It may surprise you when the infant in your care suddenly shows up with a case of pimples you would typically expect to see on a teenager. But there is no need to worry — baby acne is not a serious condition, shouldn’t cause the baby any discomfort and will usually resolve itself within a few months.

Read on to learn more about this common infant skin issue, what causes it and how to treat it.

What Causes Baby Acne?

There are two types of acne in children under a year. Neonatal acne affects babies between birth and three months, while infantile acne occurs in older babies up to 16 months of age. Infantile acne is often more severe and can last much longer than neonatal acne.

While research isn’t conclusive, baby acne is thought to be caused by the same thing that causes acne in teenagers: hormones. But in the baby’s case, it’s the mother’s hormones still present in the baby that are causing an imbalance resulting in a breakout.

How Do I Treat Baby Acne?

Treating baby acne is simple: Stick with gentle baby cleansers, and make sure the baby’s face is washed only once a day. Caregivers and parents will want to avoid doing anything that might further irritate the baby’s skin. That means don’t scrub, apply over-the-counter acne medications to or use lotion on the baby’s face.

How Long Does Baby Acne Last?

Here’s the good news: Baby acne should be a relatively short-lived phase. Particularly with the neonatal acne that shows up in newborns, the problem should resolve itself within a few months, and it sometimes takes as little as three or four weeks to clear up. However, if the acne isn’t clearing up after three months or becomes more severe, caregivers and parents should discuss talking to the child’s pediatrician about the problem. The doctor may prescribe a mild topical medication.

What if it’s Not Baby Acne?

In brand-new babies, milia — tiny white bumps on the face — is extremely common, affecting up to 50 percent of newborns in the first few days after birth. This condition is not related to acne nor is it dangerous. It will resolve itself without treatment within a couple of weeks.

If you’re seeing redness on areas other than your baby’s face, it’s possible that the problem isn’t acne. Eczema is another common skin condition that affects up to 20 percent of children under a year old. It typically shows up as a rash on the baby’s cheeks and spreads to other parts of the body. Most children will outgrow eczema by age 2.

Cradle cap is also common in babies. Cradle cap often looks similar to dandruff, but can also present itself as crusty patches on the baby’s head. Cradle cap, while not the cutest condition, is completely harmless and easily treatable with at-home remedies.

How You Can Help

Nannies and sitters should trade notes and discuss any concerns about a possible case of baby acne with the parents. Seasoned caregivers may want to recommend specific brands of gentle baby cleansers to the parents, but should not try new products without first talking to and getting the OK from their employers.

Because caregivers spend the majority of the week with a baby, they may also be able to help identify if something else is causing the child’s skin to be irritated. Pay attention to whether the baby’s skin becomes more inflamed after eating or coming into contact with a certain type of fabric. There may be a slight allergy or sensitivity present, and caregivers should let the parents know as soon as possible this might be the case. However, in most cases, baby acne will clear up quickly and without intervention.

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