Baby Acne: What Causes It & How to Treat Naturally

Does your newborn’s skin look more like a teenager’s? Find out what you can do to calm baby acne quickly.

Baby Acne: What Causes it & How To Treat Naturally

You’ve been filling up your Instagram feed with pictures of your adorable newborn’s face when all of a sudden, those soft, rosy cheeks start looking more like that of a prepubescent teenager, flecked with pimples and whiteheads. Enter, baby acne.

What Is Baby Acne?

Baby acne is a collection of small red bumps, usually found on the face. It is often concentrated on the cheeks, chin or forehead, but can also pop up on baby’s eyelids, chest or neck. This harmless skin condition affects more than 30 percent of newborns.

Baby acne as seen on Faith Valencia, Mama Natural’s daughter

Mama Natura’s daughter Faith with moderate baby acne at six weeks of age.

Baby acne tends to crop up two to four weeks after a baby is born and should clear on its own in a matter of months.

What Causes Baby Acne?

Unfortunately, the scientific community hasn’t come to a clear consensus on what causes baby acne. It is clear, however, that baby acne is completely normal, benign, and common. Baby acne shows up on breast fed and formula-fed babies at equal rates and is more common in babies born full-term.

Maternal hormones

Various researchers have suggested it is most likely the result of leftover maternal hormones from birth in the baby’s bloodstream, that cause an increase in oil production. Combine that with immature sweat glands and you have a breakout.

Imbalanced gut flora

Opportunistic gut flora may also aggravate baby acne, according to an article published by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association.

Babies start developing their gut flora in utero, influenced by mom’s gut health, and continue to grow their flora during delivery and through contact with the wider world. There is a bevy of conditions that can occur from imbalanced gut flora, including inflammation, irritation, and even acne. For more information on probiotic supplementation and treatment for infants, check out our post on probiotics for babies.

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How to Get Rid of Baby Acne

Although doctors don’t know exactly what causes baby acne, you can rest assured that it is totally harmless. It causes no pain or irritation for your wee one. Remember: Baby acne is temporary. It nearly always clears up without scarring. If baby acne hasn’t cleared up within three months, contact your doctor.

It is best to keep the skin clean and not to disturb the pimples.

While some natural remedies suggest putting breastmilk on the affected areas, this could possibly contribute to clogged pores because of the difference in pH levels of the skin and the milk, based off an article in the British Journal of Midwifery.

Try to keep baby’s skin clean and dry, and baby acne will clear before long!

When keeping the baby’s skin clean, be mindful of the delicate nature of baby’s skin. The skin is our largest organ and is a permeable membrane. Think of skin as a sponge. It takes in everything we put on it and absorbs it into the body. Baby will essentially “ingest” anything that is put on his or her skin, so it is important to use only natural, safe, and gentle skin care for your baby.

Natural Baby Acne Treatments

Although baby acne itself is as natural as it comes, it’s totally understandable to want to lessen the bumps for those adorable newborn photos (learn how to take your own pictures here). For those of us who don’t want to spend hours color correcting and smoothing in Photoshop, here are some some all-natural treatments and advice for dealing with baby acne.

  • Avoid Overdressing. Infant skin conditions can be exacerbated by overdressing. Trapping too much heat against the skin can cause excessive sweating and irritation, and can even cause the proliferation of bacteria. Of course, in the first few days of life, a newborn has difficulty regulating temperature, which is why skin-to-skin contact with caregivers is so important. No risk of overdressing there!
  • Avoid Excessive Washing. Baby’s pH is delicately balanced. The skin pH at birth is 6.4, but reduces to 4.9 within the first week. For babies born prematurely, this process can take even longer. This acidification helps as a natural antibacterial and a natural protection against infection. Soaps, cleansers, lotions, and other skin products can all disrupt the amazing work your baby’s skin is doing naturally! Some families may choose to use only water to bathe their newborns. In 2002, Sharon Trotter, a practicing midwife in the UK, conducted thorough research and observations to show that babies who were only washed with water for the first month didn’t present skin maladies like baby acne, cradle cap, and other rashes. Her research has been cited multiple times within the British Journal of Midwifery. Here at Mama Natural, we’ve also taken a stand against soap for grown-ups and littles!
  • Use Diluted, Alcohol-free Witch Hazel. Witch hazel is a fantastic natural astringent which can help clear oil from the skin and pores when applied topically as a baby acne treatment. It also works great in homemade baby wipes for a gentle, natural cleanser.
  • Apply Apple Cider Vinegar. Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water. The apply to affected areas with a cotton ball, then wipe and rinse clean. While you have your bottle of apple cider vinegar out, be sure to check out our list of 101 uses for apple cider vinegar. No matter the question, the answer usually involves apple cider vinegar.
  • Probiotics for Mom and Baby. If you are breastfeeding, keep your diet probiotic rich — think yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, or miso. Breast milk encourages good bacteria growth in baby’s gut, and even helps provide the most beneficial strains of probiotics right to baby. It’s a great idea for mom to also take a supplemental probiotic to increase healthy bacteria in her colostrum and breastmilk. There are also a handful of safe and effective ways to give probiotics to your newborn, if you and baby’s healthcare provider decide this is the best course of action. Benefits of supplementing with probiotics can include reduced allergic tendencies, avoiding colic, acid reflux, or diarrhea. Probiotics are administered in powder or liquid form that can be mixed with breastmilk or formula and given to baby, or even put directly on your nipples if you are breastfeeding. If you supplement probiotics for your baby, make sure to monitor for issues like allergy development or altered immune responses. Again, be sure to keep this an open conversation with your pediatrician.

