Acne During Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 11 March 2021

What Is Pregnancy Acne?

Pregnancy acne is a skin breakout that occurs in pregnant women and is thought to be triggered by hormonal changes. Acne is common in pregnant women, with more than half of them developing acne. Acne can be serious in some situations.

Pregnancy Acne Causes

The elevated testosterone levels in the first trimester are the biggest source of acne when you're pregnant. The higher the level, the more natural oils your skin contains. It's impossible to determine who will get acne during pregnancy. If you have a history of acne or have acne flare-ups at the onset of your menstrual cycle, you're at a greater danger. If you don't have acne during the first trimester, you're less likely to have severe breakouts during the second or third trimesters.

It's difficult to control acne while pregnant. This is due to the fact that many prescription and over-the-counter drugs have a high chance of causing birth defects. In general, any drug that has even a remote chance of harming your baby should be avoided.

Pregnancy Acne Treatments

Acne during pregnancy is a common occurrence. When the hormone levels return to normal, it usually goes away. Avoiding prescription acne drugs and over-the-counter chemical spot therapies is the best choice. You should instead use drug-free home remedies. However, if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant, speak to a doctor about the safest and appropriate acne medication for you.

Pregnancy Acne: Dangerous Treatments

Isotretinoin is an oral drug that has improved the way people treat extreme acne. It's particularly dangerous if you're pregnant. This is due to the drug's potential for causing major birth defects.

Any patient taking isotretinoin, as well as any doctor who prescribes it, pharmacy who dispenses it, and wholesaler that distributes it, must enrol in a risk-management programme to prevent pregnancy and birth defects.

Because of the high risks, women of childbearing age who take the drug must start using two methods of birth control at least one month before beginning care. They must now use two forms of birth control for at least one month after therapy is completed. Pregnancy tests are also necessary for women before, after, and after treatment.

Some prescription acne drugs that have been related to birth defects include:

  • Hormone therapy. This contains the anti-androgens flutamide and spironolactone, as well as the hormone oestrogen.
  • Oral tetracyclines. Antibiotics like doxycycline, minocycline, and tetracycline, for example, can inhibit bone growth and discolour permanent teeth.
  • Topical retinoids such as adapalene (Differin), tazarotene (Tazorac), and tretinoin (Retin-A). These products contain isotretinoin-like ingredients and should be avoided during breastfeeding. Despite the fact that tests indicate that these drugs are only absorbed through the skin in limited doses, there is fear that they may raise the risk of birth defects. It is required for drugs to have a warning that states it is unclear whether these medicines will affect a growing baby or a breastfeeding infant.

Any doctors advise against using salicylic acid-based topical therapies for the same purposes. Most over-the-counter items contain this ingredient.

Other Topical Acne Treatments and Pregnancy

Topical pharmaceutical drugs containing azelaic acid or erythromycin are advised by some experts. Over-the-counter drugs containing benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid are another alternative. Just about 5% of the active drug that is added to the skin is absorbed by the body. As a result, it is believed that such medications would not increase the risk of birth defects.

However, it's important to bear in mind that certain topical drugs haven't been extensively investigated in pregnancy. So, as always, see the doctor before beginning any acne medication.


Pregnancy Acne Prevention

Pregnancy acne is a common side effect of pregnancy that normally goes away after the baby is born. As a consequence, the best course of action is to take good care of your face. Here are several non-drug options for treating pregnancy acne:

  • Limit washing to two times a day only after an especially intense sweating session.
  • When you do shower, make sure to use a gentle cleanser that is oil-free, alcohol-free, and non-abrasive.
  • Clean your face gently with a cotton pad or washcloth (but change and use a clean cloth or pad each time).
  • Rinse the face with lukewarm water after cleaning. After that, pat dry gently and add moisturiser.
  • Excessive cleansing should be avoided. It has the potential to overstimulate the oil glands on the skin.
  • Shampoo on a daily basis. If you have oily skin, you can shampoo every day.
  • Avoid using oily hair mousse or pomade around the hairline
  • Change your pillowcases on a regular basis.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Avoid holding your phone near your face.

Resist the need to pinch or pop your pimples at all costs. Acne wounds may be lifelong as a result of this. Get a professional facial if the pores are clogged.


Referenced on 2.3.2021:

  1. Organization of Teratology Information Specialists: “Topical Acne Treatments and Pregnancy."
  2. AcneNet: “Acne Medications Not for Use During Pregnancy."
  3. American Academy of Dermatology: “Pregnancy and Breastfeeding," “How to Wash Acne-Prone Skin."
  4. American Pregnancy Association: “Acne Treatment During Pregnancy."
  5. Mayo Clinic: “What's the best way to treat pregnancy acne?”

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