Pregnancy Acne Pregnancy Acne

Pregnancy Acne: Causes, Remedies and Symptoms

Pregnancy acne is a condition where pregnant women experience hormonal acne flare-ups usually in the first trimester of their pregnancy. Dealing with this issue can be tricky because some acne products are unsafe for the baby, while some are safe. How to make that distinction? Consult your doctor and read this article.

What is Pregnancy Acne?

Pregnancy acne1, as the name suggests, is the condition where women who are pregnant experience acne breakouts as a result of said pregnancy. These acne breakouts can be mild and last for just a few days, but if you are unlucky and experiencing severe acne, they can very well be a pain in the neck.

Pregnancy acne is different from the acne we all get when we are entering our teenage years. Those acne breakouts are mostly puss-filled pimples that go down within a few days. Those pimples don’t hurt terribly when you touch them. But hormonal acne and cystic acne, the kinds that pregnant women deal with, are big and painful to the point that they throb.

When does Pregnancy Acne first show up?

Pregnancy acne usually shows up around the four-week mark in your pregnancy. Most women who experience these painful acne breakouts do so in the first and second trimesters2. Not every pregnant woman gets acne when growing a baby inside them, so how can you tell if you will experience it or not?

Unfortunately, nobody can say with absolute certainty whether or not someone is likely to experience pregnancy acne. But one observation that has been made in this regard is that usually, women who have had a history of acne in their teen years and those who have experienced acne when they are on their period, are more likely to get pregnancy acne than those who have not.

What causes Pregnancy Acne?

pregnant woman staring at the sky.
Photo by Ilzy Sousa on Pexels. Copyrighted 2019.

Unsurprisingly, the female body goes through a complete transformation when a little human being is growing in there. The organs shift around to make space for the baby, the normal bodily functions that used to just provide for the mother, now provide for the baby too. The hormones are all over the place and these changes reflect on the surface too.

Pregnancy acne is caused by the fluctuations of hormone levels in the body during the first trimester. A particular hormone called Androgen causes the sebaceous glands 3to secrete excess oil. This excess oil, called sebum builds up in the pores and clogs them. This causes acne.

How to Treat Pregnancy Acne?

Dealing with pregnancy acne can be even more tricky than treating normal acne. You can not take the usual medications that you used, or use some of the topical skincare that works for you, because the ingredients found in these products might be harmful to the baby.

Here are the steps you should take to fight pregnancy acne and come out victorious.

1. Use A Gentle Facial Cleanser

You might think that since pregnancy acne is caused by excess sebum production, you should use a facial cleanser that strips the oil and dirt right off your face. That would be the wrong way to approach acne. Since heavily stripping cleansers are rich in detergents like sulfates, they end up sucking out the moisture and oil that is required by your skin.

This makes the skin dry, and dehydrated and you might even begin to face more problems like a compromised skin barrier, which leads to more irritation, redness and breakouts. So, to not further worsen acne, use a mild soap to wash your face. The Cetaphil Gentle cleanser and the Cerave Gentle Skin cleansers are great options at the drugstore.

2. Use Oil-Free Products

Just like maintaining a healthy layer of moisture and sebum on the skin is important, making sure you don’t overdo it in the oil department is also just as crucial. Using skincare and makeup that is oil-based is heavily unadvisable when you are dealing with pregnancy acne. Thankfully, the market is filled with oil-free moisturizer, sunscreen, foundation and concealer.

Although it is suggested to avoid wearing heavy makeup at times like this so that your skin can breathe and heal, if you have to wear makeup, you can always go for water-based base products and make sure to not cake it up so that your pores can breathe and not get more clogged than they already are.

3. Do not use Harsh Exfoliators

Exfoliation is good for the skin to remove dead skin cells and clean out the pores but too much of it, whether it is a harsh physical medium or the more sensible chemical one, can not be good for your skin. Keep the harsh apricot scrubs away from your face at all costs when you are dealing with pregnancy breakouts.

Some chemical exfoliators like Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Beta Hydroxy Acids like glycolic acid4 and salicylic acid5 can be used if and only if your concentration is below 5 %.

4. Have a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is imperative for overall health, but it is especially crucial when expecting. If you can’t use topical vitamin A products, it doesn’t mean you can’t eat vitamin A-rich food like carrots, eggs and milk. Dark chocolate is great for acne treatment, just make sure you take it in moderation.

Keep in mind, that using things like honey, oats, lemon and yoghurt on the face is not as effective at clearing your pregnancy breakouts as eating them is.

5. Do not Pick on Your Pimples

woman picking on her pimple.
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels. Copyrighted 2020.

This one goes without saying. Picking on your pimples is always unadvisable because most of the time, it is not done right and people only end up worsening the problem by spreading the bacteria on the unaffected areas of the face and making the acne worse.

Using pregnancy acne treatment safe to use during pregnancy is the best solution instead of picking at them.

6. Use Sunscreen

Some pregnant women are afraid of using sunscreen during pregnancy because it has been revealed in studies that chemical sunscreen gets absorbed into the skin and thus, traces of its ingredients are found in the bloodstream. While mineral sunscreens are also an alternative, people tend to avoid those because they are prone to white cast.

Even though chemical sunscreen has been found in the bloodstream, no study has concluded that the presence of these in the bloodstream is harmful to the baby or leads to birth defects. Therefore, using sunscreen every day is a no-brainer since it saves you from skin cancer.

7. Keep Your Doctor in the Loop

Before you make any changes in your skincare routine or think of using any acne medications or topical acne treatments, you must consult your doctor to make sure the over-the-counter products are safe for the baby and won’t cause any birth defects.

Someone with medical expertise like your healthcare provider will be able to measure the risk factors of treatment options like topical retinoids, light treatments and other antibiotics and will recommend acne medications and topical acne treatments that won’t cause birth defects.

8. Keep Yourself Hydrated

Woman drinking water
Photo by Arnie Watkins on Pexels. Copyrighted 2019.

Drinking the right amount of water your body needs to function to the best of its ability takes care of many problems our body might be facing. The same is true for pregnancy breakouts and skin irritation. Keeping the natural moisture barrier intact by drinking water and using occlusive skincare products prevents undesirable skin conditions.

9. Stay Away from Stress

Although no proof suggests that stress causes acne, it has been established that stress can worsen existing acne because high-stress levels cause fluctuation in hormone levels. Those, in turn, can lead to more acne problems. Apart from that, stress, when you are pregnant, is bad for your body. Therefore, stay away from anything that causes you stress.

10. Stay Up to Date With Hormonal Changes

Product shots of The Ordinary skincare and makeup.
Photo by Valeriia Miller on Pexels. Copyrighted 2020.

As discussed above, changes in hormones can change your skin type and hair type. So many people who used to have straight hair, suddenly develop curls and women who have always had oily skin, notice that it has become dry. You should keep up with these transitions and adjust your skincare accordingly.

Pregnancy Acne Treatments

There are various treatments and acne medications that can be used for acne. Unfortunately, while you are expecting a baby, you don’t have free reign over all the acne-fighting products on the market. Some topical treatments and topical medications are safe while others are unsafe for the baby. That’s why talking to your healthcare provider is best.

1. Safe Ingredients

Here is a list of ingredients that are safe to use on pregnancy acne.

1.1 Benzoyl peroxide

There are usually two ways in which this ingredient can be used, the first is as a face wash the and second is an acne spot treatment. This ingredient is safe to use for acne during pregnancy but the concentration of the ingredient should be below 5%. Another thing to keep in mind is to use it in small quantities.

1.2 Salicylic Acid

This ingredient should only be used in a wash-off skincare product like a face wash and under 2% concentration. Anything with above 2% concentration of this ingredient can be harmful to the baby.

1.3 Glycolic And Lactic Acids

AHAs like glycolic and lactic acid are generally safe for you to treat pregnancy acne. They are great for treating acne in general, so the fact that they are safe to use during pregnancy is great news. These treat pregnancy acne along with reducing acne marks and scars. This is an overall win.

1.4 Azelaic Acid

This ingredient is also safe to use for acne treatments if it is used under 15% concentration. This is another ingredient that works to treat acne and reduce pigmentation. The only downside to this is that it can stink. So, if you are someone who can’t tolerate a chalky smell, maybe try something else on this list.

1.5 Vitamin C

This star ingredient is safe to use in your skincare routine when you are pregnant. A couple of drops of vitamin C serum before applying your sunscreen in the morning can do wonders.

2. Unsafe Ingredients

Here are some ingredients that you should not use for pregnancy acne.

2.1 Retin A

Whether it is over-the-counter products or oral medication like oral isotretinoin, Retinol is a hard no for pregnancy acne treatment because its effects are found in unborn fetuses. While it is uncertain if these cause serious birth defects, since they are applied on such a small portion of the skin, it is still better to avoid them for the course of your pregnancy.

2.2 Hydroquinone

This ingredient gets absorbed into the bloodstream by 30% and we don’t know what kind of an effect this can have on the baby. Since we are not completely sure that they are harmless for the baby, it is better to avoid their usage for the duration of the pregnancy.

Key Takeaways

Dealing with acne while you are pregnant can be irritating, but it is nothing to cry about. It appears in the first trimester and leaves around the third trimester. Your doctor is always there to help you navigate this inconvenience, and so are some star acne treatments you can use while pregnant.

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1. When does pregnancy acne start showing?

Ans. Acne can start showing up anytime during the period of pregnancy. Generally, the acne will start to be noticeable from the 6th week of pregnancy.

2. What are some tips to clean up pregnancy acne?

Ans. Some tips for clearing up pregnancy acne are as follows:

  • Wash your face with a gentle cleanser.
  • Wash your hair on a regular basis with a mild shampoo.
  • DO NOT pick or squeeze the blemishes.
  • Avoid any kind of products which are irritating to your skin.

3. How is pregnancy related to having acne?

Ans. In pregnancy, androgens 6and progesterone, the pregnancy hormones are released in abundance which increases the oil secretion. More oil leads to clogged pores which leads to acne.

Understand 5 More Skin Problems During Pregnancy
Icy Health
  1. Kutlu, Ömer, et al. “Acne in pregnancy: A prospective multicenter, cross‐sectional study of 295 patients in Turkey.” International journal of dermatology 59.9 (2020): 1098-1105. ↩︎
  2. Xi, Fangfang, et al. “Second-trimester and third-trimester maternal lipid profiles significantly correlated to LGA and macrosomia.” Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics (2021): 1-10. ↩︎
  3. Clayton, Richard W., et al. “Neuroendocrinology and neurobiology of sebaceous glands.” Biological Reviews 95.3 (2020): 592-624. ↩︎
  4. Jem, K. Jim, and Bowen Tan. “The development and challenges of poly (lactic acid) and poly (glycolic acid).” Advanced Industrial and Engineering Polymer Research 3.2 (2020): 60-70. ↩︎
  5. Lefevere, Hannes, Lander Bauters, and Godelieve Gheysen. “Salicylic acid biosynthesis in plants.” Frontiers in plant science 11 (2020): 338. ↩︎
  6. Ben-Batalla, Isabel, et al. “Influence of androgens on immunity to self and foreign: effects on immunity and cancer.” Frontiers in immunology 11 (2020): 1184. ↩︎

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