How to Treat Baby Acne

Looking at their otherwise perfect baby’s face, many parents have a hard time believing what they’re seeing: what appears to be acne, sometimes called pediatric acne or “baby acne.”

Baby acne usually goes away on its own, but sometimes requires treatment. It can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

This article explains what baby acne looks like, what causes it, and how it’s diagnosed and treated.


Baby acne, like other types of acne, is characterized by blackheads, papules, and pustules. Acne nodules and cysts may also appear, although they are rare. Acne usually occurs on the cheeks, but can also appear on the chin, nose, and forehead. Although some babies develop inflammatory acne, acne is usually mild to moderate in severity. (Bacteria cause inflammatory acne; clogged or closed pores cause non-inflammatory acne.)

Baby acne usually lasts 6 to 12 months, but in some cases it can last for years. The condition affects about 2% of infants aged 2 to 12 months and is more common in boys than girls.

Signs and Symptoms of Acne You Should Know


Researchers have had a hard time pinpointing the cause of baby acne. But the general consensus is that it’s the same factor that causes teenage acne — namely, androgens in the body that stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more oil.

Excess oil can clog pores, producing a acne. Bacteria normally present on the skin begin to multiply in the clogged pores, causing irritation, redness and swelling. All of these can lead to an inflamed pimple.

Some experts believe that children with acne in infancy are more likely to have severe acne in their teens. There may also be a genetic component. Babies with acne often have parents who have acne at some point in their lives.

Don’t worry about imbalance

Acne doesn’t mean your baby is hormonally out of balance. Most babies with infantile acne have hormone levels that are well within the normal range. Conversely, babies with infantile acne are more sensitive to the hormones that cause acne.


If you’re concerned about your baby’s acne, talk to your pediatrician, who can determine if it’s actually acne or another skin condition. If acne is severe, you may be referred to a pediatric dermatologist.

Rarely, acne at this age can be a sign of an underlying hormonal problem, such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia. To rule this out, your healthcare provider may want to do blood tests to check hormone levels and look for other physical symptoms. If the test shows a hormonal condition, you will most likely be referred to a pediatric endocrinologist, who specializes in the function of hormonal glands in young adults.

similar conditions

Not all bumps and breakouts are signs of baby acne. There are other reasons your baby may develop a pimple-like rash, including:

  • contact dermatitis
  • eczema
  • prickly heat
  • Keratosis pilaris

Your pediatrician should be able to make a correct diagnosis.

Neonatal and Infant Acne

Although these terms can be easily confused, there are significant differences between neonatal acne and large infantile acne.

neonatal acne

  • present within the first six weeks of life

  • Affects up to 20% of newborns

  • Does not last long and usually resolves on its own without treatment

  • leave no scars

baby acne

  • Usually appears at 3 to 6 months old

  • Affects less than 2% of babies

  • Can last up to two years or more and may require prescription treatment

  • can cause scars


The most common course of treatment for baby acne is the “wait it” approach. Since most cases of baby acne clear up without treatment, this may be the approach your baby’s pediatrician will recommend, especially if the acne is milder.

As a parent, you may be eager to do everything you can for your baby. Some pointers should help you:

  • Gently clean your baby’s face, especially after feedings. Use a soft towel and water or mild unscented soap and water as needed.
  • Do not scrub your baby’s skin. It’s subtle. Scrubs or vigorous washing won’t clear up breakouts any faster; it just irritates the skin.
  • Don’t pick, pop or squeeze blemishes. Let them heal themselves.
  • Don’t try to treat baby acne yourself with over-the-counter acne medications. These products can be very irritating to baby’s skin.
  • Avoid using greasy ointments.

If acne is more severe, or scarring, your baby may receive acne treatment to help manage it. Baby acne is treated in much the same way as teenage acne. In fact, your pediatrician may even prescribe medications like:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Isotretinoin (in extreme cases only)
  • Oral erythromycin
  • topical antibiotics
  • topical retinoic acid


Acne is easy to identify because you’ve probably seen it before — in a teen or in the mirror. Babies look similar to teenage or adult acne: a cluster of pimples on the cheeks, chin, nose, or somewhere on the forehead. Baby acne usually occurs when babies are 3 to 6 months old. It can go away quickly or it can last for years. It is more common in baby boys. Keeping your baby’s skin clean and no fuss will help baby acne go away faster.

VigorTip words

Seeing acne on your baby’s face can be worrying, but it’s not uncommon. This is rarely any serious sign. For your reassurance, please consult your pediatrician.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How to treat baby acne at home?

    In most cases, baby acne will go away on its own, so you don’t need to do anything but gently clean your baby’s face with water or mild baby soap. Also, avoid putting greasy products on the baby’s face.

  • What type of soap can be used to treat baby acne?

    It’s best to wash your baby’s face with water or water with a mild, unscented soap.