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Baby Acne vs Baby Eczema: What's the Difference?

Baby Acne vs Baby Eczema: What's the Difference?

Babies are born with soft, smooth skin so if your baby’s skin has recently turned into red bumps that appear to be pimples, you may be wondering, is baby acne normal?

And yes it is. But, it may be more than just baby acne.

Before you start a treatment plan for your little one, you’ll need to know if your baby does indeed have baby acne or another more common condition, baby eczema.

Although baby acne and baby eczema may appear to be similar, they have different characteristics requiring different treatment, if any.

What Is Baby Acne?

Acne, although most commonly associated with teenagers, can occur in all age ranges including babies. Baby acne or neonatal acne affects nearly 30% of all newborns, with the first flare up occurring anywhere from birth up to 6 weeks after.

Baby acne appears as tiny red (papule) or white (pustule) bumps most commonly on your baby's face (i.e. cheeks, chin, and forehead) however they can appear in other areas such as your baby's scalp or back. A small percentage of these bumps may be whiteheads or blackheads.

Unlike teenage acne, baby acne typically clears up on its own within the first year of life.

What Causes Baby Acne?

There are several factors that may cause your baby’s acne but unlike adult acne, there’s no way to prevent it.

  • Excessive hormones - While in the womb, your baby receives hormones known as androgen. After birth, the hormones received from mom remain until they eventually subside; however, at the same time, your baby now produces their own androgens. This influx may cause your baby to develop excessive skin oil resulting in acne.  And since boys produce more androgen than girls, baby boys are also more likely to have acne.
  • Bacterial yeast - A yeast called Malassezia may be present in your baby’s skin causing inflammation and acne.

What Is Baby Eczema?

Eczema or atopic dermatitis is also very common in babies, affecting nearly 25% of all children with 60% of the first occurrence occurring in their first year. But while baby acne goes away, eczema is a chronic condition that can last through adulthood.

Baby eczema may be mistaken for acne initially appearing on the face and scalp. However, the skin will develop into rough inflamed patches that become easily irritated and itchy. This irritation can result in discomfort for your baby leading to itching which can cause the area to become red and raw.

What Causes Baby Eczema?

According to the National Eczema Association, there is no exact known cause for eczema. It’s thought that, through a process of elimination, Eczema occurs because of environmental factors and family history.

Some environmental factors include:

  • Dry skin
  • Food allergy
  • Hay fever
  • Living in areas with extreme temperatures (i.e. cold and damp or hot and humid)
  • Allergens in products (i.e. shampoo, body wash, etc.)
  • Stress

It’s important to be aware of all the possible factors that could contribute to your baby’s eczema as these same factors can also trigger their eczema to flare up. 

Treatment for Baby Acne

Baby acne does not require treatment since it goes away on its own within the first year. However, there are measures you can take to ensure your baby is comfortable until it does.

  • Wash with lukewarm water. Avoid hot water as this can dry out their skin.
  • Be gentle when washing. Avoid irritating their skin by scrubbing. 
  • Use gentle products. Avoid using products with harsh chemicals and oil. 
  • Pat your baby dry. Avoid rubbing to prevent irritation to their skin.

In situations where your baby’s acne becomes severe, your doctor may recommend treatment options such as a topical acne medication. 

Treatment for Baby Eczema

Like baby acne, baby eczema has no cure but unlike baby acne, baby eczema requires treatment to keep your baby’s symptoms under control and comfortable.

  • Wash with lukewarm water. Avoid hot water as this can dry out their skin even more. 
  • Be gentle when washing. Avoid irritating their skin by scrubbing. 
  • Moisturize immediately. Apply a lightweight hydrating oil to soothe dry, itchy skin like our Baby Oil followed by a thick moisturizing cream like our Baby Cream to lock in moisture and provide relief.
  • Remove triggers. Be aware of things that can easily irritate your baby’s skin such as shampoo, laundry detergents, and so on. This also includes food allergies and environmental factors such as pollen and tobacco smoke.

In certain circumstances, your doctor may recommend the use of topical corticosteroids to help reduce your baby’s symptoms such as inflammation and itching. 

Baby Acne vs Baby Eczema

While baby acne is a mild form of adolescent acne eventually going away on its own within the first year, baby eczema is a chronic skin condition requiring more care and special treatment to keep symptoms under control.

In either case, seeing your baby’s sensitive skin can be stressful. Follow the tips above and reach out to your doctor as needed to keep your baby comfortable until their precious skin clears up.