However, too much skin oil sometimes triggers acne. Infant acne can also be caused by medications that mom used during pregnancy or while nursing the baby.
Infant acne can be evident at birth, or the condition may take several weeks to develop. Infant acne is often intermittent until the baby’s hormone levels have stabilized at about 4-6 months of age. The condition is more active when the baby’s skin is irritated by other factors such as harsh soaps, spit-up, saliva, milk, or being overheated.
How Can Infant Acne Be Treated?
Most cases of infant acne usually clear up on their own without intervention by approximately six months of age. The #1 thing you can do to alleviate the condition is to give your baby a gentle cleansing twice daily. It is best to clean the face as needed throughout the day to keep potential irritants such as milk, drool, and spit-up from accumulating on the skin. The best cleaner is a mild, organic soap that will be as gentle as possible on baby’s fragile skin. Dab the skin dry with a clean, soft towel. Resist using any other skin care products on your baby, as most will be too harsh and cause irritation. And don’t worry! The acne is likely to soon be gone, leaving behind the soft, vibrant skin we all associate with “babyhood.”
When Should My Baby See A Doctor?
If the acne continues after several weeks, if it causes her/him to be fussy or uncomfortable, or if it looks like it’s getting worse instead of better, it would be wise to have a health care provider examine your baby. A natural-minded provider is always best, one who can recommend care that will treat the condition without the use of potentially harmful substances.
Infant acne beyond the age of two is very rare. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the years between two and six are known as the “acne free zone” because the production of oil that can form acne is naturally very low at this age. If your child experiences acne during this period, it could a red flag that points to a hormonal imbalance.
What Else Could It Be?
Other skin conditions are sometimes mistaken for infant acne. Tiny, white bumps that form on your baby’s face and fade away in a couple of weeks may not necessarily be caused by infant acne. This may be a harmless condition called milia. It is not related to acne, and is nothing to be concerned about. A rashy or scaly breakout could be either cradle cap or eczema. These conditions are generally not harmful, but you should have them evaluated by the baby’s health care provider.
About the Author
Loretta Lanphier, ND, CN, HHP, CH is a Doctor of Naturopath, Clinical Nutritionist, Holistic Health Practitioner and Clinical Herbalist in Houston, TX and Founder / CEO of Oasis Advanced Wellness. Under her leadership, Oasis Advanced Wellness is known and respected as one of the leading companies in providing safe and clean hi-tech natural health and wellness solutions. Because of the need for high-end natural and organic skin care products, Dr. Lanphier has developed Lanique Organics, an all-natural skin-care line which promotes natural health for the skin.