Pregnancy changes your body, for better or for worse. Your skin is no exception. Now that you’re pregnant, you may notice a sudden flare-up of acne breakouts, even if your skin has been relatively clear for years. Maybe pregnancy is causing you to develop acne for the first time – ever.
It’s annoying, but know that changes in the skin are very common during pregnancy. Whether or not you decide to treat acne during your pregnancy depends on your skin, your situation, and your obstetrician’s advice. It definitely can be done – it just needs to be done with a bit of care.
Start With Good, Gentle Skin Care
Good basic skin care is your first best step. Cleanse the face morning and night with a gentle cleanser. Avoid toners or astringents if they seem irritating. If your skin feels dry, follow up with a light moisturizing lotion or cream.
Your skin may be much more sensitive during your pregnancy, so your regular skin care products might start to sting, burn, or irritate your mommy-to-be skin. Switching to mild, fragrance-free options will help your skin feel better, and might even calm down those breakouts.
Talk With Your OB and Dermatologist Before Starting Treatment
Before starting any acne treatment, even over-the-counter acne products, talk to your obstetrician. Mild acne may not need any special treatment at all, and your doctor might suggest waiting until the baby is born before starting a treatment. By that time, acne may have gone away on its own.
If your acne is worsening, if you have been battling breakouts since before your pregnancy, or your acne is severe, you may feel the need for an acne treatment medication. Obviously, for the health of your developing baby, you must be selective in the product you choose.
While some treatments are safe, certain medications should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. Your obstetrician and dermatologist must be part of your acne treatment team during this time because they can guide you to the safest, best acne treatments for you.
Treatments Generally Considered Safe
While the treatments below are considered safe to use during pregnancy, you should talk to your doctor before using any acne medications.
- Glycolic Acid: Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that helps exfoliate the skin and unclog pores. You can find it in many OTC products, and it’s considered very safe to use during pregnancy. Start off slowly, though, because it may irritate your skin.
- Benzoyl peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide is found in many over-the-counter and prescription acne medications. It’s an FDA Pregnancy Category C drug, which means it hasn’t been fully studied in pregnant women. But it’s one of the most widely recommended acne treatment medications and most physicians consider it safe to use during pregnancy. You and your doctor will have to weigh the pros and cons of this medication and decide if it’s right for your situation.
- Erythromycin: If your dermatologist decides you need a prescription medication for your inflammatory acne, erythromycin is an option. Erythromycin is an antibiotic that helps reduce acne-causing bacteria. It’s not the most effective acne treatment, though, and is most often prescribed along with another acne treatment.
- Acne Treatment Facials: This is a completely non-medicated option for treating your acne. During an acne facial, an esthetician will deeply cleanse, exfoliate, and do extractions to clean out your pores. It’s a nice way to pamper yourself during your pregnancy (just be sure to let your esthetician know you’re pregnant).
Treatments to Avoid During Pregnancy
Many acne treatment medications can harm a developing fetus and must be avoided during pregnancy. Let your dermatologist know you are pregnant before being treated for acne.
Accutane (isotretinoin): Commonly known by its trade name Accutane, isotretinoin has been linked to severe birth defects in babies whose mothers took this drug while pregnant. Isotretinoin also increases the chance of miscarriage.
Topical retinoids: Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers should not use the topical retinoids Differin (adapalene), Tazorac (tazarotene), and Retin-A (tretinoin). The effect of topical retinoids on a developing fetus has not been studied thoroughly. As such, they should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Tetracycline: Oral tetracycline, as well as its derivatives doxycycline and minocycline, can interfere with normal bone growth as well as discolor teeth of a developing fetus. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers should not use these antibiotics.
These lists should not be considered comprehensive. Always talk to your doctor before using any acne treatment medication while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Although acne is incredibly frustrating at any season of life, try to keep your eye on the prize – a happy, healthy baby.
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Written by: Angela Palmer
Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician