When my daughter L was only a few weeks old, my husband lovingly put her down for a nap, and then softly whispered in my ear, “Is she going through puberty already?” The reason he asked was the appearance of tiny pimples all over her face. It baffled us. We were expecting soft, perfect baby skin. From where did all these skin eruptions come? A quick visit to the paediatrician revealed that L had neonatal acne, also known as baby acne.

What is baby acne

It is the appearance of tiny, rash-like bumps on your baby’s skin. Around 20 percent of newborns get it [1].  My daughter had baby acne on face. But sometimes, even the neck and upper body area can get affected. It’s stressful for parents to see their beautiful new baby with a sudden skin outbreak. But don’t fret. It is a temporary situation, and you’ll soon have your child’s velvety, flawless skin back. Just be patient.

Causes of baby acne

While there is no clear reason why newborn acne occurs, many doctors believe that it is caused by traces of the mother’s hormones still circulating within the baby’s internal system (which can also cause cradle cap, a harmless scalp condition which doesn’t require treatment). Once these hormones leave your baby’s body, the skin will clear out.

The presence of yeast on the baby’s skin can cause inflammation on the skin [2]. There is also a belief that an imbalance of healthy bacteria in the baby’s gut could cause baby acne. Once the digestion system stabilises as the baby grows, the acne goes away.

Baby acne symptoms

reddish rash-like bumps, whiteheads on face and neck are typical symptoms of baby acneIf your baby has reddish rash or bumps or whitish pustules (like whiteheads), on the face or neck or back, he probably has baby acne. If your newborn has baby acne, the following symptoms are common:

  • Baby is under three months of age
  • There is no discomfort, pain or crying because of the acne
  • The red bumps are free of pus, blackheads and cysts
  • Acne can last for a few days or a few months

How to treat baby acne 

If only you could rush out to a store and pick up a big bottle of baby acne treatment that would banish the acne overnight. Sadly, no such thing exists. Just wait it out. Here are some tips you need to keep in mind.

  • Avoid abrasive materialsUse only soft towels or washcloth for cleaning/wiping baby’s skin, and avoid contact with rough stuffed toys, carpets, & furniture fabric
  • Continue to breastfeed: Some mothers believe that milk can help clear up the skin
  • Use only warm water to wash: Avoid soap on the affected areas till the acne clears
  • Keep the skin dry: Avoid lotions as they might aggravate the rash

When to contact your paediatrician for baby acne

Usually, baby acne requires no treatment and clears on its own. However, you may need to consult your paediatrician in the following situations:

  • Pus oozes out of the bumps, or there are blackheads or whiteheads (it could be infantile acne)
  • Baby is uncomfortable or tries to scratch the acne
  • Baby’s skin doesn’t clear up after several months
  • Acne’s appearance coincides with an illness or after being given medicine


L’s acne cleared up magically. One minute she was a ‘before’ picture in a pimple cream ad and the next, she was all rosy cheeks and smooth skin again. It is just something that happens. As parents, there’s a long list of things to worry about. Baby acne is not one of them. Your baby is beautiful no matter what. So enjoy these first few months. The next time there is an acne problem, your child will probably be a teenager. Now that’s something to stress over!