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Why Do Babies Get Acne? A Pediatrician Explains

When my baby was just a few weeks old, she started to break out in unsightly red pimples all over her chubby pink cheeks. Like any first-time parent, I called her doctor in a panic, convinced my baby had the measles or the chickenpox. She didn't, though. She just had acne. But why do babies get acne and what, if anything, can you do about it?

To find out more about why babies seem to break out just in time for family photos, how to treat their pimples, and when you should call the doctor, Romper spoke with Pediatrician Natasha Burgert via email. According to Burgert, while baby acne might look terrible, it's actually not a big deal and will probably go away on it's own, with time, if you let it be.

Baby rashes and skin issues like baby acne are super common, Burgert says. "Babies have really sensitive skin that is quickly changing," she tells me. "Skin growing so quickly, going through hormone changes, and experiencing rapid turnover causes many common skin conditions in the first months of life, including acne."

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According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 20 percent of newborns will get baby acne — also called neonatal acne — in their first two to six weeks of life. These breakouts generally crop up on your baby's cheeks or nose, and are caused by the hormonal changes your baby experiences after delivery. If your baby is over 6 weeks old, though, the same site recommends seeing a doctor, because what looks like acne could be something more serious, like an infection or eczema.

Common baby rashes and acne should not upset or bother a child.

As tempting as it might be to pop your baby'a zits, or apply acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, Burgert says parents should avoid products designed for adult acne, because it can hurt a baby's sensitive skin. Instead, she suggests a hands-off approach. "Parents should avoid aggressive topical treatments or over-washing," she says. "Routine, gentle skincare is all that is needed."

In fact, your baby's acne might actually be a reaction to certain skin products, according to The American Academy of Dermatology, especially if your baby is older than 6 weeks. Per the same organization, using warm water and a mild soap, and skipping those oily or harsh products that can be detrimental to your baby's sensitive skin, is recommended.

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The good news, according to Burgert, is that while acne might not look all that great, it probably doesn't phase your little one. "Acne should not bother the baby at all and will go away over time," she tells me. "If you think your baby is bothered by the rash or is having increasing redness, they should be seen by a doctor. Rarely, infants need topical products for soothing and care. Doctor guidance can be helpful to determine what will be best."

In fact, if your baby seems to be bothered by a rash, it's probably not acne, Burgert says. "Common baby rashes and acne should not upset or bother a child. If you feel that your baby is rubbing, scratching, irritable, or has other signs of illness, then they should be seen by a doctor."

If your baby has acne, hormones are probably to blame. The good news is that it's usually nothing to worry about, and their pimples are likely to go away on their own if you just wait and watch. But if their acne doesn't pass, your baby seems bothered by it, or you think it might be something else, it's never a bad idea to ask your baby's pediatrician for advice or make an appointment for them to be seen.