Acne in newborn isn’t uncommon and about 20% of the babies can develop neonatal acne sometimes at birth. Acne can be spotted on forehead, chin, back, neck or chest of the baby. While pimples and redness on the face is not a cause of concern usually, it can at times be symptom of eczema or atopic dermatitis and it is important to get the right diagnosis as the inflammatory condition can spread to other parts of the body. (Also read: Baby Massage Day: Health benefits of massage for your babies)
“The skin of a newborn baby is very sensitive and vulnerable to the external environment as compared to that of an adult. Not all babies have soft, clear skin, and some of them have bumpy and red patches on the skin called neonatal acne. Commonly known as baby acne, neonatal acne causes pimples and redness on the baby’s face and area around the neck. However, it can also be a symptom of eczema or atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin condition that causes dry, itchy patches to appear on the baby’s skin,” says Dr Poonam Sidana, Director Neonatology and Pediatrics, C K Birla Hospital Delhi.
Baby acne commonly begins around 2 weeks of age, and in most cases, it gets resolved by 6 weeks of age without any treatment. However, in cases of eczema, the baby may get redness, swelling and scaling on the skin.
“This inflammatory condition usually occurs in babies between 3 to 6 months and starts with the face and scalp. It slowly spreads to other parts of the body, particularly the elbows and knees. For new mothers, it can be quite challenging to distinguish between baby acne and eczema,” says Dr Sidana.
Dr Sidana shares ways that can help identify the differences between the two conditions:
• Age: Neonatal or baby acne usually occurs in age group of 2-6 weeks. A similar condition called infantile eczema can happen after 6 weeks or later up to early part of second year. Baby eczema often doesn’t appear until the child is 3 to 6 months old.
• The appearance of the pimples: Both eczema and baby acne may appear bumpy on the skin. But baby acne is more like small pimples, on the other hand eczema appears to be a dry, flaky patch on the skin. If the infant is itchy, it can also be a sign of eczema.
• Areas of the body: Baby acne usually appears around the neck, back, and chest. However, eczema may extend to the elbows and knees. However, it is important to note that both baby acne and eczema can appear on the face, chin, and scalp.
• Genetics: There may be family history of allergy in atopic dermatitis.
Understanding the treatment
In most cases, baby acne does not require any medical treatment and resolves on its own after a few months.
“If the baby has neonatal acne, the skin needs to be kept clean and free of any oily products. The affected area must be gently patted, not rubbed. On the other hand, infantile eczema or atopic dermatitis is characterized by dry skin with scaling, inflammation, sometimes cracking, and weeping,” says Dr Sidana.
“While there is no permanent cure for eczema, it is possible to minimise the symptoms. Ways to minimise symptoms include keeping the skin well-hydrated with an appropriate moisturising lotion, avoiding hot water baths, and gently patting the skin after bathing. Moisturising should be done on damp skin to ensure better absorption. Keeping the baby’s nails trimmed is important to prevent scratching of itchy lesions, and dressing the baby in loose, soft cotton clothes can be helpful. Atopic dermatitis or eczema may be associated with other conditions. It is advisable to consult your baby’s doctor for a long-term management plan,” concludes Dr Sidana.