Eczema or Infant Acne? How To Tell The Difference

Rashes and minor skin problems are common in babies and infants.  While most blemishes disappear without treatment, other skin problems linger, cause irritation and become a cause for concern.  With the increasing prevalence of childhood eczema, most parents are vigilant to the symptoms, though because they bear striking similarities to baby acne it can be difficult to tell them apart. In this article, we explain how can you tell the difference between acne and eczema in babies and infants.

Spotting the early signs of eczema

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, typically develops in infants from around the age of six months. It is a chronic skin condition that will take the form of red, dry and itchy rashes on the skin.

Eczema will take the form of red, dry and itchy rashes on the skin.

The most common place for eczema is in the folds of skin such as in elbow joints or the back of the knees. However, eczema is also common on the face and scalp too. When the skin is dry, eczema can be exacerbated. As a result, eczema is usually worse in the colder winter months when we experience the drying effects of central heating.  That said, the summer can be a difficult time also because the eczema becomes irritated as a result of the sweat that forms in the folds of the skin.

If you think your child has eczema it’s best to book an appointment with your GP to confirm the diagnosis and to get tailored advice on the best way to treat the eczema and reduce the horrible itch your child will experience.

Fortunately, in most cases infant eczema will clear up as your child grows.

Treatment for eczema

Food – It’s not uncommon for eczema to develop alongside asthma and allergies triggered by foods such as dairy products.  If your child is badly affected it may be worth trying to identify any foods they are eating which could be adding to the problem – it’s a case of elimination and reintroduction to identify cause and effect.  

  • Moisturisers – there are lots of treatments you can try to help soothe the dry, itchy rashes including emollients and lotions which help to keep the skin supple.
  • Wash powders – it’s also worth testing different wash powders – there are several brands which are designed for use with sensitive skin.
  • Clothing – as well as making sure you dress your child in natural fabrics such as cotton to reduce eczema flare-ups.  That’s why Scratchsleeves eczema mitts and PJs are made from natural silk and cotton to help calm irritated skin.
  • Of course, you can find lots of help and advice on the treatment of eczema on our Daily Life: Living with Eczema blog.

Symptoms of childhood acne

Acne typically presents as small, red bumps and pimples on the skin, caused by the mix of oil, bacteria and hormones from the mother – it’s really just a way for your baby’s skin to get used to life outside the womb.

Acne typically presents as small, red bumps and pimples on the skin.

The main difference between acne and eczema is that acne, whilst it may look unsightly, won’t itch. Also, infant acne usually develops in babies who are just a few weeks old and generally it will disappear before they are six months.

Treatment for infant acne

In many cases, infant acne will disappear as quickly as it arrived, without the need for any treatment.

However, it’s worth making sure you keep the affected area clean, using a mild soap if necessary, and patting dry rather than rubbing the skin. It is important not to over-wash the area as it can become dry and cause irritation for your baby.

When to contact your GP

If you’re not sure whether your child has acne or eczema, or if the bumps look unusual or your baby is distressed, it’s best to see your GP.  Your GP will be used to looking at various childhood skin conditions so will be able to reassure you and help you determine the right course of action to take.