What is baby acne?
With baby acne pimples, spots and bumps are visible on the baby’s skin, especially in the face.
There are two different conditions that can give the impression of baby acne. Both disorders occur regularly and generally resolve on their own. In some cases, treatment is necessary.
- Erythema neonatorum toxicum (ENT) Thirty to seventy percent of children go through erythema neonatorum toxicum (ENT). It usually starts a few days after birth and lasts about five to seven days. In a small number of cases ENT persists for months.
- Acne neonatorum Acne neonatorum literally means acne (childhood pimples) in newborns. It can occur in newborns, but sometimes also at toddler age.
Symptoms baby acne
Erythema neonatorum toxicum ( ENT ) Especially in the baby’s face, but also in the neck and shoulders or elsewhere on the skin, you can see pale yellow to white, firm-feeling bumps. These are approximately one to three millimeters in size. The bumps can develop into blisters or pimples.
The skin abnormalities in ENT can sometimes look a bit like humps. These are the red spots and bumps that appear if you have been in contact with nettles, for example.
ENT generally starts in the first week after birth and can last around five to seven days. A very few times this condition can persist for months.
ENT is more common in babies born after full-term pregnancy than in premature babies.
Acne in newborns (acne neonatorum) Hereby you see several pimples in the face, mainly on the cheeks. It looks exactly like the juvenile pimples, which you also see in children in puberty.
There are red bumps, pimples (with a white head) and blackheads (black dots). This form of acne occurs at infant and toddler age.
The skin disorders usually disappear on their own, this can take several weeks to months. Sometimes treatment is necessary.
How does baby acne occur?
Erythema neonatorum toxicum (ENT) The cause of this disorder is unknown. Possibly there is an allergic reaction. It could be a reaction of the skin to the change from an environment with amniotic fluid (the womb) to an environment with air (after birth).
The emergence of ENT has at least nothing to do with wrong baby oil, food allergy or ‘too fatty’ (breast) feeding.
Acne in newborns Acne is a long-term inflammation of the sebaceous glands in the skin. The cause is probably an increased sensitivity of the sebaceous glands to certain hormones in the body. Tallow is a greasy substance that lubricates the skin.
Because of the increased sensitivity, the sebum production increases. This allows the pores to become clogged with tallow. Then small fat bumps arise, sometimes with a black dot: a blackhead. If the sebum cannot escape, the sebaceous glands sometimes become inflamed.
The bacteria on the skin may also play a role in this. A red pimple appears with a pusher head.
Is it serious and what can you expect?
Erythema neonatorum toxicum (ENT) ENT is completely harmless and will always go away automatically. It usually takes about a week, sometimes it can last for a few months.
It can happen that the bumps and pimples have almost completely disappeared, only to return again in full force. Treatment of this is not necessary. ENT heals without scarring.
Acne in newborns This form of acne is also not serious. It often goes away again. When inflammation is very important, treatment may be necessary. In general it is then healed with the right treatment in a few months.
Very occasionally, (small) scars may remain after the acne has healed. These usually become less and less clearly visible over the years. Babies who have had acne may be more likely to develop acne during puberty.
When to the doctor?
If your baby gets bumps and pimples in the face, especially in the first week after birth, you can wait and see. Especially when they are also present in other places of the body.
Even if you feel that one day it looks much worse than another, this actually always points to erythema neonatorum toxicum (ENT) and you do not have to take any action. It makes sense to make an appointment with your doctor once if:
- the pimples appear well after the first week, these (much) larger than three millimeters and you also see blackheads
- the bumps are accompanied by (more and more) honey-yellow crusts and they are mainly around the nose and mouth
- you only see blisters filled with moisture (in different sizes)
What can you do about it yourself?
You cannot do anything about it yourself either with erythema neonatorum toxicum or with acne in newborns. It is important not to fiddle with or pinch the bumps and pimples. It is also not wise to get started with creams and body lotions. Often this can only aggravate the situation. Follow your doctor’s guidelines carefully if he decides to start treatment.
General advice and precautions
Erythema neonatorum toxicum and acne in newborns cannot be prevented. Special precautions are therefore not necessary.
However, both disorders are quite striking and especially unsightly. Every parent wants his or her baby to have a fresh and cool skin. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Do not try to feel guilty about this; you can’t help it. It will disappear by itself over time.