If you’re pregnant and experiencing troublesome pregnancy acne, then you’re not alone. Pregnancy can cause many of its own, completely normal, worries and conundrums – how do I make sure I do everything right for my growing baby and avoid pregnancy complications? What food should I eat, which foods should I avoid, how much exercise should I be taking…?
The list goes on, and hormonal changes, especially in the first trimester, don't always help!
If you have pregnancy acne, you have an added worry – how to best look after your skin and avoid breakouts. Can I use medicated creams, or will they affect my baby’s health? What about acne scar treatment during pregnancy? How about acne rosacea, can I safely treat that? That list just gets longer and longer.
Pregnancy brings beautiful things, but it often also feels like a minefield. So here’s our advice and all the do’s and don’ts on acne treatments for pregnancy and beyond.
What Causes Pregnancy Acne?
Pregnancy acne occurs due to increased levels of hormones called androgens that lead to an excess of sebum, a natural skin oil produced by glands in the skin, that can block the pores and causes spots.
Many women develop acne during pregnancy and despite your best efforts, those pesky pregnancy hormones can have their own way.
But treatments are available that are suitable for pregnancy, however, you must take care and it's helpful to look at the packaging on skincare products and speak to your GP or pharmacist. This article aims to help you too.
What Does Pregnancy Acne Look Like?
Any type of acne can be a combination of blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules and cysts and your skin during pregnancy can be the same. You may also notice that your skin feels oilier and appears more red.
Pregnancy Acne Treatments
Treatments can include over-the-counter treatments, prescription acne medications and home remedies. Not all acne remedies are safe to use during pregnancy, so always check with your midwife or doctor before using anything you're unsure about.
Acne during pregnancy is very common, and many women get acne as soon as the first few weeks and months. However, there are still things you can do to get pregnancy acne under control.
What Acne Medications Are Safe During Pregnancy?
There aren't many, if any, common acne oral medications that are safe during pregnancy.
It’s particularly important to avoid taking the prescription medicine, isotretinoin (also known as Roaccutane) when you’re pregnant. This medication is a retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A, and is prescribed for severe acne that hasn’t responded to other treatments. It’s a known ‘teratogen’, which means that it may cause serious physical harm and birth defects to your developing baby.
There are some antibiotics that are normally prescribed for acne that should also be avoided during pregnancy. These include tetracycline, doxycycline and minocycline.
Using Topical Products to Treat Acne During Pregnancy
Treating face acne with regular over-the-counter spot creams during pregnancy can be tricky. Many of them contain ingredients that are not safe for use during pregnancy as they are absorbed into the bloodstream and can affect an unborn baby. Others simply haven’t been tested for safety in pregnant women and are therefore not recommended.
Topical creams that contain erythromycin or clindamycin antibiotics or benzoyl peroxide are considered safe acne spot treatments during pregnancy.
But if you’re in any doubt, it’s better to try to tackle your acne holistically, rather than using something medicated that makes you worry. If you do opt for a medicated option, always consult your midwife or doctor first.
Skin Care and Natural Remedies for Hormonal Acne
Many women prefer to opt for natural treatments for acne spots during pregnancy. Using a homemade face mask made with oatmeal and honey can help calm and soothe the skin. Honey, especially Manuka honey, also acts as a natural antiseptic which can help to rid the skin of acne causing bacteria.
Used excessively, baking soda can dry the skin but used on acne prone skin it’s a natural way of helping to remove excess oil. Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with a tablespoon of water and apply directly onto acne spots (not all over the face). Rinse off once dried and use daily. Stop using baking soda if your skin starts to feel very dry.
Salicylic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid or AHA, and glycolic acid is a type of beta hydroxy acid, or BHA. Both AHAs and BHAs are considered safe to use at low concentrations. They're effective topical acne treatments as they help to clear the pores by gently exfoliating away the top layers of skin, that's one of the best ways to prevent spots and breakouts.
Always wash your face at the beginning and end of each day, to keep the pores clear of excess oil, dirt and bacteria. The best way to get rid of pregnancy acne is to help prevent it in the first place!
Acne Scar Treatment During Pregnancy
If your acne has caused scarring, it can be even more upsetting. We recommend waiting until you’ve had your baby and your skin has settled down before opting for any treatment.
Treating acne scars when pregnant can be tricky as it can involve laser treatments and dermabrasion. These treatments can all feel rather harsh, especially surgery, and are best avoided as acne scar treatments during pregnancy.
Acne Rosacea Treatment During Pregnancy
Rosacea causes redness, facial flushing and the development of small, thin blood vessels that are visible on the skin of the face. It can also lead to acne rosacea, which causes angry spots and cysts as well as redness, flushing and visible blood vessels.
Acne rosacea can be managed with antibiotic creams and tablets, including isotretinoin. Isotretinoin is a topical retinoid and is definitely to be avoided during pregnancy due to the possible risk of damage to your unborn baby. Other antibiotics for acne rosacea are also best avoided during pregnancy for the same reasons as above when used to treat acne.
Instead, many women prefer to avoid the triggers that may cause their acne rosacea to flare up. This includes avoiding weather conditions that can cause sun or wind burn, and minimising the amount of hot, spicy foods, alcohol and hot drinks they consume.
Cystic Acne Treatment During Pregnancy
If you have spots or pimples that become very inflamed, the infected pores full of bacteria and dead skin cells that have become trapped, can move down deeper into the skin. This causes large bumps in the skin that are very red and sore, and become filled with pus. This is known ascystic acne.
If you have cystic acne during pregnancy, you’ll most likely want to do anything you can to help calm your skin. Again, many of the treatments for cystic acne are unsuitable for use by pregnant women.
Your GP can prescribe antibiotic creams that contain erythromycin or clindamycin that can help. But again, if you have any concerns, it’s better to not add to the things to worry about during pregnancy, and to try to look after your skin more holistically as best as you can.
Worrying and feeling stressed about cystic acne can make things worse. Try to relax as much as possible and take comfort from knowing that once your hormones are back to normal, your skin will more than likely begin to clear up.
Is Acne Common in Early Pregnancy?
Unfortunately, yes. Many women experience acne breakouts during pregnancy, especially in the first and second trimesters. Although acne is a common consequence of having a baby, pregnancy acne is not guaranteed, so you may find that your skin stays happy or that you develop less severe acne.
Will I Definitely Experience Acne During Pregnancy?
You won't necessarily notice changes in your skin that are associated with pregnancy, but you may develop pregnancy acne - no on can say for sure! If you normally experience spots around the time of your period, you may also experience acne throughout pregnancy.
Also, if you have a history of acne prone skin, you may have an increased chance of developing acne during pregnancy.
Does Pregnancy Cause Acne?
Pregnancy itself doesn't cause facial acne, but the changes in hormones can cause clogged pores that can then trigger acne spots. But you do have treatment options available, as detailed in this article.
When Does Pregnancy Acne Go Away?
Once the hormonal changes during pregnancy settle down after giving birth, you should notice an improvement in your skin. Any postpartum acne that you experience should be temporary.
What's the Best Way to Treat Pregnancy Acne?
At Sönd, we think skincare is all about treating the skin from the deep layers up, so that it has the best chance of being healthy and free from acne, rather than treating the symptoms.
Our range of alkalising skincare helps to hydrate the skin, support it’s natural defence mechanisms and allows skin cells to thrive in optimal conditions. If you’re suffering with pregnancy acne, why not try our cleanser and day and night moisturiser to see how it could benefit you?
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.