Pregnancy Acne and How to Treat It
Unlike regular acne, pregnancy acne can not always be treated with prescription medication or regular skincare products. This is because certain ingredients can have a harmful effect on the foetus. For example, retinoids are a common treatment for regular acne, but you should never use them in pregnancy. This is why it is important to understand not only which treatments are effective, but which are safe. Thankfully, there are chemical-free, pregnancy-friendly remedies that can help to combat acne.
Can Pregnancy Cause Acne?
Yes, pregnancy can cause acne. Just as it is common for teenagers to develop hormonal acne during adolescence the same occurs for pregnant women. This is because pregnancy brings around similar hormonal changes. One such change, is an increase in androgen levels. Androgens are sex hormones, that prepare the cervix for labour. What they do is, cause the skin to over-produce sebum, which clogs pores and eventually creates inflammation and breakouts.
Although pregnancy acne is not guaranteed, there is a chance you will experience it, regardless of your previous skin history. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that over half of pregnant women can expect to develop acne.
Therefore, it is possible that pregnancy is the reason why you’ve suddenly developed acne.
While it is hard to predict the onset of acne in pregnancy, it is believed that:
- You’re likely to develop it around the time of the first trimester
- You’re likely to develop pregnancy acne if you have a prior history of experiencing acne breakouts, inflammation, and skin flare-ups at the start of your menstrual cycle
- If you’re past the first trimester and haven’t developed acne, it’s unlikely you will throughout the remainder of your pregnancy
Does Acne Get Worse During Pregnancy?
Whether acne will worsen during pregnancy depends on your previous skin history. As mentioned, if you’ve previously suffered from acne, it’s likely that in pregnancy it will not only reappear but act out with greater strength.
If, however, you are not familiar with acne (whether it be menstrual or PMS acne), you might be lucky enough to escape pregnancy acne. Although, it is still hard to determine with absolute accuracy whether you will encounter acne at the start of your pregnancy.
Does Pregnancy Acne Last Long?
If you are experiencing acne breakouts now that you are pregnant, there is a silver lining. The reason you are experiencing acne is most likely due to hormonal changes and fluctuations. Thankfully, when your hormones are back to their balanced state, it is likely that your acne will diminish (this typically happens post-birth).
How to Reduce Hormonal Acne
According to the doctors working with the MayoClinic organisation, acne medication including oral isotretinoin (Amnesteem Claravis) and topical retinoids must be avoided during pregnancy.¹ The reason being is that they are known to cause birth defects. However, there are still drug-and-chemical-free remedies, natural treatments, and routine tips to help combat pregnancy acne.
The MayoClinic Organisation recommends a set of self-care rules to abide by if you want to lower the risk of acne during pregnancy.
- Wash problematic areas with a gentle, chemical-free facial cleanser. Twice daily, you should wash your face with a mild cleansing agent and warm water. You should also avoid products such as masks and scrubs since these can contain many irritating ingredients. Additionally, the friction involved when using scrubbing products can worsen acne.
- Shampoo your hair regularly if you tend to develop acne around the area of your hairline. This is because shampooing cleanses the skin under your hair and helps to decrease excess oiliness that contributes to clogged pores.
- Avoid squeezing, scrubbing or picking your spots and blemishes. Applying pressure to, or picking spots can result in infection, scarring, and inflammation.
- Avoid all irritating agents. This can include oily or texture-rich cosmetic products, makeup products, or hair styling products. You should only use products labeled chemical-free, oil-free, water-based, or non-comedogenic. This is because they reduce skin inflammation and are less likely to trigger acne flare-ups.
- Watch what touches your skin! It is important to keep your hair, face, and hands clean. Furthermore, you should try to keep the hair off your face if your skin is sensitive and prone to acne. You should also avoid touching your face excessively and avoid wearing tight clothing in areas with exhibiting acne symptoms.
How to Treat Acne During Pregnancy
If you struggle with pregnancy acne there are several lifestyle changes that you can implement into your routine to improve your skin and your overall health.
Firstly, you should make sure you are taking enough vitamin and health-boosting supplements. However, it is important to always consult with a medical specialist before, to ensure your consumption is not harmful to the baby.
Another step you can apply to your lifestyle and general health is to take a close look at your diet. This includes making sure you are getting the correct amount of macro and micronutrients, healthy fats, protein and carbs. In particular, you should watch your sugar intake. Especially with drinks, as overconsumption of sugar can cause the inflammatory and blood-sugar-spiking processes to worsen acne.
Another step you can take in battling acne is to avoid over-cleansing, as this can overstimulate skin’s oil glands and lead to the production of excess oils.
Furthermore, you should also make an effort to drink plenty of water, since this contributes to the moisture balance in your skin, and keeps your skin healthy.
Finally, you should change your pillowcases regularly. This is because a number of oils, dead skin cells, bacteria, dust and other particles accumulate on pillowcases over time. As a result, this pollutes the skin and contributes to overall skin impurity. Following these simple steps alongside a pregnancy-friendly acne treatment will help you tackle acne from various fronts.
Is Acne Medication Safe During Pregnancy?
Treating acne when pregnant can be tricky. If you have found yourself battling with acne, the first thing to do is to consult your physician. They will inform you about which ingredients present dangers and which are safe.
However, we can identify several products and ingredients which are safe to use during pregnancy, as well as those that are unsafe.
For example, acne treatments that contain isotretinoin, oral tetracyclines, topical retinoids, or rely on hormonal therapy are not pregnancy-safe.
Taking zinc supplements, however, was shown to increase immune function, reduce skin lesions and aid in reducing acne severity. A 2014 study with 200 participants revealed that there is a link between having a zinc deficiency and severe acne.² As a result, higher zinc levels correlated with having less severe acne. Nonetheless, it is significant to take supplements with caution and make sure your zinc intake is correct.
Another practice that is not pregnancy-safe, is using too many products that contain salicylic acid. In 2013, a study took place to explore the effects of cosmetic products on pregnancy. Results demonstrated that products containing a high dose of salicylic acids are unsafe and can lead to pregnancy complications.³ This may include peels or oral medications. However, over-the-counter products that contain a low dose of salicylic acid (up to 2%) are safe to use.⁴
Likewise, you should avoid anti-acne products that contain phthalates, formaldehyde and hydroquinone. This is because studies show that exposure to these ingredients can disrupt your endocrine system, often leading to congenital defects.
The Best Pregnancy Skin Care
Azelaic acid, an ingredient similar to glycolic acid, can be instrumental in skin brightening, reducing wrinkles and pigmentation. All of which, are common skin conditions associated with pregnancy. Overall, glycolic and azelaic acid have been endorsed as an appropriate acne treatment to use during pregnancy. Furthermore, so have over-the-counter products that contain only small amounts of topical benzoyl peroxide and topical salicylic acid.
In terms of products, Osmosis have a range of retinaldehyde products which are suitable for pregnancy. Retinaldehyde is the leats irritating form of retinol. As well as this, when applied topically the ingredient is safe for use during pregnancy. We recommend the Gentle Retinal Serum, the Correct Preventative Retinal Serum, and the Clarify Blemish Retinal Serum.
Dealing with acne during pregnancy can be overwhelming. However, introducing general healthcare and skincare tips into your routine can really make the difference! Remember to always check ingredients and consult your OB-GYN if you’re uncertain about products being 100% safe for pregnancy.
Author: Maria Ageeva
- Gibson E. What’s the best way to treat pregnancy acne? [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2019. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/pregnancy-acne/faq-20058045#:~:text=To%20treat%20pregnancy%20acne%2C%20start,skin%2C%20which%20can%20worsen%20acne.
- Rostami Mogaddam M, Safavi Ardabili N, Maleki N, Soflaee M. Correlation between the Severity and Type of Acne Lesions with Serum Zinc Levels in Patients with Acne Vulgaris. BioMed Research International. 2014;2014:1-6.
- Bayerl C. Acne Therapy in Pregnancy. Der Hautarzt. 2013;64(4):269-273.
- Barrel A. Is Salicylic Acid Safe to Use During Pregnancy? [Internet]. Medical News Today. 2018. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322291#:~:text=Yes%2C%20people%20can%20safely%20apply,beta%20hydroxy%20acid%20(BHA).