For years, essential oils have held a spot as one of the most popular natural wellness products. People turn to essential oils for everything from aches and pains to stress relief – and even skin care. Parents of babies who have acne might wonder if using essential oils is a viable and safe treatment. While many adults and teens can effectively treat mild to moderate acne with essential oils, this natural option isn’t as safe as it may seem. When it comes to essential oils for baby acne, there are much safer courses of action for treatment.
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Typical Symptoms of Baby Acne
Baby acne is a common, typically temporary condition that affects approximately 20% of newborns up to 3 months old. With baby acne, also known as neonatal acne, red or white pimples can pop up on the skin, and overall redness can occur in the area. In these cases, however, you will not see blackheads or whiteheads. These comedones appear in cases of infantile acne, which can affect children who are a few months to 2 years old.
Baby acne can occur anywhere on the body, but most commonly appears around the cheeks, nose, and forehead. Typically, baby acne will develop within 2 to 4 weeks after birth, but it can also be present at birth. Baby acne may be caused by maternal or infant hormones, but more research needs to be done to back up those claims. While the exact causes of baby acne is unclear, it is not considered to be a serious condition. Generally, baby acne will clear up within 3 to 4 months.
Conditions Similar to Baby Acne
There are a few conditions that present symptoms similar to baby acne, and you should consult with a physician for a proper diagnosis.
- Milia: are tiny white bumps that occur on the skin, most commonly on the nose, chin, and cheeks. They are formed when dead skin cells become trapped in smaller pockets near the surface of the skin. Typically, milia will clear up within a few months, and the bumps don’t require treatment.
- Eczema: presents as red bumps on the skin. In babies, you’ll typically see it on the face, but it may also pop up on the knees and elbows as they get older. It can be treated with over-the-counter products, and in some cases, a doctor will prescribe a mild medication.
- Erythema Toxicum: typically appears sooner than baby acne, presenting on the skin within the first few days after birth. The skin condition can present a rash, red blotches, or tiny bumps on the face, chest, or limbs. Typically, it will clear up within a week.
Are Essential Oils Safe for Baby Acne?
While an essential oil can be an effective treatment for teens and adults dealing with acne, with babies, it is a different story.
Using essential oils for baby acne is not a safe option. K.D. Gates, Holistic Skincare Expert and Licensed Esthetician, points out that these plant oils can cause severe allergic reactions and redness.
Babies have more sensitive skin than adults, so the reaction can be more severe – especially if the oils aren’t properly diluted. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians even recommends that parents don’t use essential oils in any capacity around babies under 3 months old. When it comes down to it, using essential oils for baby acne can end up doing more harm than good.
What About Essential Oils for Teen and Adult Acne?
Parents curious about using essential oils for baby acne might have heard of the success adults and teens have had using certain essential oils to treat their acne. Lavender essential oil is a popular option, as it is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. Tea tree oil is another common choice for teens and adults dealing with acne. It has been found to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne.
The Strong Effects of Essential Oils
Essential oils are volatile plant compounds with chemical components, and are highly concentrated – meaning they pack more of a punch than one might think. It is important to remember that, although they are naturally occurring, essential oils can still have harsh effects on the skin. Most notably, they have the potential to irritate the skin.
Since essential oils can be irritating to the skin, dilution is key when using them topically. “Both [tea tree and lavender] oils need to be heavily diluted before applying to the skin, and this is even more critical when applying essential oils to the face,” says Christy Hires, CCA, MPH, the Aromatherapy Department Chair at Franklin School of Integrative Health Sciences.
How to Safely Treat Baby Acne
In most cases, baby acne is temporary, and will clear up on its own within a few months without treatment. Typically, it will not lead to scarring. If the baby acne lingers longer than a few months, parents may consult with their pediatrician, who may recommend a medicated cream.
For most situations, the best course of treatment is to not use any products that will be irritating to the skin. This includes not using essential oils for baby acne. “The best solution for dealing with an acne outbreak is to steer clear of essential oils – tea tree oil included – and utilize fragrance-free cleansing and moisturizing products,” explains K.D. Gates.
Be sure to also avoid harshly rubbing the skin (such as with a towel after cleansing), as it may cause further irritation. Additionally, vomit or saliva that stays on the face may irritate the acne, so try to cleanse it off your baby’s face as soon as possible.
How do you clear up baby acne?
Baby acne will typically clear up within a few months, so treatment often isn’t necessary. In order to avoid irritation, use a fragrance-free cleanser on the skin, being sure to clean up any dirt or debris from the affected area. Since babies have sensitive skin, avoid harshly rubbing the area. Also avoid any acne medications or acne washes. If the problem continues after a few months, you can consult with a doctor to see if treatment is needed.
What causes baby pimples?
The root cause of baby pimples is not known. Some researchers believe it may have to do with hormones in the mother or baby, but further research is needed to back up the claim. Baby pimples are common and usually clear up on their own. As of now there are no preventative steps to avoid them from occurring.
When should I be concerned about baby acne?
If your baby’s acne doesn’t clear up on its own within a few months, consider consulting with your pediatrician. Baby acne that occurs after 3 months old may actually be infantile acne. Regardless of whether it is baby acne or infantile acne, a pediatrician can make a proper diagnosis and help determine if there is a root cause that needs to be addressed.
- Baby acne, or neonatal acne, is a common skin condition that typically clears up on its own without treatment.
- Using essential oils for baby acne is not safe, as it can further irritate the delicate skin.
- If the baby acne does not clear up within a few months, it is best to consult with a pediatrician to get a proper diagnosis and determine if there are any causes that need to be addressed.