If you’re breaking out during early pregnancy, you’re not alone.
Over 40% of pregnant patients experience acne.
Whether you experienced acne before or not, all those new pregnancy hormones mean changes to your skin too. But since many medications aren’t safe during pregnancy, what can you do about it?
Keep reading to learn 8 remedies for early pregnancy acne.
What is Early Pregnancy Acne?
Pregnancy acne is acne while you’re pregnant. It’s not a different type of acne—just that some seem to experience it during pregnancy.
Many people are familiar with acne on their faces. However, during pregnancy, you might notice pimples in new places. For example, many people get pregnancy acne on the chest.
Early pregnancy acne commonly affects the:
It’s hard to predict who will get pregnancy acne. If you have a history of acne or hormonal acne around your period, you may be more likely to get it during pregnancy. However, even those who don’t normally experience acne can get it while expecting.
You’re most likely to get pregnancy acne during the first trimester as your hormones are increasing.
Causes of Early Pregnancy Acne
Below are the typical causes of early pregnancy acne.
The most common cause of early pregnancy acne is hormones. In the first trimester, your hormone levels increase. This causes your skin glands to secrete more oil, call sebum. Too much sebum can clog your pores, causing a bacteria buildup.
Change in Skincare Routine
Another possible cause of early pregnancy acne is changes to your skincare routine. Perhaps now that you’re pregnant, you’re switching up your products to avoid harsh chemicals. If that’s the case, consider whether it may be causing changes to your skin.
Changes in Diet
Are your new pregnancy cravings causing acne? Whether food affects acne has been long debated and researched. Some research suggests that some foods may impact acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, here are the things you might consider:
- A low-glycemic diet may reduce acne by eliminating blood sugar spikes
- Several studies have linked cow’s milk with acne
- There’s no evidence other dairy products are linked to acne
If your pregnancy cravings have been encouraging you to drink cow’s milk, that may be a contributing factor to your acne. High-glycemic cravings—like those for fast food, baked goods, potatoes, and sodas—may also be linked with acne.
Early Pregnancy Acne Treatments
When it comes to pregnancy acne treatments, what’s effective and safe? Below are some safe options.
Stop the Acne Shame
Before we jump into early pregnancy acne treatments, we need to address something first: It’s okay and normal to have pregnancy acne! And you can still have beautiful, glowing skin with pregnancy pimples.
You might want to get rid of pregnancy acne because you don’t like the appearance of it or because it’s becoming painful. But there’s nothing wrong with having it. Have some self-love and try to stop shaming yourself for having acne. Instead, look at it this way: Your acne is likely caused by pregnancy changes that are necessary to make a healthy baby! In this way, acne is a symptom of pregnancy and not necessarily something to be treated.
With that being said, if you’re uncomfortable with your early pregnancy acne and want to minimize it, keep reading.
Maintain Skincare Routine
Whether you’re sticking to your old skincare routine or just introducing one for the first time, it’s important to have one. A good skincare routine for pregnancy acne may include:
- Washing your face twice daily with a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser
- Applying a gentle moisturizer after washing
- Wearing minimal makeup when possible
- Removing makeup before bed
Along with a skincare routine, consider habits for good skin, like:
- Staying hydrated
- Changing your pillowcase frequently
- Avoiding putting your hands on your face (transferring bacteria)
- Using earbuds for phone calls instead of holding the phone to your face (transferring bacteria)
Consider Your Diet
As we discussed above, there’s some evidence that certain foods like cow’s milk and high glycemic diets are linked to acne. Although we don’t fully understand whether food plays a role in acne, it might be worth thinking about your diet.
If you usually don’t drink milk and you’re guzzling down two glasses each day to up your calcium intake, that could be playing a role. You can experiment by cutting down or eliminating those foods from your diet and seeing if your acne gets better.
Keep in mind that acne during early pregnancy is most likely caused or worsened by hormones. So although making diet changes may help the severity of acne, it probably won’t eliminate it.
Topicals are the first choice for pregnancy acne treatments. In comparison to oral medication, treatments applied to the skin limit the amount absorbed by the bloodstream, usually making it safer.
Below are the over-the-counter topicals generally considered safe (always talk to your doctor before using):
- Salicylic acid (in small amounts)
- Azelaic acid
- Benzoyl peroxide
Not every topical is considered safe for acne during pregnancy. For many over-the-counter topicals, only small amounts are absorbed into the skin, making it unlikely to affect your baby. Still, there’s some to watch out for. For example, topical retinoids—even the ones available without a prescription—are generally not recommended during pregnancy.
If you have questions about any over-the-counter topical products, ask your doctor and always be sure to check labels.
If you’re struggling with early pregnancy acne, you might want to know whether you can take oral acne medication. In general, it’s best to avoid oral acne medication during pregnancy.
Many medications haven’t been studied on pregnant people to know whether they’re safe. Other medications—like oral isotretinoin—are known to cause birth defects like cleft palate, heart defects, and more.
A doctor will rarely prescribe oral medication for acne during pregnancy. If they do, they’ll only be prescribed for the short-term and to treat severe cases like cystic acne that’s causing scarring. In these cases, a doctor may prescribe a safe antibiotic, like amoxicillin.
If you’re prescribed an acne medication and become pregnant, make sure to tell your doctor ASAP. Depending on the drug, they may advise you to stop taking it.
Procedures for Pregnancy Acne
Below are procedures generally thought to be safe during pregnancy. If you get an acne procedure done, make sure it’s done by a dermatologist or accredited professional. Always consult your doctor to fully understand the risks.
- Laser and Light Therapies. Light therapy can help reduce excess oil and remove dead skin cells. It’s thought to work best on blackheads, whiteheads, and some pimples. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, lasers are considered relatively safe during pregnancy. However, some numbing solutions or medications could affect your baby, so be sure to know what’s involved and whether it’s safe.
- Cortisone injections. A small amount of cortisone injected into cysts can help reduce inflammation and pain. Make sure a dermatologist performs this treatment.
- Before getting a facial during pregnancy, know what it entails. Many basic facials are safe. Some chemical peels should be avoided.
Don’t Go Overboard
When we’re frustrated with our acne, sometimes our instinct is to do everything. We pick, pop, wash our face too much, and try every treatment available. All of this can make acne even worse.
Avoid picking or popping acne, which can cause it to spread or damage skin. It’s also a good idea to try one new treatment at a time. That way, you can know what’s working and what’s not.
Consider Seeing a Dermatologist
It can be difficult to know which pregnancy acne treatments to try first. And it’s hard to know which skincare products are best for your situation.
Consider seeing a dermatologist, who can help pinpoint the best treatment. They can also guide you on which cleansers and moisturizers are best for your skin. This will also ensure you’re using solutions that are safe during pregnancy.
Summary: Early Pregnancy Acne
Early pregnancy acne is common. It can be caused by a few factors, but most commonly, hormones are to blame. Although acne is normal and nothing to be ashamed about, if you don’t like the appearance or if it’s painful, there’s a few things you can do.
Although oral medication is usually recommended against, many over-the-counter topicals are safe during pregnancy. You can also consider procedures like light therapy. Before starting any new topical medication or procedure, talk to your doctor about the risks.
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