Acne During Pregnancy: Get Clear Skin Now
If you thought you left acne behind after you were finished puberty, you may be surprised to see a few—or more—pimples appearing.
But you’re not the only one: More than one in two pregnant women experiences acne, according to WebMD.
In this guide, we will outline why pregnancy acne occurs, if prescription medications are safe and what you can do about it.
Why Do I Have Acne During Pregnancy?
If you’re someone who already suffers from acne, you may notice it getting worse throughout pregnancy. (Although some women experience fewer breakouts). Even if you’ve never had acne before, a few pimples may start appearing.
If you experience acne during pregnancy, it’s difficult to predict how long it will last. You may get pimples throughout your entire journey, it may come and go, or you may have a few bad breakouts and never see a pimple again. Women may experience a mild case of acne or severe cystic acne during pregnancy.
The reason your skin is changing? You can blame it on the pregnancy hormones. When you’re expecting, your body is producing higher levels of the hormone androgen. These hormones cause the glands in your skin to expand and produce more oily matter, called sebum. This oily substance can block your pores and create bacteria, causing inflammation and acne.
You may experience this inflammation at any time during pregnancy, although if you don’t experience it in the first trimester, it’s unlikely you’ll get acne in the second or third trimester. If you’ve had acne in the past or have hormonal acne around your period, you’re more likely to get it during pregnancy.
While acne may affect your confidence levels, it’s only a cosmetic condition and does not affect the health of your baby. The good news is that since pregnancy acne is primarily caused by hormones, once you give birth, the pimples should subside.
Besides changing hormones, there are a few other reasons why you may be suffering from acne while expecting. During pregnancy, your stress levels may be elevated: You’re getting ready for your baby, worrying if your baby is okay, and—on top of that—you have your regular day-to-day stressors. A 2007 study suggested that there’s a significant association between stress and the severity of acne in adolescents. Another 2015 study followed students in their last year of school at the International Islamic University Malaysia. Researchers found that acne became worse in stressful conditions. While stress may not cause pregnancy acne, it may be making it worse.
Another possible reason for pregnancy acne could be your diet. During your journey, you may start craving foods you never used to eat. Many of these foods may be unhealthy, such as greasy, fried food or sugary, baked goods. For years, experts have said that diet does not affect the health of your skin, but a 2013 scientific review suggests otherwise. The review concluded that eating foods with a high glycemic index and drinking milk could cause or aggravate acne. While the research is still divided, you could experiment with cutting out milk products such as milk, cheese and yogurt to see if your skin improves.
Prescription Medication for Pregnancy Acne
If your skin gets dramatically worse during pregnancy, you may consider prescription acne medication, but is it safe?
The acne medication isotretinoin is commonly prescribed because of its effectiveness for even severe acne—however, it’s very unsafe to use during pregnancy. The drug is known to cause birth defects, so any woman on the medication is required to be on two forms of birth control and get regular pregnancy tests.
Hormone therapy drugs to treat acne may also cause birth defects. Antibiotics that are prescribed for acne (such as tetracycline, doxycycline and minocycline) can affect bone growth in a fetus. Even topical retinoids (such as Differin or Tazorac) should be avoided because it’s unknown how safe they are during pregnancy.
WebMD even recommends staying away from over-the-counter chemical spot treatments—especially products containing salicylic acid. Some doctors may prescribe products containing erythromycin or azelaic acid. They may advise you that creams, gels or lotions containing benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid are safe. Only about 5% of these products are absorbed by the skin; however, it’s worth noting that there’s not enough research concluding that they are safe. If you want to play it safe, it’s best to stick to home remedies to improve your acne.
Acne During Pregnancy Home Remedies
Since most prescription and even over-the-counter acne medications are unsafe, you will probably choose to stick to home remedies. Whichever treatment you decide to try, be sure to consult your doctor first. Below are a few tips to improve your skin while pregnant.
Good Skin Care
If you’ve never had acne before, you may have never developed a good skin care routine. Here are a few basic tips for keeping your skin healthy and clear:
- Wash your face two times a day—typically once in the morning and once at night. If you sweat heavily, such as after a workout, wash your face then too. Washing your face too frequently may lead it to dry out.
- Use a gentle cleanser that doesn’t contain harsh chemicals. Make sure it is alcohol and oil-free.
- Use a clean washcloth every time you wash your face to avoid transferring bacteria.
- Always wash your makeup off completely before bed. If you wear foundation, it may require a few washes to completely remove the product. Only purchase oil-free and non-comedogenic makeup products.
- Frequently change your pillowcase to avoid bacteria buildup. Since we typically have our face on our pillow for 8 hours each night, the bacteria may transfer to your face.
- If you talk on the phone frequently, make sure to keep the screen clean. Anything that touches your face has the potential to transfer bacteria. If possible, use earbuds to speak on the phone instead.
- Use a gentle moisturizer. It may seem counter-intuitive to apply moisturizer if your skin is already oily. However, if your skin becomes too dry, it may over-produce oil and make your skin worse.
- Keep your hands away from your face. Avoid touching your face or leaning your head against your hand.
- Avoid popping, squeezing or scratching pimples because it may lead to scars. If you feel the urge to pop your pimples, get a professional facial instead.
If you suspect that stress is causing or making your acne worse, try to relax a bit! Luckily, we have a whole post dedicated to ways to de-stress while pregnant.
Drink More Water
A 2015 study concluded that higher water intake may positively impact skin. Many people also claim that keeping hydrated has improved or even cured their acne. So, how much water should you be drinking? Although the amount of water needed varies from person to person, 6 to 8 eight-ounce glasses is usually recommended. If you’re not sure if you’re getting enough water, check the color of your urine. If it’s dark yellow, you may be dehydrated.
Exfoliation is important because it removes dead skin cells, leaving you with a smoother and brighter complexion. Dead skin cells can also clog pores, making your acne worse. Exfoliate one to two times per week, instead of daily. If you find that many products contain the harsh chemicals you’re trying to avoid while pregnant, you can make your own scrub. Simply combine white sugar with a few drops of water or coconut oil. Rub the mixture into your face and wash off.
Coconut Oil for Pregnancy Acne
Coconut oil has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, meaning that it has the potential to improve your skin. Instead of using a store-bought moisturizer, you may choose to apply a light layer of coconut oil. You can also replace unhealthy vegetable oils with coconut oil while cooking.
You should already be taking an omega-3 supplement because it helps the development of your baby—and it may also improve your acne. A 2004 study showed that consuming omega-3 fatty acids alongside a low-glycemic diet reduced acne lesions.
Even though acne doesn’t affect the health of you or your baby, we understand it can lead to confidence issues. When your body is going through many changes, the last thing you need is another reason to feel less attractive. It may help to remember that pregnancy acne usually goes away after a mother gives birth to her beautiful baby. If you’re feeling unattractive because of your skin, communicate that to your partner. It’s likely that he will reassure you that you’re still beautiful and will actively try to boost your confidence.
Are you suffering from acne during pregnancy? If so, what has helped your skin? Comment below. If you have friends or family suffering from pregnancy acne, be sure to share this article to help them, too!
P.S. Stress can cause or worsen acne. When you’re pregnant, one of your biggest stressors is probably the health of your baby. Our fetal dopplers are handheld devices that allow you to hear your baby’s heartbeat while still inside the womb—reassuring you that he or she is okay.