- Many women experience acne throughout the course of their pregnancy, but many traditional acne treatments pose risks to pregnant women and their babies.
- Those with a history of acne or have acne breakouts before menstruation are more prone to pregnancy acne.
- Pregnancy acne is generally temporary and will likely clear up once your hormones return to normal, a few months after giving birth.
Acne is common during pregnancy. In fact, more than one out of every two pregnant women can expect to develop acne. In some cases, the acne may be severe.
Does Pregnancy Cause Acne?
Yes, sometimes. The higher androgen levels that women experience during pregnancy increase the skin’s oil and sebum production, which in turn, increases your likelihood of clogged pores and acne breakouts.
Those with a history of acne or PMS acne flare-ups have an increased risk of developing acne during pregnancy.
When does pregnancy acne start?
Your androgen hormone levels, and the oil production that comes with it typically increases early in the course of a pregnancy. Research has found that most women who experience acne during pregnancy began experiencing it prior to even knowing they were pregnant.
Although acne can crop up anytime during pregnancy depending on hormonal fluctuations personal to you, it is most likely during the first and second trimesters. Some women who suffer from pregnancy acne, however, develop it during the third trimester when androgen levels become extremely high and acne can become particularly severe.
How to Know if Pregnancy is Causing Your Acne
If you recently found out you were pregnant and began developing acne at the same time, or if you are pregnant and not typically prone to acne but are noticing occasional or consistent acne flare-ups, you may be experiencing pregnancy acne.
If you suspect that your acne or other skin changes are pregnancy-induced, the only way to know for sure is to take a pregnancy test and to consult with a doctor and/or dermatologist.
Safe Treatments for Acne During Pregnancy
Pregnancy acne typically subsides when hormone levels return to normal after pregnancy. Although the safest thing to do is to avoid any prescription acne medications or OTC chemical treatments to avoid risking birth defects, research shows that some acne treatments are safer than others during pregnancy.
However, there may always be some risk, as more research on pregnancy-induced acne treatments are needed. The following treatments for pregnancy acne are largely considered safe but it’s always best to speak with your doctor or dermatologist first.
Some experts recommend topical prescription products containing erythromycin as pregnancy safe acne treatment option. Erythromycin is an antibiotic used for the treatment of a number of inflammatory bacterial infections including acne, and works by killing acne-causing bacteria and reducing redness and inflammation.
Azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid that’s synthesized by yeast naturally. It is made from products like barley and wheat. It works to treat acne by killing the bacteria that infect pores and by decreasing the production of keratin, a natural protein produced by the body which can contribute to the development of acne, and is generally considered safe during pregnancy.
Benzoyl peroxide is an industrial chemical commonly found in topical acne medications and cleansers. No studies on the use of benzoyl peroxide have been conducted with pregnant patients, however, systemic effects on a woman or her child are not considered likely. It is typically considered safe, as only 5% is absorbed through the skin before being completely excreted in the urine.
Natural Remedies for Pregnancy Acne
Natural DIY remedies for pregnancy acne can be safer than other kinds of acne treatments because they don’t use synthetic chemicals. The following home remedies have been shown to safely and gently help manage acne caused by pregnancy.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV)
While there isn’t much research on the ability of apple cider vinegar to fight P. acnes, apple cider vinegar contains acetic, citric, lactic and succinic acid, all of which have been shown to kill P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. To use as a skin care treatment, simply mix one part raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to three parts distilled water and apply the mixture to your skin or to individual pimples with a cotton pad and leave it on as you would a toner.
Honey has antibacterial and antiseptic properties and has been shown to inhibit the growth of P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. It’s also soothing to the skin. To use it, rinse your face, and then apply the honey directly to any areas affected by blemishes. Leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing it off. Follow up with a moisturizer suited to your skin type.
Zinc is an essential mineral which supports cell division and protein synthesis, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding have a higher risk of developing a zinc deficiency. Research has found links between higher zinc levels and reduced acne. Zinc does not cause adverse effects during pregnancy. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend 11–13 mg of zinc daily for women who are pregnant or lactating.
Acne Treatments to Avoid During Pregnancy
Managing acne when you’re pregnant can be very challenging, since many prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) treatments are accompanied by a high risk of birth defects. In general, it’s best to avoid any medication that poses any risk to you or your baby during pregnancy.
Isotretinoin (often sold under the brand name Accutane) is an oral acne medication that can significantly improve severe acne, however, it poses several health risks and is especially dangerous if you are pregnant. It can cause serious birth defects and should be avoided at all costs if you are pregnant or at risk of getting pregnant.
Topical retinoids such as adapalene, tazarotene and tretinoin, have also been flagged as a possible risk during pregnancy. Although studies have been inconclusive, it is safer to avoid exposure to topical retinoids while pregnant in order to avoid an increased risk of birth defects.
The use of hormone therapy to treat acne, including estrogen and anti-androgens flutamide and spironolactone, can also cause birth defects. Spironolactone use is discouraged in pregnancy due to its potential feminizing effect on a developing male fetus.
Certain antibiotics prescribed for acne also pose great risks to a pregnant mother and her baby. Tetracycline, doxycycline and minocycline are associated with maternal liver toxicity, permanent tooth staining of the infant, and can stunt bone growth.
Pregnancy acne can occur anytime during the course of a pregnancy, and is most likely to occur in those who typically experience acne as a symptom of PMS.
Treatments for pregnancy acne are limited to milder and more natural remedies than traditional prescription treatments, as many of the stronger medications can cause serious adverse effects for both mother and child. Many women have nonetheless met with success using natural remedies for acne during pregnancy.
Fortunately, pregnancy acne tends to clear up a few months post pregnancy, once your hormones are back to their usual levels.
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