How To Remedy Acne During Pregnancy
If youve suffered with acne before, you might feel that you can treat this new bout of acne by stocking up on products that youve used in the past.
However, acne care during pregnancy requires a lighter touch.
Not only is your skin likely more sensitive, many common acne treatments are strictly off-limits during pregnancy.
This is because some chemicals used in acne treatments both topical and oral pose a risk to the unborn baby.
These risks include birth defects and an increased risk of miscarriage.8
Acne treatments which are unsuitable for use during pregnancy include:
- Oral retinoid medicines including acitretin, alitretinoin and isotretinoin. These are a strong synthetic form of vitamin A used to treat more severe acne.9
- Topical retinoids are less likely to cause harm to the unborn child. However, as a precaution, they must not be used during pregnancy and by women planning to have a baby.10
- Trimethoprim an antibiotic sometimes used to treat acne.11 It may lower levels of folic acid in the blood and interfere with a babys healthy development.12
- Tetracycline an antibiotic sometimes used to treat acne which can cause tooth discolouration in babies and bone growth issues.13
- Hydroquinone this topical depigmenting agent is not advisable for use during pregnancy due to its high absorption rate.14
Acne-fighting ingredients which can be used during pregnancy include:
Always check with a healthcare professional first before starting any treatment.
Types Of Pregnancy Acne
While “pregnancy acne” isnt technically its own type of acne, it’s a term thats used to describe those pimples that pop up when someone is, you guessed itpregnant. Depending on the person, any form of acne symptoms can appear on the face or body before, during, or after pregnancy, but there are few that are more common than others throughout this time. “Cystic/hormonal acne and comedonal acne are two types that can typically occur during pregnancy,” says Greenfield.
- Comedones. More commonly referred to as blackheads or whiteheads , this type of acne is characterized by small bumps that give skin a bit of a rough texture, according to University of Florida Health. These acne symptoms occur at the opening of the pore, and are considered non-inflammatory acne, which means they wont swell or cause much pain.
- Cystic acne. Cystic acne is a severe form of inflammatory acne that produces large red, swollen bumps that are often painful to the touch due to inflammation, which occurs when excess oil combines with dead skin cells to create bacteria. Medical News Today states that the main cause of cystic acne is hormonal fluctuations in the body, which occur during pregnancy, especially during the first and second trimesters.
What Are Some Natural Treatment Options For Pregnancy Acne
Instead ofor in addition toother treatment options, some pregnant women may prefer to try more natural options for treatment. Here are a few ways you can try to reduce acne without medications:
Clean your face twice daily. Ingredients in many soaps can irritate the skin, so try a cleanser that doesnt contain oils, alcohols, or soaps. Dont scrub too hard, since this can irritate your skin and make acne worse.
Drink lots of water to flush out toxins. Pregnant women are advised to drink lots of water anyway, so youll be improving the health of your skin and your overall health! Aim for at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water each day.
Increase the amount of vitamin A in your diet. Vitamin A helps reduce the amount of sebum your skin produces, which can help prevent your pores from clogging. Foods high in vitamin A include eggs, fish, and carrots. Milk is also heavy in vitamin A, but sometimes the dairy content can make acne worse.
Although vitamin A can improve your skin, it can also be dangerous for pregnant women in high amounts. According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant women should not eat more than 3,000 micrograms of food-based vitamin A per day. Talk to your prenatal care provider about how to strike the right balance of vitamin A in your diet.
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Topical Treatments For Pregnancy Acne
Oil cleansing use a mixture of 1 part castor oil to 3 parts jojoba oil to cleanse your face daily. While it sounds counterintuitive, cleansing your skin with oil helps it retain its natural moisture while clearing pores of dead skin cells, excess oil and other gunk.
Honey cleansing The antibacterial properties of raw honey makes it a great gentle cleanser. Mix a teaspoon of raw honey with some warm water and spread over your face. Wash off with war water or a washcloth.
Coconut oil The lauric acid in coconut oil has been shown in studies to work as a treatment for acne. Use as a moisturizer after cleansing or whenever your skin feels dry.
Konjac spongeThis sponge will clean and exfoliate your skin without any added soap or cleansers, really! It doesnt dry out the skin but it does really clean so its great for skin problems like pregnancy acne. Heres the one I use.
Bentonite clay mask Bentonite clay can be used to rid the body of toxins and heavy metals. It has antibacterial properties and can be used as a mask to improve the skins health. Mix one teaspoon of clay and one teaspoon of water in a bowl or directly your hands. Make sure it forms a paste and spread it over your face. Leave on for 20 minutes and then rinse with warm water.
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Treating Acne During Pregnancy
Determining how to treat acne during pregnancy is challenging. Scientists do not include pregnant women in clinical trials of acne medications because of the risk to the fetus. Therefore, there is no direct evidence concerning the safety of most acne medications during pregnancy.
