Natural Remedies for Treating Newborn Acne

Mom caressing her baby with acne

We’ve heard of babies having “old souls,” but finding a breakout of acne on your baby’s face might leave you perplexed, and we don’t blame you! Pimples, zits, and blackheads are an expected part of the awkward teenage years but aren’t usually associated with babies.

Newborns famously have smooth, baby-soft skin untarnished by the world around them, but the truth is that pimples can rear their swollen heads at any age and for several reasons. If your baby suddenly sprouts an assortment of blemishes on its tiny face, you might be surprised, but you shouldn’t be worried.

Why do newborns have pimples on the face?

Believe it or not, babies do get pimples, as unfair as that might be. They usually present as small white or “milk pimples” or red pimples that swell and fill with pus—much like the pimples you’re used to seeing, with a few minor differences. They are commonly seen on the face and neck but can also appear on the back and chest. They look and behave just like adolescent or adult acne, only without the presence of blackheads.

Newborn acne, also called neonatal acne or neonatal cephalic pustulosis, occurs in roughly one-fifth of newborns and usually shows up in the first few weeks after birth and up to two months of age. Some newborns are even born with pimples! Some evidence shows that hormones transmitted through the placenta while in the womb cause newborn acne, while other theories suggest that hormones from breast milk can be a contributing factor. However, don’t let that impact the way you feed your baby. You shouldn’t feel the need to discontinue or minimize breastfeeding in favor of formula to clean up blemishes.

Environmental factors may also trigger pimples on newborns. After all, baby skin is extra sensitive, possibly making your little one more prone to pimples than they might be later in life. Fortunately, newborn acne is common and usually resolves on its own without intervention. Having a newborn gives you plenty to worry about, but this isn’t usually one of those things. Within a few weeks, your newborn’s skin should be as smooth as…well, as smooth as a baby’s skin, with no lasting blemishes or scarring. Patience is your best weapon in this particular fight.

What are some natural remedies for newborn acne?

After finding blemishes on your baby’s perfect little face, treating their acne with over-the-counter or prescription medications may be tempting, but we do not recommend this. Newborn acne isn’t caused by the same bacteria that causes pimples in teenagers and adults and won’t respond to the same treatments.

Over the first couple months of life, as your baby’s body regulates itself and gets used to being in the world, it will take care of the pimples all on its own. The best thing you can do is let nature take its

course. Still, we know how hard it is to stand by without doing anything, so here are a few things you can do to give your little one’s body the best environment for clear skin.

  • Warm water: Bath time is essential for your newborn’s overall health and can help soothe your baby’s skin. Gently wash the affected skin with warm water, being careful not to scrub pimples or further irritate the skin, and gently pat dry.
  • Keep skin clean: Newborn acne may be a response to or worsened by irritants like milk, vomit, or drool on the skin. Make sure to keep your baby’s face clean of food, spit up, or drool whenever possible.
  • Avoid oils, lotions, and creams: Unless directed to use something specific by a pediatrician, you don’t need any kind of acne treatment to clear up blemishes. Doing so could make pimples worse. Your baby’s body has everything it needs to clear up this temporary breakout. In most cases, you need only make sure your baby is happy, healthy, fed, and rested.
  • Hands off: There’s an almost primal urge to pinch or squeeze any pimple within popping distance. That’s not recommended at any age, but especially not with a newborn. Not only will your baby not enjoy it, but you will run the same or worse risk as scrubbing. Irritating pimples or the surrounding skin is a surefire way to delay healing.
  • When to call your pediatrician: Newborn acne almost always clears up on its own without any action from caregivers. However, if it doesn’t clear up within a couple of weeks, appears after two months of age, or other symptoms show up, don’t hesitate to get your pediatrician involved.

As unexpected as baby blemishes might be, for many babies, newborn acne is a normal part of greeting the world and goes away fairly quickly. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong or that there’s anything wrong with your newborn. Keep an eye on it, wait it out, and that baby-smooth skin will return before you know it.

Megan McDowell, DNP, FNP-C

Megan McDowell, DNP, FNP-C

Megan practices pediatrics in our South Jordan office.

a happy father receives a kiss from his son

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