Practical advice for new parents

Newborn Acne

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Many new parents become alarmed when they discover that their little bundle of joy has developed a red pimply rash. This unsightly, yet harmless condition, called newborn acne, affects approximately 30 percent of infants. Often beginning in the third or fourth week of life, newborn acne is caused by a baby's sebaceous glands being kicked into overdrive by maternal hormones still present in his or her system after birth. The glands subsequently overproduce oil that clogs the pores and produce the rash. Newborn acne, which often includes pus-filled pimples, often appears on the cheeks, chin and forehead, and occassionally on the scalp. As well, papules, which are solid red bumps, may appear. For reasons that are not completely understood, boys are more likely to suffer from newborn acne than girls. Curiously, there is no link between a family history of acne and newborn acne in a baby. Thus, a baby who develops the condition is no more likely to have teenage or adult onset acne than one who had clear newborn skin.

Fortunately, while not aesthetically pleasing, newborn acne will generally come and go for the first few months of life and completely disappear by the time a baby is six months old. In the vast majority of cases, there is no need for special treatment. Simply washing baby's face with a gentle soap and tepid water is the best approach to minimizing newborn acne. Applying creams or oils may actually aggravate the condition by further clogging the pores. And, of course, it's not a good idea to try to pick or pop a baby's pustules. This significantly increases the risk of both infection and scarring. If the acne does become severe or if there may be the possibility of infection, it's important to consult with a doctor. Topical antibiotics or other creams might be prescribed.

Another condition that is often confused with newborn acne is called milia. This rash looks like tiny white bumps that appear on the sides of the nose and the cheeks. Almost 40 percent of newborns will have some degree of milia. These bumps are not pimples and are not infected. Rather, they are closed pores that generally open at about one to two months of age. At that point, the condition will disappear. Like newborn acne, there is no need for any special treatment with milia.

Both newborn acne and milia can be frustrating for new parents who want their babies to have picture perfect complexions. However, they are simply common conditions that will resolve themselves within a couple of months. Parents should not be embarrassed by these rashes and should not hesitate in taking photographs of their babies, even with imperfect skin. Photos can easily be touched up, and before long their babies will be rash-free.

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