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How do I treat baby acne?
Q: My 4-week-old baby broke out with pimples all over her face. Somebody told me it was baby acne. She just started smiling and I want to take photos of her for my relatives. Can I do anything to make it go away?
A: Emily, the pimples on your baby's face are probably baby acne. It's very common in newborns, especially starting around 3 to 5 weeks of age. These pimples tend to be reddish and sometimes include whiteheads. They're usually found on the baby's cheeks but can also come out on the forehead and chin.

Baby acne is thought to be caused by the mother's hormones that pass into the baby's body at the end of pregnancy. These hormones stimulate the oil glands in the baby's skin, similar to what happens with teen-agers. The acne will be most visible when your baby is crying or hot. It can also be increased by skin irritation from harsh soaps, laundry detergent, scratchy fabrics and saliva or spit-up milk on the face.

The good news is that baby acne isn't harmful, doesn't require any treatment and will usually go away on its own without scarring. The bad news is that baby acne can come and go for weeks, sometimes until 4 to 6 months of age.

It can help to gently wash your baby's face once a day with water and mild baby soap. But don't wash more frequently, scrub the skin, use adult soaps with perfumes or antiperspirants, or apply oils or lotions since these can make the acne worse. Rarely, if the acne is severe or lasts longer than six months, your doctor may prescribe a mild medicine.

Try not to worry so much about the baby acne showing up in photos. Catch your baby with a good smile and that's what everyone will notice. Then take more photos in a few months when the acne is gone.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician