Babies can develop facial rashes for many reasons. Some, such as cradle cap, are harmless. However, a rash that occurs with an infection will need medical attention.

However, a rash on a baby’s face can sometimes indicate a more serious condition.

Being able to distinguish between different rashes can help a parent or caregiver know when to seek professional advice.

In this article, we describe common facial rashes in babies, treatments, and when to speak with a doctor.

Eczema refers to a group of conditions that cause the skin to become rough, irritated, itchy, and inflamed.

These conditions are common in young children, often appearing between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. Many children grow out of their eczema.

According to the National Eczema Association in the United States, if eczema develops within the first 6 months of life, it tends to appear on the cheeks, chin, forehead, or scalp. The rash will be dry, red, and itchy.


When trying to establish the cause of a child’s eczema, it may help to keep a diary of symptoms and potential triggers. Avoiding these triggers may prevent flare-ups of symptoms.

Common triggers of eczema in babies include allergens or irritants, such as dust or washing detergents.

Treatments for eczema include over-the-counter (OTC) moisturizers and prescription creams and ointments, such as steroid creams.

Seborrheic dermatitis, or cradle cap, causes a rash to develop on areas of skin that contain many oil-producing glands.

In babies, the rash mainly appears on the scalp but can also affect the cheeks, particularly around the eyes and nose.

The rash may have the following characteristics:

  • redness and inflammation
  • an oily or greasy appearance
  • white or yellow scaly or crusty patches


Cradle cap is generally harmless and usually disappears between 6 and 12 months of age. Treatment is not usually necessary.

To try to improve appearance, caregivers can loosen the scales with gentle massage or a soft brush or comb.

For severe symptoms, doctors may recommend OTC medications, such as antifungal creams and medicated shampoos.

Cradle cap does not itch or cause discomfort, so if a baby seems to have these symptoms, doctors may need to consider another diagnosis.

Milia are tiny white spots on the skin that result from blocked pores and typically develop on the face, often around the eyes and nose.

The bumps can appear in large numbers, and usually, roughly equal numbers form on each side of the face.

Milia are very common, occurring in about half of all full-term newborns, and are harmless.


Milia tend to clear up on their own within about 1 month once the pores open up.

No treatment is usually necessary. Avoid using creams and ointments on the baby’s skin, as these can further clog the pores and lead to more milia.

Newborn, or neonatal, acne causes small, red pimples to develop, usually around 2–6 weeks of age. However, some babies are born with them.

Infantile acne occurs in babies older than 6 weeks. It typically appears between 3 and 6 months of age.

Infantile acne is less common than newborn acne, and symptoms can be more severe and may require treatment.

The pimples tend to develop on the baby’s cheeks and nose, but breakouts can also appear elsewhere on the face and body.


Generally, newborn or neonatal acne is not a cause for concern. It is unlikely to cause scarring and tends to clear up without treatment after a few weeks or months.

Parents and caregivers need to:

  • gently wash the baby’s skin with lukewarm water
  • avoid scrubbing affected areas
  • avoid oily or greasy skin care products
  • seek advice from a doctor before using acne medicines or cleansing products

Acne in an infant that begins after 6 weeks of age needs an evaluation from a pediatrician or a pediatric dermatologist.

Slapped cheek syndrome is a viral infection. Anyone can get it, but it most commonly develops in school-aged children.

Other names for the syndrome include fifth disease and erythema infectiosum. It results from infection with the B19 parvovirus.

The defining characteristic is a bright red rash on one or both cheeks. The rash is not usually painful.

The cheek rash often disappears in a few days, but another rash may develop on areas such as the chest, arms, and legs. This rash usually lasts for 7–10 days but may come and go.

The rash on the body is usually blotchy and light in color. It can also be itchy, but it is not typically painful.

Slapped cheek syndrome can also cause the following symptoms:

Children can initially pass the infection to other children, but it usually stops being contagious once the rash appears.


The symptoms of slapped cheek syndrome are usually mild, and the underlying infection typically clears up without treatment.

A doctor may be able to offer advice on what OTC medications are safe to give the child to relieve symptoms while the infection clears.

Measles is rare in the United States, but it can cause a spotty rash on the head or neck, which later rash spreads to the rest of the body.

The rash usually happens 3–5 days after the first symptoms begin. Early symptoms include:

  • a high fever
  • cough and runny nose
  • red, watery eyes

The measles rash first appears as flat, red spots on the face at the hairline. The rash then spreads down to the neck, chest, and the rest of the body.

The red spots of the rash may also have small, raised bumps on top of them. As they spread to the rest of the body, the spots may join together.

In the United States, babies do not generally require a measles vaccine unless they are traveling to an area where measles is more common.

Cases of measles in babies happen when vaccination rates are low in a community, with travel, or from contact with someone who is unvaccinated and has traveled to an area with higher rates of measles.


A person must contact a doctor straight away if they suspect a child has measles.

Measles usually starts to get better in about 1 week, but a child should stay out of school or nursery during this time to avoid spreading the virus.

A doctor may recommend resting and drinking plenty of fluids while the infection clears.

Most rashes on babies’ faces are harmless. They usually clear up on their own.

However, it is best to contact a doctor if a person has concerns about a baby’s rash.

A person needs to seek immediate medical assistance if a baby has a rash alongside the following symptoms:

Facial rashes are common in babies and young children. Eczema, acne, and infection are possible causes.

Most rashes clear up without treatment. However, a parent or caregiver needs to consult a doctor if a rash is severe or persistent, or if it accompanies other symptoms.

Read the article in Spanish.