Neonatal Acne

happy cappy cruelty free shampooOk, 3 weeks after birth. We got this!…yellowing of my kid’s skin (jaundice) is going away, weird red ant bite looking things (erythema toxicum) are no longer all over her body, and he is finally sleeping just a tad better.

Now what in the world are these new red bumps all over her face? Your little one most likely has neonatal acne. Some sources say this benign condition occurs in up to 20% of patients, but in my pediatric experience I would say it happens much more frequently.

What does neonatal acne look like and when does it occur?

Red bumps and what look like white heads (pustules) appear on the cheeks, forehead, chin, upper back, upper chest and even on the neck at 3 or 4 weeks of age is when neonatal acne shows up.

Learn more about Neonatal Acne from Dr. Eddie Valenzuela

It is worthwhile to note that what has traditionally been called neonatal acne is also being referred to as “neonatal cephalic pustulosis.” What a mouthful. It is no wonder pediatricians still just call this benign temporary condition “neonatal acne.”

The academic move to rename this benign condition is because there is another condition called “infantile acne” that needs to be seen by a pediatric dermatologist. Infantile acne is quite rare compared to “neonatal acne” and shows up for the first time around 2 months later than the typical time when neonatal acne appears.

In case you are wondering, “infantile acne” (again much more rare) can have blackheads (open comedones) and starts after 2 months of age.

It is hypothesized that neonatal acne may be associated with yeasts that normally live on everyone from newborns to adults. It just so happens that the same or a similar yeast (fungus) is also the likely cause of cradle cap (seborrheic dermatitis) and dandruff.

The usual teaching of how to deal with neonatal acne is to wash the face with soap and water, and it will just disappear in about a month. Occasionally an anti-fungal cream is prescribed by your health care provider.

There is oftentimes overlap with neonatal acne and cradle cap. They can both be happening simultaneously.

A gentle medicated baby shampoo for Cradle Cap containing Pyrithione Zinc is an excellent way to quickly remedy cradle cap, and it just so happens that the same cradle cap shampoo can also be used as a face wash that can soothe neonatal acne.


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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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When does neonatal acne go away?

Neonatal Acne lasts a few weeks. Regular washing of the face can reduce the length of time the condition lasts.

Can Neonatal Acne spread from person to person?

Neonatal Acne is not contagious. This means it cannot spread from one person to another by touching or using the items of an affected child.

Can heat worsen Neonatal Acne?

Heat can always make things look worse as the skin can become more flush than usual. This is a condition affecting children in their first 2 months out of the womb so they will likely not be exposed to extreme temperatures for long and if they are they will not be sun exposed. Sweating though could cause irritation and discomfort, making neonatal acne worse.

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