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How to Treat Baby Acne

How to Treat Baby Acne

Many newborns experience some degree of baby acne in their first weeks or months.  It usually shows up shortly after birth and looks like small red pimples and/or reddish splotches clustered on the cheeks, nose, forehead and occasionally neck or back (see notes for other common infant skin irritations). Baby acne is normal, harmless and typically clears up on its own within a few weeks.   Even so, most moms (myself included) are anxious to see it go.  Here’s what helped us speed it along:

  • Keep your baby’s skin clean, but don’t go overboard – even mild soaps can be hard on newborn skin. For small messes such as “milk face”, soap isn’t even necessary.  Simply wiping their face and neck with a moist washcloth will get them clean and is gentle on their skin.  I try to limit soap to once per day, (there are of course messy exceptions!).  Wash her face with a soft washcloth and small amount of mild, low chemical soap.  Choose a brand with ingredients you can pronounce (my pediatrician specifically advised against Johnson & Johnson).  I like unscented liquid castile soap.  Wash with soft strokes, don’t scrub or pick at the pimples– it aggravates more than it helps.
  • Don’t be afraid to moisturize!  After washing, apply a thin layer of low chemical moisturizer.  I love organic, unrefined coconut oil for this.  It’s a healing oil that has natural anti-microbial properties which help combat acne.  This worked wonders for us.  Nate had baby acne over much of his face/neck and his skin was noticeably better after just one application.  By the end of the week the acne was almost completely gone.  Note: A little coconut oil goes a long way, so use sparingly.
  • Exposure to chemicals can also contribute to baby acne.  In addition to the soaps and moisturizers you use, other common culprits include laundry detergent, perfumes and other fragrances.  Try Using a natural based laundry detergent and go easy on anything smelly.


  • Other common skin irritations include eczema and milia.
    • Eczema is often a similar red color to baby acne but has a different texture and location.  Eczema has a dry, rough texture and tends to be crusty or scaly.  It can be found anywhere on the body (although it’s most common on the head and face).  It also tends to be itchy and uncomfortable.  In comparison, baby acne looks like a small version of teenage acne.  It may be bumpy but generally not dry or rough.  It’s primarily found on the face and doesn’t seem to hurt or itch.
    • Milia looks like tiny little whiteheads typically found on newborn’s nose, cheeks and/or chin.  Nearly half of newborns will get at least a few of them.  They’re totally harmless and usually go away on their own within a couple weeks.

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One Response to “How to Treat Baby Acne”

  1. Maile Rafalski says:

    Many parents underestimate the sensitivity of their child’s skin. While it may be tempting to save money and use the same dry skin care products on your baby’s skin as you would on your own, this can cause serious problems. Imagine using bar soap on the sensitive skin of your face as compared to a specialty product designed for the chemistry of your skin. It would likely end up causing you a great deal of discomfort. The same thing would happen to your baby’s skin if you were to consistently use products geared for adults to cleanse it. An unhappy baby can be a very loud baby, and dry skin can make babies incredibly unhappy.-

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