Babies are beautiful no matter what, but some parents may find it concerning when they notice signs of blemishes or acne on their faces. It is an understandable reaction, especially for new parents, but this condition is very common in newborns until their third month, and it can be present on the baby’s chin, cheeks, and even on their backs like tiny white bumps.
Baby acne, also known as newborn acne, is not a permanent condition, thankfully, and does not necessarily mean future skin issues for the baby. It usually resolves on its own, but natural and medicated treatments are available if you want to accelerate the healing process.
One of the questions moms usually ask is, “does breast milk help baby acne?” Surprisingly, it is one of the natural remedies you can try. Although there is no scientific evidence of its effectiveness, breast milk has been recommended to treat different ailments, including baby acne.
What causes baby acne?
Before we delve into the effectiveness, or not, of breast milk for baby acne, let us understand what it is.
Acne has always been associated with hormones and nutrition, so you may find it weird that it may be present on a baby’s skin. The truth is that babies are continually exposed to the mother’s hormones since they are in the womb and through breast milk as newborns. They also have to deal with their hormones, so if there is an imbalance in the maternal hormones, it may translate into baby acne.
Also, babies have very sensitive skin that can be altered by many things, including clogged pores which can happen very easily. An allergic reaction to the formula they are taking, a medication, or harsh soaps used to wash a baby’s clothes may cause alterations to the skin and look like baby acne.
Another theory is that yeast living on the skin can cause baby acne. Some medical professionals believe that the Malassezia yeast species colonize the surface of a child’s skin, making it inflamed and triggering acne.
Viral illnesses can also cause neonatal acne, but fever and obvious discomfort can be present in these cases.
There is no exact reason why baby acne happens, but it is a common condition among newborns and infants as it is estimated that it happens in around 20% of babies in their first six weeks of life.
Baby acne vs other skin conditions
Baby acne looks like tiny red or white bumps on the baby’s face, or other areas, that are raised and could be felt to the touch, or they may look more like flare-ups from adolescent acne. It may be confused with other skin conditions such as milia (like white bumps on a newborn’s forehead, cheeks, or near the mouth caused by trapped dead skin cells) or infant acne.
Infantile acne looks like a cluster of red bumps that can be felt, touched, and filled with pus and found in any part of the body. Medical treatment may be needed to avoid any potential skin issues when the baby grows up. If you want to confirm if the baby has infantile acne and set up a course of action, consult with the baby’s pediatrician or a pediatric dermatologist.
A heat rash can also look very similar to baby acne. Also known as Miliaria, heat rash is marked by small, itchy rashes caused by sweat trapped under the skin, and it commonly affects infants in hot and humid weather and during the summer.
Baby acne may sometimes be confused with eczema, but in those cases, the affected area will show dry, itchy, and flaky skin instead of the tiny red bumps.
A diaper rash is a localized skin condition that includes irritation or a red rash and happens only in those areas that are in contact with a diaper, so it may look like baby acne, but it is not, and it is never on the baby’s face. Ensure the diaper area is dry and apply diaper cream to prevent it.
Practical tips for baby acne treatment
Since this is a common skin condition and not a serious concern, you can treat baby acne at home with simple actions to get it under control and ease any discomfort it may be causing your baby.
1. Do not pop it
Remember that a baby’s sensitive skin should be treated with care. Picking, popping, or scrubbing the pimples can break the baby’s skin and open a pathway for bacteria to enter, increasing the risk of infection. Also, a newborn’s skin can easily scar, so be very careful when treating baby acne.
2. Keep the area clean and moisturized
Although babies do not need to be bathed every day, cleaning their faces or other areas with warm, clean water or mild soap will help fight that stubborn baby acne. Always use a moisturizer designed for a baby’s sensitive skin and favor fragrance-free and hypoallergenic.
3. Use a humidifier
Dry air may complicate acne, so it may be good to keep the air humid so the baby’s skin retains some moisture. Do not confuse keeping the air humid with a humidifier with vapor treatment used in teenagers and adults. In those cases, humidity is used to pop the pimples easily, but remember that popping baby acne is not recommended.
4. Apply coconut oil
It has been used for multiple purposes on babies’ skin, and some people recommend it to alleviate baby acne. You can add a few drops on a cotton ball and swath the baby’s whole face or just the area with the acne breakout. However, if clogged pores cause the baby acne, then using coconut oil or olive oil (both have been recommended to moisturize and for baby massage) can cause the opposite reaction and complicate the newborn acne further.
