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Recognising Baby Acne

By: Jody Ehrhardt - Updated: 20 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Shortly after birth or usually within a few weeks of birth, many parents start to notice a rash on their baby's face that looks a lot like acne. Baffled by the condition, these parents worry that their child is suffering from the same type of acne that plagues teenagers and start contemplating acne treatments. However, the condition is actually baby acne and the cause and the outbreaks are quite different in nature from common acne.

How to Recognise Baby Acne

Baby acne is most commonly present on the cheeks of a newborn, but can also be found on the forehead, chin, and even the back. The outbreaks resemble small whiteheads that are ringed by reddish skin. These outbreaks can also resemble adult pimples and be red and fleshy in appearance.

When a baby is calm the condition can look fairly mild, but when a baby is fussy or overheated the condition can look worse. Saliva, rough fabrics, and spit-up can also aggravate the look of the condition. Plus, the use of harsh detergents on fabrics, clothing, and blankets that come in contact with the baby's skin can also worsen the look and feel of this condition.

Because acne in newborns is sometimes confused with a regular rash there are a few patterns that can help you decide exactly what is going on with your baby's skin. Baby acne usually occurs first in babies three to four weeks in age, and then goes away naturally once the baby reaches the age of three to four months. Also, this condition is more common in male babies than in females. Finally, unlike a rash, baby acne is never found on the extremities or chest of a newborn.

What Causes it

Although baby acne is quite common, it affects almost 20% of all newborn babies; an exact, proven cause has yet to be discovered. However, many experts believe that the passing of hormones from mother to baby in the last stages of pregnancy can precipitate occurrence of this condition. These hormones are naturally passed through the placenta and are responsible for aiding the survival of a newborn once they have left the womb. The hormones help stimulate things like lung maturation, but they also cause increased oil gland activity. It is this increased gland production that may be the cause of baby acne.

Other suspected causes of baby acne include the use of certain medications by a mother while she is still pregnant or nursing, certain medications that may be given to newborn babies and certain diet elements consumed before birth.

Since you cannot control the passing of hormones from mother to baby, prevention is nearly impossible. You can however treat the condition to a certain extent.

What You Can Do to Treat it

Although baby acne will clear up on its own, many parents wish to speed recovery since the condition can be a bit unpleasing to the eye. The best course of treatment is daily cleansing. Once a day wash your baby's skin with a mild soap and clean, warm water. Do not scrub the area or use medicated soaps. Both of these techniques will worsen the condition and further irritate the skin. You also do not want to overdo the washings. Too many daily washing will also make the condition worse.You can also switch laundry detergents since harsh chemical residues can make the condition worse. Choose a detergent and fabric softener that is meant for use on a baby's items.

Lastly, do not allow spit-up, formula, or breast milk to sit or dry on the baby's skin. These liquids can clog skin pores and result in the appearance of whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples.

There are also a few things that you should not do that can help reduce the appearance of baby acne on your newborn's skin. Never apply lotions, creams, or oils to the affected area. These treatments will further clog pores and worsen the condition. You should also never use any type of acne treatment on a baby's skin. The active ingredients in these solutions are too strong for sensitive baby skin and can cause other problems like burning, excessive dryness, and inflammation.

If the above treatments don't improve the condition within three months, or if you still continue to be worried by the baby acne, you should consult your pediatrician for further advice. But try not to stress too much over this condition, baby acne is a natural maturing process for a newborn and it will not harm him or make him uncomfortable. As you wait for the condition to clear up naturally, patience is key.

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