Childhood Acne


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Acne is formed by the overproduction of a natural oil called sebum, which is made by the sebaceous glands found in the skin. These sebaceous glands should not become active until puberty. This means that acne in children is very uncommon. It is more usual, however, for acne to occur in infants, from birth to one year old, and in pre-teens between eight and twelve.

Baby Acne

Baby acne is also known as infant acne or infantile acne and is completely normal. Around a fifth of newborn babies will have infant acne. The reason for this is that during the weeks prior to the birth and during breastfeeding after the birth you pass many hormones to your baby though the placenta and the breast milk. These hormones cause your baby’s skin to produce an excess of a natural oil called sebum that causes ‘spots’ known as papules and pustules. Papules will appear as red raised bumps and pustules will include a whitehead. The severity of these spots can vary but will not last beyond four to six months. Once your baby stops breastfeeding and therefore receiving hormones from you, the acne will clear up. Although baby acne is harmless, if you have any concerns or the acne seems to be particularly severe or unusual you should consult a doctor.

Acne in Childhood

Children do not have active sebaceous glands, which means that they cannot produce sebum, the natural oil that can clog the pores of the skin, which creates acne. For this reason childhood acne is the most unusual form of the skin condition. As it is so unlikely and so uncommon, children between one and eight who are affected by acne should be seen by a doctor. Acne at this age should be treated seriously as it can be a symptom of a more serious health problem.

The most likely cause of childhood acne is the prescription of medicines that cause acne as a side effect, however, acne in children can be a sign of something more dangerous. In some cases it is caused by the early onset of puberty, this is also known as pathological precocious puberty. Pathological precocious puberty can be the result of serious medical problems such as tumours, which can alter hormone levels. Early onset puberty could also be the result of an endocrine disorder. An endocrine disorder affects the hormones, which means that the wrong levels of hormone are being produced. This disorder can have extremely dangerous effects on the body if left untreated and can cause a wide range of problems including, but not limited to, diabetes to osteoporosis.

It is therefore of extreme importance that childhood acne is investigated swiftly and thoroughly. This is of course a precaution and it should be noted that such serious cases are extremely rare and that the most likely cause of childhood acne is a prescribed medication that has an acne producing side effect.

Pre-teen Acne

Pre-teen acne is far more common than childhood acne and affects children between eight and twelve. It is reportedly on the increase and this is generally held to be due to the age at which puberty begins is getting lower and lower. There are several theories that attempt to explain the lowering age of adolescence but none which are widely accepted. Pre-teen acne, therefore, is essentially the same as teenage acne and should be treated in the same way. A doctor should be consulted if the child is experiencing discomfort or concern about their skin condition or if the acne is moderate-to-severe. If the acne is mild and causes no problem for the child, home or over-the-counter remedies should used, although it is best to ask a pharmacist about the most suitable products for younger skin.


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