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Ask Dr. Sears: Baby Blemishes

Q. My newborn has pimples, like a teenager! Is this normal, and what can I do to prevent them?

Many babies have acne -- and rashes that look like it -- during the first six weeks of life for several reasons. Here's what you might expect:


  • Acne is a red, oily rash that usually appears on a baby's face. It's triggered by hormones, transferred from mom to child at birth, that cause the skin to overproduce an oily substance called sebum. This excess, in turn, leads to inflammation and pimples, which normally clear up within four to six weeks.


  • During the first week, yellowish-white spots surrounded by a red blotchy ring may appear; this condition, called newborn erythema toxicum, is one of the most common newborn breakouts, though the cause isn't known. It looks like insect bites, typically shows up on the face and abdomen, and usually subsides after about two weeks.


  • Also in the first couple of weeks, tiny whiteheads called milia often show up on a baby's face, especially the nose. Caused by plugged pores, milia clear up within a few weeks.


  • Prickly heat is a reddish, sandpaper-like rash that manifests during the third or fourth week on moist, chafed areas, such as between the neck folds, behind the ears, and in the groin area. It usually disappears by 2 months. While these spots tend to go away without help (in babies of color, they may take longer to fade), special care is suggested:

    Wash your baby's skin with warm water and a mild soap to remove excess oil; pat dry with a soft towel.

    Keep his fingernails short to prevent scratching and subsequent irritation and infection.

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