5. Changes in diet
Although it may not be a direct cause of baby acne, changing and adjusting the mother’s diet may positively impact the baby’s overall skin condition, so discuss your eating habits with your doctor to see if making adjustments may be helpful.
6. Ask a medical professional
When in doubt, always consult your pediatrician. A pediatrician or a pediatric dermatologist can prescribe a medicated cream or other alternatives for the baby’s face if you are worried that what you are doing to treat baby acne is not working, getting worse, or if you are suspecting infantile acne. Using over-the-counter medication without the proper prescription and instruction is risky because dosage and frequency may need to be adjusted to treat newborn skin and neonatal acne, so it is best to consult first.
Baby acne breast milk
Most of the information about the effectiveness of breast milk in getting rid of baby acne is anecdotal. No official research supports its effectiveness, but many people swear its effectiveness based on personal experiences.
However, here are some facts about breast milk that may explain why it may help with baby acne. Breast milk contains about 6.2% of lauric acid, a chemical with antimicrobial properties that can attack and destroy the bacteria that cause baby acne.
Breast milk is loaded with antibodies that help boost the baby’s immune system, and those benefits may be applied topically. Also, breast milk has anti-inflammatory properties to reduce irritation and inflammation from baby acne.
They say that wiping a few drops of breast milk over the baby’s skin and letting it air dry to remove baby acne is an effective approach. If it does not help clear the baby’s skin, it will not cause any harm, so you can try it out without risks. You can use breast milk multiple times a day to treat baby acne and see if it works out, there is no harm in trying it, and it is free.
Breast milk has also been used to treat other ailments such as ear infection, conjunctivitis, cradle cap, eczema, chickenpox, skin rash, and teething pain. All these cases may benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of breast milk to reduce itchiness on the irritated skin and promote healing, soothe the pain and be effective because of its antimicrobial properties.
There is some debate about ear infection treatment. Although some doctors consider letting a few drops of breast milk enter the ear canal not very effective and it has been widely advised to prevent any liquid from entering the ear canal for many years. So there are still doubts about this.
When will baby acne go away
Baby acne may appear in the first three months of the baby’s life, but usually, by the third month, it will be resolved. If that period has passed and you still see signs of baby acne, consult a pediatrician or a pediatric dermatologist to discuss other treatment options.
How to prevent baby acne
Even though there is no way to prevent baby acne totally, there are some things you can do to decrease the possibility of complications and other skin conditions such as rashes, infant acne, or skin issues.
1. Use fragrance-free products
Artificial fragrances are loaded with chemicals that may irritate a baby’s skin, so when possible, choose hypoallergenic products. This includes soap, shampoo, and lotions. Also, cleaning products and laundry detergent should be fragrance-free and, if possible, favor the products that have been designed specially for babies, even when using them on adults. The mom’s clothes should be washed with the same mild detergent as the baby’s clothes because they will be in constant contact with the baby’s sensitive skin. The same applies to multipurpose cleaners and disinfectants used to clean around the house. Do not limit this rule to only the baby’s clothing because they will have physical contact with everything else around the house.
2. Bathe baby
We have already talked about this, but it is worth repeating it. The reason is that to establish a good skincare routine, and babies should get used to bathing frequently. Always use warm water and some mild baby soap to remove dirt and oil from the skin pores, minimizing breakouts. If you are not keen on bathing the baby every day, at least in the first weeks, gently wash the baby’s face with warm water and any other affected area to remove anything that may trigger acne. After the bath or wash, dry the baby’s skin and apply moisturizer.
3. Use soft fabrics
Favoring super soft clothing and fabrics for blankets and sheets can prevent further irritation on the baby’s skin. The fabric will be rubbing the sensitive skin, so to prevent abrasions and markings, choose softer materials such as cotton, flannel, jersey, and muslin.
A Final Note, Does Breast Milk Help Baby Acne?
Baby acne is a common skin condition on newborns and babies for the first few months and usually lasts a few weeks if treated correctly. It may be caused by many things, including maternal hormones and other external reasons that may be easily controlled with proper skincare.
The properties of breast milk continue to amaze because they are the ideal nutritional element for a baby’s diet and helps them thrive in life, but its benefits extend beyond that.
No wonder it is called liquid gold. This superfood has so many healing properties that, although not scientifically proven, have been used for years for topical treatment with success.
There are times when parents are so worried about their baby’s health that they will be willing to try just about anything to make them better. So, is there a better option than using breast milk to help them? It is free and harmless, and if it does not work, it will not cause any danger. So there might be some truth behind this belief.