The American Academy of Dermatology has also endorsed the topical application of probiotics to treat acne. Research has found that topically applied probiotics help treat acne in three ways.

1.) Probiotics applied to the skin create a protective shield so that the baby’s immune system doesn’t target and worsen acne.

2.) The probiotics themselves can attack bad bacteria that could be triggering inflammation.

3.) Probiotics have a calming effect on the skin cells to reduce immune responses.

After the study, some participants applied yogurt masks to their skin to recreate the helpful effects of probiotics. This could also be achieved by making a paste with liquid or powder probiotics. However, there has been no research or studies to prove the effectiveness of homemade probiotic masks.

What If Baby Acne Doesn’t Clear Up?

If your baby’s break out just won’t clear, you may be mistaking another skin condition for baby acne. Below are some various skin conditions that are similar to baby acne but require their own diagnosis and set of remedies.

  • Milia: These are tiny white bumps, similar looking to whiteheads, which appear on nose, chin, and cheeks of baby. Milia can be present from birth, unlike baby acne, which sets in later. It can also occur alongside baby acne as your baby’s skin adjusts to life outside the womb.  It is more often caused by sloughed off skin cells that get trapped in the outer layer of dermis.
  • Heat Rash: While baby acne is on the face, heat rash tends to appear where the baby is clothed, including on the chest, stomach and neck, but also on the thighs and buttocks. Heat rash looks like a reddening of the skin with lots of tiny red bumps.
  • Baby Eczema: While it can look similar to baby acne, especially when it shows up on the cheeks, its trademark look is red, patchy and scaly dry skin. It is very common in babies, and can also pop up in high-friction areas, like the folds of those tiny little elbows and knees. Eczema can be caused by diet, lifestyle, gut flora imbalance, dryness and also by genetics, if a parent suffers from eczema.
  • Infection: If the bumps spread beyond face or if baby has a fever or cold symptoms, call your pediatrician immediately as these may be signs of an infection like roseola or RSV.

Bottom Line on Baby Acne

Baby acne as seen on baby Faith Valencia, Mama Natural

Faith with baby acne at five weeks of age.

Albeit unsightly, baby acne is completely normal and common and poses no risk to your bundle of joy. It’s tempting to look for a quick fix, but it’s best to be patient. The human skin has so many built-in protections, fail safes, and processes that are best carried out with minimal meddling. Take time to marvel every precious inch of your baby and know that the baby acne will be gone soon!

How About You?

Did your babies develop baby acne? How long did it last? Please share any remedies that worked for you!

Genevieve Howland

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a doula and childbirth educator. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 135,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

Elisa Song MD Pediatric Reviewer Mama Natural

Reviewed By
Elisa Song, MD

Elisa Song, MD is a board-certified pediatrician, wife, and mother of two. As one of the country’s most highly regarded holistic pediatricians, Dr. Song founded Healthy Kids Happy Kids to empower parents to take charge of their kids’ health naturally!


  1. For a long time, my son struggled with cradle cap and infant acne. While he was being bathed, I attempted to apply breastmilk to his face. I also applied an all-natural lotion to him. Having been given Johnson’s in the hospital, I think I will insist on using only water and a milder shampoo for Baby #2’s baths. basketball stars

  2. very good idea for “Natural Baby Acne Treatments”

  3. My baby boy developed acne around 2 weeks. Even if it isn’t fully recommended, gently wiping his face with breastmilk had a really fast effect for us!

  4. Although it can appear on a baby’s eyelids, chest, or neck, baby acne is typically concentrated on the cheeks, chin, or forehead. More than 30% of newborns are affected by this benign skin disease.

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  5. Our baby developed pretty bad acne around 3 weeks. I ditched most dairy from my diet (except butter) and it improved almost immediately. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but definitely worth a try if nothing else is helping! I do plan to reintroduce some fermented dairy eventually, but for now I’m enjoying her clear skin. And for context, the only dairy I was consuming was high-fat, grass-fed and organic whenever possible, as well as fermented. I think the culprit was probably cheese, which is hard to come by with the above criteria, and I was definitely eating lots of conventional (albeit higher end) cheeses.

  6. My baby boy started having mild acne on his face and neck starting around 3 weeks despite me being on quality probiotics throughout pregnancy and him being very healthy. His pediatrician recommended using a warm chamomile compress on the acne spots and that seemed to help! Also when bathing we would just use water and a couple drops of lavender essential oil and the acne lessened over time.

  7. My 5 week old daughter has had the acne for a week and a half. It’s been pretty bad! ITS on her face, head, and behind her little ears. Now she’s rubbing her face on everything everything. I guess she’s itching. Is it normal to itch with acne?

    • How long did it take to clear up?

  8. Yes my son has it on his face i use destin butt cream an it cleared it up

  9. Thank you for bringing out this article! Apple cider vinegar works great for many types of skin problem. It works great for skin infections because of the many active ingredients present in it.

  10. I have mild rosacea and have used this serum at part of my night-time skin care routine for over a month.Its pleasant scent, spreads on like silk, absorbs quickly attracks me very much.Its dermalmd serum.

  11. My son had baby acne and cradle cap for quite a while! I tried breastmilk on it and washed his face with water. I used a natural lotion on him as well. However, they used Johnson’s on him at the hospital, so I think I will push for water only on Baby #2’s skin and a much gentler shampoo when it comes to hospital bath time. My son later developed eczema which was triggered by dairy. We tried probiotics for his eczema but it didn’t make a difference. Getting an ear infection and being put on an antibiotic actually cleared up his eczema. :/

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