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What Is Toddler Acne? Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Diagnosis And Treatments

Acne is mainly considered a skin problem among the adolescent population; however, it can occur at any age, including infancy. When acne occurs in toddlers (between ages one to three years), it is often called toddler acne, infantile acne or mid-childhood acne.

There are a total of four subgroups of pediatric acne: neonatal acne (babies below six weeks of age), infantile acne (between ages six weeks to one year), mid-childhood acne (between ages one to seven years), and preadolescent acne (between ages seven to 12 years). [1]

Toddler acne is an uncommon condition and affects around or less than two per cent of children. Also, it is highly prevalent in male babies compared to female babies.

In this article, we will discuss toddler acne and its causes, symptoms, treatments and other details.

Causes Of Toddler Acne

Acne or acne vulgaris is an inflammatory skin condition that causes different types of pimples-like bumps on the skin, especially on the cheeks. It occurs mainly when the sebaceous glands or oil-producing glands at the base of the hair follicles get blocked, giving rise to infection, red bumps and pimples on the skin surface.

The sebaceous glands, in general, help keep the skin moisturised and when they get blocked due to certain factors, the accumulation of oils at the hair follicles causes toddler acne.

Some of the causes of excess production or blockage of sebaceous glands may include:

  • Hormonal changes: Studies suggest that in some toddlers, mainly due to genetic anomalies, the production of hormones like androgens get higher compared to normal levels, leading to either excess production of sebum or blockage of the pores, thus resulting in toddler acne. The condition is temporary and goes away within weeks or months. [2]
  • Irritants: Some baby products like soaps, moisturiser and shampoo or dairy products like cow milk and infant formula can cause allergies in toddlers, which may result in symptoms similar to acne. Allergies due to these irritants could be caused by chemicals present in the skin products or proteins in certain foods.
  • Infections: Some infection types such as molluscum contagiosum may affect the skin and cause raised bumps similar to acne. The condition can be contagious and may spread due to skin-to-skin contact.

Symptoms Of Toddler Acne

Some of the symptoms of toddler acne may include:

  • Small red bumps or papules on the skin.
  • Solid bumps
  • Raised bumps or papules [3]
  • Painful and hard bumps
  • Blackhead or dark-coloured clogged pores
  • Whitehead or skin-coloured pores.
  • Scarring on the skin
  • Lesions mainly on the cheeks, chest and back.

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Complications Of Toddler Acne

Some of the complications which may occur due to toddler acne are: [4]

  • Emotional distress
  • Severe scarring of the skin.
  • Acne marks till adulthood.

Diagnosis Of Toddler Acne

Experts say that diagnosing toddler acne can be challenging due to differential diagnosis. This is because the presence of inflamed bumps could be due to various factors and differentiating them from certain similar conditions such as keratosis pilaris and exogenous pilaris could be challenging.

If the cause is hyperandrogenism, it can be identified by certain physical symptoms like enlargement of breast or testicles and abnormal presence of pubic hairs, and tests suggesting increased production of testosterone or other reproductive hormones. [5]

Pic Credit: Baby photo created by freepik -

Treatment Of Toddler Acne

Some of the treatment methods for toddler acne may include:

  • Topical creams: Certain creams consisting of azelaic acid, antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide can help relieve the symptoms in toddlers. [6]
  • Oral antibiotics: Certain oral antibiotics such as erythromycin and trimethoprim and oral isotretinoin can help reduce symptoms of acne in toddlers. They are mainly used to treat severe acne that involves cysts and deep pus-filled bumps. [7]

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To Conclude

Toddler acne is not a life-threatening condition, however, parents must reach out to a medical expert for proper diagnosis of the condition and its treatment. This may help identify conditions that are causing acne and prevent its complications.