What is Baby Acne?

My one-month-old son’s cheeks are very rough. It looked at first like a rash. There are small bumps that are sometimes red and irritated looking, and other times it looks very clear, but the roughness is still there. Is that a rash or is it baby acne? Is there something I can do to treat it?
Beckie Huckle – San Bruno, California

What is Baby Acne?

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

To many parents’ dismay, their beautiful newborn’s face breaks out with red bumps. One of the most common causes for red bumps on an infant’s face is baby acne. It tends to occur at about the same age as the baby’s peak gas production and fussiness. How attractive! (This all coincides with parents’ maximum sleep deprivation.) Parents are often quite concerned both about how these bumps look and about their significance.

In baby acne, these bumps, are quickly fleeting evidence of the connection between your body and your son’s. During the final moments of your pregnancy, your hormones crossed the placenta into your son. Among other things (such as maturing his lungs), this stimulated the oil glands on your son’s skin, eventually giving rise to the baby acne.

Fleshy or red pimples can be present at birth, but typically appear at 3 to 4 weeks of age. They occur predominately on the cheeks, but are also quite common on the forehead and chin. Whiteheads are sometimes present. This condition tends to come and go until the baby is between 4 and 6 months old.

The acne will be most prominent when your son is hot or fussy (increased blood flow to the skin), or when his skin is irritated. If his skin comes into contact with cloth laundered in harsh detergents, or becomes wet from saliva or milk that he has spit up, the condition may appear worse for several days.

Gently cleanse his face once a day with water, and perhaps a mild baby soap. Oils and lotions do not help, and may aggravate the condition. If the acne is severe or lasts beyond 6 months, your pediatrician may prescribe a mild medicine to help.

Otherwise, you can expect that the rash will soon be a memory. The oil glands will disappear, and you won’t see the acne again until you turn around once, and he’s a teenager. This time the acne will be evidence that his own hormones are turning him into a man.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

  1. Jessica Haynes

    My son is 7 months and has bumps all over his face that won’t go away is this just baby acne? Or could it be something more?

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  2. frances mikaela

    My daughter is 1 month old. I am a bit worried. Two days after my last visit to her pedia, red bumps appear on her cheek, especially worse on her neck. I also noticed scaly and rough patches on her left ear, chin, and nose. Her pedia only gave her dexipan cream, but still no progress.

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  3. Ariel

    My 7 month old little boy has small bumps all over his body. You can’t really see them, but you can feel them. My parents told me they thought they may be milk bumps?

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  4. vee

    My daughter has red bumps or acne on her face and it is going onto her arms and back slowly making its way down her whole body. Is it still acne?? Im scared :/

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  5. Amber

    This is helpful but I hate how it’s written for a male only. Why didn’t you just say “baby” instead of “son?” Lame.

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    • Lauren

      Because he was responding to the original poster- who has a SON.

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    • kd

      Who cares?

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    • Annoyed

      You’re lame. Put down your SJW banner for a sec, and you might notice that this is in response to a question about someone’s SON.

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  6. cheaphotel

    Very nice article. I simply searched your article and wished to say that I have truly loved surfing around your posts. After all I will be follow in your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

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  7. Laura

    My baby is 6 weeks, she has developed a rash (not sure if it’s baby acne) around her face/ears and scalp…..it seems to get worse when she’s hot or I take her out on a sunny day (we live in California)….I’m becoming quite concern with her condition, her doctor hasn’t seen her but said that if she hasn’t developed other symptoms it might not be of a concern….is there any info you can share?
    Every product I use on her is hypoallergenic (detergent/baby wash/shampoo) is it possible that it might be the formula?

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  8. esperanza

    My five month old baby has red bumps all over his face. I don’t know what’s causing it. I wipe his face a lot because he drools. He’s a breastfed baby so I don’t know if it’s the milk. Any advice is appreciated.

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  9. Kiaira Matthews

    My son is one month old and his face is breaking out. I have No clue what kind of soup time use and he do be hot sometimes. Do I take of most of his clothes? Is Johnson and Johnson baby lotion and soup OK for me to use?

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    • Alan Greene

      Kiaira, one-month old is a classic age for baby acne. Gentle cleansing with warm water and perhaps a mild baby soap is usually the best. I don’t know what brands are available where you are, but look for one that is fragrance-free and hypo-allergenic if possible (babies have more sensitive skin than adults). Babies do tend to feel heat and cold more than adults as well. If it seems hot, it’s fine to take off most of the clothes (as long as the baby is protected from the sun).

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    • millicent

      kiaira,i used to use johnson lotion and soap and my son was worse,use bar soap and pure veseline if no change stop using the lotion and leave him like that

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  10. Romondia Hardison

    My daughter is 19 months old. At birth her skin was clear and at 3mos. she would get an occasional tiny red bump that appeared on her face every once in a while which could disappear almost as fast as it came. Since she’s been 14 months old (Since February) she has been receiving a consistent cluster of red bumps on her face (cheeks, nose, around eyes, and around mouth) They would appear to clear at certain times and start up again. I notice sometimes when she gets highly upset more may appear. I took her to a pediatric dermatologist 1.5 months ago, and he thinks it was caused by the various antibiotics that her pediatrician placed her on while having reoccurring ear infections which she has had since about the age of 3 months up until she tubes placed in her ear in April at 16 months. He said that they just have to work their way out of her bloodstream and the bumps will continue to come until then. He prescribed a cream for morning and another for evening to put on her face. It help to clear the bumps that were there, but seemed useless as we can’t prevent new ones from coming. Since she eventually started getting light spots in the areas that the topical creams were used, I decided to stop the creams for right now and just wash her face hoping that will clear in the near future. I’m tired of people talking about how pretty she is and following up with “what is that on her face? Does she have the chicken pox?”

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    • Alan Greene

      That sounds frustrating, Romondia. It may be worth a follow-up visit to the pediatric dermatologist report back what has worked and what hasn’t (as well as mentioning the light spots where the cream was used).

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