According to a 2016 article in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, “ost treatment recommendations are based on observational and animal studies.”3
Because there is little data available, women and their doctors need to set clear goals for acne treatment during pregnancy. Some researchers recommend aiming for symptom improvement rather than complete clearing of the skin during pregnancy.4
Despite the lack of research data, the FDA has established five risk categories for medications during pregnancy . While this system guides us in medication choices, the best approach is to discuss options with a doctor and tailor the treatment according to the phase of pregnancy or breastfeeding.4
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Use The Right Topical Actives
When asked which ingredients to say no to during pregnancy, Greenfield recommends avoiding retinoids at all costs. Why? According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, retinol is part of the isotretinoin family, which is synthetic vitamin A, and may cause birth defects. Additionally, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acidwhich are acne product heavy-hittersshould be limited, but check with your doctor first as they may be safe to use in small amounts. Using products that are safe for pregnancy yet effective enough to cleanse your sebaceous glands of built-up sebum can go a long way in preventing acne breakouts,” Greenfield suggests. “Ingredients such as lactic acid and sulfur are both safe and efficacious. They combat oil buildup and gently cleanse the skin.”
What Causes Pregnancy Acne
Its not guaranteed that your face will break out during pregnancy, but theres a good chance that zits or splotches will strike even if youve never been plagued by pimples before.
The breakouts, which tend to hit sometime around week 6 of pregnancy, have to do with hormone surges, of course. Specifically, progesterone causes your glands secrete more oil, called sebum.
All that extra sebum can clog up pores and cause bacteria to build up, leading to breakouts.
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Prevent Pimples And Avoid Maskne With Pregnancy
If the pimples you thought you left behind in junior high have come back with a vengeance during pregnancy, youre not alone. Hormonal changes in the first two trimesters can cause the skin to produce excess oil a primary cause of acne along with bacteria, stress, and hair follicles that get clogged with oil or dead skin cells.
Wearing face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to a bump in breakouts. Friction from the cloth can irritate your skin and built-up humidity under your mask can trap oil and bacteria in your pores. Though masking is essential to stop the spread of COVID-19, research has shown that long-term mask wearing can cause mask-related acne flares .
Pregnancy acne, also known as adult or hormonal acne, can affect any pregnant patient. Celebrity Ashley Iaconetti from The Bachelor recently discussed her symptoms and shared photos with US Weekly and on social media.
My colleague Melissa Mauskar, M.D., founder and director of UT Southwesterns Gynecologic Dermatology Clinic, knows the challenges of dealing with acne during pregnancy firsthand.
When Is Pregnancy Acne Most Common
Acne may arise at any point during pregnancy since androgen levels and the resulting increased oil production increase early on in pregnancy. Androgen levels are particularly high during your third trimester so expect that if you are dealing with pregnancy acne that it will be especially bad during this period. Androgens actually help get the cervix ready for labor which is why they increase as you near full term.
The severity of pregnancy acne will vary from person to person. It is, however, more common among women who had acne before becoming pregnant. While having a previous history of acne is the strongest risk factor for pregnancy acne, the underlying causes of acne flare-ups during pregnancy have not been definitively determined.
There are other risk factors besides the increase in androgens that can make you a likely target for pregnancy acne. The immune system plays a part in fighting off acne and during pregnancy, a womans immune system is constantly changing and somewhat suppressed. Additionally, the stress that often accompanies pregnancy can increase levels of stress hormones and trigger breakouts or worsen existing acne.
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How Can I Get Rid Of Acne During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant, retinol, which is commonly recommended for acne, isnt advised. Why? When vitamin A is taken orally , it can cause congenital disabilities in unborn babies. Whilst there are very few clinical trials carried out in pregnancy, retinol is deemed unsafe as it is a vitamin A based compound says Dr Mahto. Excess vitamin A in topical form could theoretically be absorbed through the skin and lead to potential birth defects.
But there are alternatives that are safe to be used during pregnancy. ‘Hormonal acne can be controlled with consistent therapy and treatments’ says Isaacs.
Ingredients to look out for include Bakuchiol, vitamin C, niacinamide, peptides and hyaluronic acid.
‘Cleanse for at least 60 seconds, massaging your chosen cleanser into your skin, and get into all of the nooks and crannies the hair line, the corners of the nose, the jaw line, the neck and chest… from the nipples up. By removing all traces of makeup, oils and SPF, youre helping those overworked pores out’.
Treatments Generally Considered Safe
While the treatments below are considered safe to use during pregnancy, you should talk to your healthcare provider before using any acne medications.
Glycolic acid: Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that helps exfoliate the skin and unclog pores. You can find it in many OTC products, and it’s considered very safe to use during pregnancy. Start off slowly, though, because it may irritate your skin.
Benzoyl peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide is found in many over-the-counter and prescription acne medications. It hasn’t been fully studied in pregnant women. However, it’s one of the most widely recommended acne treatment medications and most healthcare providers consider it safe to use during pregnancy. You and your healthcare provider will have to weigh the pros and cons of this medication and decide if it’s right for your situation.
