Baby acne or eczema? Here’s how to tell the difference

Is it baby acne or eczema? It can be hard for you to tell the difference as they look similar on the face. An expert shares how you can figure out if your baby has acne or eczema.
Baby skin conditions
Your baby's skin can be sensitive. Watch out for acne and eczema. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Updated: 17 Oct 2023, 18:36 pm IST
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Wrapped in warm blankets, babies look too cute with their soft and chubby cheeks and clear skin. Thhere are times when they get small red bumps on different parts of their face. You might think it’s baby acne. But sometimes, it can be baby eczema too. They may appear similar, but eczema can make your baby feel very uncomfortable.

As a new mom, people must have already shared skin care tips for newborn babies with you. But to find out the difference between baby acne and eczema, HealthShots consulted Dr Ankur Rajvanshi, Consultant Neonatologist and Paediatrician, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Whitefield, Bengaluru.

baby acne vs eczema
It’s difficult to tell the difference between baby acne and eczema. Image courtesy: shutterstock

Baby acne vs eczema

It can be quite challenging to distinguish between baby acne and eczema, as they often appear in the same areas. Here’s how to differentiate between the two!

1. Appearance

Baby acne appears as small bumps often on the little one’s face. Eczema can also be bumpy, but you will also see dry and flaky patches of skin, says Dr Rajvanshi. You have to keep a close eye on your baby and see if the child baby is scratching at their skin. Itch happens to be an important symptom of eczema. As for baby acne, it doesn’t make you feel itchy.

2. Area of the body

Baby eczema and acne mostly pop up on the chin or forehead or scalp. However, baby acne can also appear on the back, neck, and chest. Eczema can even appear on the knees and elbows whereas acne doesn’t.

When do these skin conditions occur in babies?

The expert says that acne appears at birth or soon after when they are around 2 to 4 weeks of age. Baby eczema doesn’t typically emerge until the child is 3 to 6 months of age.

Causes of baby acne and eczema

Baby acne causes aren’t completely understood, says the expert. But one of the key factors related to baby acne is the influence of hormones on the body. For babies with acne, it is believed that the hormones from the mother are still in the baby’s body and they cause changes to the skin. Baby’s skin pores tend to become clogged under the influence of mother’s hormones (androgens).

Eczema, on the other hand, comes from the influence of the environment we are living in, and how that environment affects the cells of our bodies. There is a genetic aspect to eczema, and it is a condition we often see run in family across generations.

baby acne vs eczema
Baby eczema is a more chronic skin condition. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How long do they last?

Baby acne usually resolves over a period of time, mostly by 3 to 6 months of age. But eczema usually starts at 3 to 6 months of age and is a more chronic condition. The good news is that most children grow out of baby eczema by the time they turn 5.

Baby acne and eczema treatments

There are some steps that you can take to help in healing your child’s skin. Receiving a proper diagnosis by a doctor is the first thing you should do.

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If your baby has acne, make sure to refrain from the following.

• Using hot water. Instead, use lukewarm water for bath and cleaning purposes.
• Using greasy or oily skin care products.
• Scrubbing or rubbing the inflamed areas.
• In most cases, baby acne should clear up on its own.

The expert says that daily cleansing with water and gentle soap while avoiding creams and oils is the key to treatment.

There is no cure for eczema, but there are treatments for managing dry, red and itchy skin. The main problem with eczema is that the skin isn’t holding water as it should. So, the goal would be to use methods to improve the dryness. This can be done by practising the following:

• Give your child a bath every day. How to bathe your baby is easy, soap isn’t needed. But if you use it, make sure it is gentle and hypo-allergenic soap without a fragrance.
• Pat your baby’s skin dry, and don’t rub. Then apply a medicated cream that’s been prescribed by a doctor.
• Apply a moisturiser after bathing.
• Use fragrance-free detergent and fabric softeners so that less potential irritants come into contact with the baby’s skin. Also, use cotton clothing as much as you can.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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