A Guide to Pregnancy Acne

A Guide to Pregnancy AcneI have had problems with acne pretty much my whole life! At the time I got pregnant, I was using Retin-A to manage my acne (which really worked!) Unfortunately, Retin-A is not safe to use during pregnancy as it can cause some serious birth defects, so I had to stop using it! I was terrified that my horrible acne would come back throughout my pregnancy! To my surprise, however, I found that I was pretty much able to keep my acne at bay with some simple techniques!

Why Do We get acne during Pregnancy?

First of all, lets talk about why we tend to break out during pregnancy! We have all heard of “The Pregnancy Glow”right? And how many of us have actually experienced said pregnancy glow? I don’t know about you mamas out there, but between breakouts, unwanted facial hair, pregnancy swelling, and varicose veins, I don’t seem to have much of a glow!

During pregnancy, our pregnancy hormones are raging! They skyrocket in the first trimester, which can lead to excess sebum (those oils in your face that clog pores) production. This can lead to some pretty nasty breakouts! If you tend to breakout around your period, you are more likely to experience pregnancy acne, because the same hormones are to blame! The good news is, your acne may be at its worst during the first trimester. Since hormone production gets taken over by the placenta during the second trimester, you don’t experience the same spike of hormones which lead to acne!

Its all in the routine!

Dealing with Pregnancy Acne

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1. Wash with a gentle cleanser, twice daily.

Avoid using harsh cleansers with lots of chemicals. It may be tempting to grab a cleanser filled with acne fighting ingredients, but these can irritate your skin even more, leading to more breakouts! Try using a gentle mild soap-cleanser and only wash your face twice a day!

I have been using Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser for pretty much as long as I can remember and I really think its the best cleanser for acne prone skin! It is gentle and moisturizing yet is still gets all of my makeup off my face and leaves my face feeling fresh and clean!

2. Avoid Hard Scrubbing

It may be tempting to use an exfoliator or facial cloth to wash your face, but this can irritate your face even more! By scrubbing your face, you break up existing acne which can exacerbate the problem and lead to infection or scarring!

Check out this article from acne.com for more information on proper acne hygiene.

3. Pat your skin dry

Use a clean towel to gently pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it dry. This has the same affect as harsh scrubbing from #2!

4. Use an oil-free moisturizer

It may seem counter productive to use a moisturizer if oils on your face are what is causing you to break out in the first place! But by using a gentle oil-free moisturizer you help balance out the oil production on your face, which can help with acne breakouts!

I use CeraVe Moisturizing Facial Lotion  which includes SPF 30! I find it really difficult to find a good daily moisturizer with SPF that doesn’t contain a ton of harsh ingredients but this one is perfect and I have been using it forever!

5. Avoid the Urge to Squeeze!

When you have a HUGE ZIT right on the middle of your chin, it can be so difficult to resist the urge to pop it, but STOP right there in your tracks! Popping or squeezing pimples only makes the problem worse and can lead to scarring!

6. Check your makeup

Make sure your makeup is marked “noncomedogenic” which means it wont clog your pores! Also, it can be tempting to cake on even more makeup than usual but try to refrain. Use light makeup that wont clog your pores!

7. Clean up your Diet

I know this is all the way down at #7 but it should really be #1! I totally revamped my diet and tried to maintain a healthy pregnancy diet throughout my pregnancy. This meant cutting our sugars, processed foods, fried foods, and caffeine! I really think this is one of the biggest reasons I have been able to keep pregnancy acne at bay! By keeping your diet simple, whole, and healthy, you create less inflammation in your body which decreases the chance of getting acne! For more information on maintaining a healthy pregnancy diet check out Pregnancy Nutrition: Everything you need to know!

8. Hands off!

Try to keep your hands off your face as much as possible! By touching your face you are spreading germs and bacteria that could clog your pores and worsen your acne! In addition, change your pillow cases often and make sure to clean those earbuds as well!

Other Natural Acne RemediesEverything you wanted to know about pregnancy acne

1. Tea Tree oil

This natural oil has anti bacterial properties and can be a great way to fight acne naturally!

While there are many products that contain Tea Tree Oil, it is best to use pure organic oil and apply it directly to affected areas! Try this Organic Tea Tree  and use a cotton swab to apply a small amount to effected areas of your face!

2. Green Tea Extract

Studies have shown that a lotion containing 2% green tea extract can be an effective way to reduce acne! Add a small amount of green tea extract to your facial lotion!

Or you can try this Deep Cleansing Mask by Origins! Its infused with Green Tea Extract, Spirulina, and Spinach!

3. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice has great cleansing properties! Squeeze lemon juice on to a cotton swab and apply it to your face before bed!

4. Baking Soda

Have you heard of putting toothpaste on a pimple to dry it out? Well Baking soda does the same thing! Create a baking soda paste by combining baking soda, water, and lemon juice and apply it to affected areas.

5. Apple Cider Vinegar

This Vinegar can help balance the pH of your skin which helps regulate sebum production. Try combining 1 part vinegar and 3 parts water and applying it to your face before bed at night!

6. Aloe Vera

This super plant soothes and cools your skin and reduces inflammation and redness. Apply Aloe Vera to entire face and wash it off after 15 minutes. You can even put a few drops of tea tree oil in the Aloe Vera to make a super acne fighting face mask!

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Over The Counter Treatments

If these natural remedies just aren’t working, there are plenty of over the counter treatment options available that are safe for pregnant women! Remember, however, that anything you put onto your skin can be absorbed into the blood stream and could potentially pose a risk for your baby. Typically, with any topical treatment you put on your skin about 5% gets absorbed into the bloodstream. Acne medication and pregnancy has not been extensively studied, so make sure you consult your doctor before starting any type of acne fighting regimen!

1. Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO)

Benzoyl Peroxide kills bacteria that may cause acne and removes dead skin cells. You can find it in a ton of different products and formulas ranging from 2.5% to 10%. If you have never used it before it is best to start out with a lighter formula (around 2.5%) because it may cause some irritation, redness, and itchiness at first!

I use La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo with Benzoyl Peroxide and I love it! Its oil free and contains 5.5% Benzoyl Peroxide in addition to other acne fighting ingredients!

2. Salicylic Acid

This is another one of the main acne fighting ingredients! It helps prevent pores from becoming plugged in the first place. You may find many products (like the Effaclar Duo) that contain both BPO and Salicylic Acid. It comes in a variety of strengths from .5% to 5% and can cause mild irritation and stinging at first.

3. Alpha Hydroxy Acids

These include Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid. They help remove dead skin cells from the skin and reduce inflammation.

This DDF Oil Control Gel contains 10% Glycolic acid and 2% Salicylic Acid and helps with cell turnover and regulates sebum oil production!

4. Sulfur

This ingredient removes dead skin cells and help unclog pores. Its available in many different products and in combination with many of the ingredients above.

You can also try a Sulfur face mask! I absolutely love this ORIGINS Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask! It feels rejuvenating when you wash it off and it really helps prevent whiteheads and blackheads =)

Prescription Acne TreatmentsEverything you wanted to know about pregnancy acne

If you have tried all of the above, and nothing seems to be working you can talk to your doctor about prescribing something for your acne! They will probably prescribe you a stronger topical Benzoyl Peroxide or some other form of the treatments mentioned above!

There are some prescription treatments that are not safe for pregnant women and can cause birth defects or other problems with your baby! These treatments include:

1. Isotretinoin (popularly known as Accutane)

While this is a great option for fighting severe acne it is not safe for pregnant women. It can cause major birth defects and other problems. Many doctors will require women to be on two forms of birth control before starting an Isotretinoin regimine!

2. Hormone Therapy

Many women choose to fight acne with the use of birth control or other hormonal replacement. While you are pregnant, however, you shouldn’t be on any form of hormonal treatment (your hormones are already going crazy!)

3. Oral Tetracycyclines

These are oral antibiotics popularly used to treat acne. They can potentially interfere with bone growth and development in your baby, so it is not recommended to use these during pregnancy.

4. Topical Retinoids

These include Differin, Tazorac, and Retin-A (the one I was on!) These have the same main ingredients as Isotretinoin (mostly Vitamin A) yet they are used topically instead of taken orally. While they don’t pose as much of a danger to the baby, they still should not be used during pregnancy.

Remember, pregnancy acne may be horrible, but your pregnancy will eventually end. It may seem like the end of the world, or that you are pregnant forever, but it will be all over soon. If you didn’t have acne before, its not likely that you will have acne afterwards! Don’t stress too much! Give yourself a break, you are growing a beautiful baby inside of you 😉

As Always, I hope you have a happy and healthy pregnancy!!



  1. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/acne-during-pregnancy-treatments-causes#2
  2. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acne/in-depth/acne-products/art-20045814
  3. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acne/expert-answers/natural-acne-treatment/faq-20057915