Erythromycin: If your dermatologist decides you need a prescription medication for your inflammatory acne, erythromycin is an option. This antibiotic helps reduce acne-causing bacteria. It’s not the most effective acne treatment, though, and is most often prescribed along with another acne treatment.
Acne treatment facials: This is a completely non-medicated option for treating your acne. During an acne facial, an esthetician will deeply cleanse, exfoliate, and do extractions to clean out your pores. It’s a nice way to pamper yourself during your pregnancy just be sure to let your esthetician know you’re pregnant.
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Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist seeing patients in the Upper West Side and Murray Hill locations of New York, NY. She practices various aspects of dermatology, including cosmetic treatments, laser, injectables, skin cancer screening, general dermatology, dermatologic surgery, and body contouring.
Verywell Family / Madelyn Goodnight
Having a baby can be one of lifes great joys. Pregnancy comes with many positives, but unfortunately for some, there can be a few drawbacks as well. This can include hormonal acne, where your skin begins breaking out like it would if you were a teenager.
The good news is that hormonal acne in pregnancy does not happen to everyone. If it does happen to you, there are some pregnancy-safe remedies to zap those zits. Keep reading to see what expert dermatologists recommend if you start to break out during pregnancy.
Talk With Your Ob And Dermatologist
Before starting any acne treatment, even over-the-counter acne products, talk to your obstetrician.
Mild acne may not need any special treatment at all, and your healthcare provider might suggest waiting until the baby is born before starting a treatment. By that time, acne may have gone away on its own.
If your acne is worsening, if you have been battling breakouts since before your pregnancy, or your acne is severe, you may feel the need for an acne treatment medication. Obviously, for the health of your developing baby, you must be selective in the product you use.
While some treatments are safe, certain medications should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. Your obstetrician and dermatologist must be part of your acne treatment team during this time because they can guide you to the safest, best acne treatments for you.
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Five Ways To Treat Pregnancy Acne
Just because your oil production may be up and youre noticing more pimples than you usually have doesnt mean you have to just sit back and watch them pop up.
There are ways that you can still maintain the health and appearance of your skin without worrying about harming your baby. Your best resource is your healthcare provider, so always check with them before making any changes.
1. ADAPT YOUR SKIN CARE ROUTINE
One of the best ways to treat pregnancy acne is to amend your basic skin care routine to be as gentle and supportive as possible. Try the following routine, suggested by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists :
2. KNOW WHAT PRODUCTS TO AVOID WHILE PREGNANT
Not all acne treatments are safe for pregnant women to use, as they may be able to pass through to your baby and have harmful effects.
The best way to know which products are safe to use is by contacting your OB-GYN or dermatologist, but we also wanted to provide a list of the ingredients you should avoid while pregnant.
3. KNOW WHAT PRODUCTS YOU CAN USE WHILE PREGNANT
Luckily, there are also safe, over-the-counter skin care and acne medications to use during pregnancy. While you should always run your entire skin care routine by your OB-GYN as soon as you find out that youre pregnant, the following are some of the more safe bets.
4. CHANGE YOUR PILLOWCASES
5. AVOID TOUCHING YOUR SKIN AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Why Does Acne Appear During Pregnancy
Two major factors are responsible for pregnancy acne. First, women go through extreme hormone changes during early pregnancy. A hormone called progesterone is responsible for helping create an ideal environment for a fetus, but it can also cause the glands in your skin to secrete more oil, which is called sebum. Since progesterone spikes during pregnancy, the excess sebum can clog your pores and lead to a buildup of bacteria2 primary causes of acne.
The second major contributor of pregnancy acne is your bodys tendency to retain more water when you become pregnant. Your body does this so that it can accommodate the growing fetus. But because your body is getting rid of less fluid, toxins that float around in your body are not being released as they normally would be. Instead, your body may try to rid itself of toxins through your sweat and your skin, causing toxins to build up in your pores. This buildup can lead to acne.
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How To Treat Acne During Pregnancy
This article was co-authored by Mohiba Tareen, MD. Mohiba Tareen is a board certified Dermatologist and the founder of Tareen Dermatology located in Roseville, Maplewood and Faribault, Minnesota. Dr. Tareen completed medical school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she was inducted into the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha honor society. While a dermatology resident at Columbia University in New York City, she won the Conrad Stritzler award of the New York Dermatologic Society and was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Tareen then completed a procedural fellowship which focused on dermatologic surgery, laser, and cosmetic dermatology.There are 21 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 100% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 66,987 times.
In pregnancy, hormonal fluctuations can affect a woman’s skin in a number of ways. Quite often, pregnancy results in acne. This is natural, and nothing to worry about from a health perspective. But it is a nuisance, and many common acne treatments may not be safe during pregnancy. Fortunately, there are a number of methods that are safe in the proper dose. Keep in mind that acne can take a few weeks to clear up.