Oh no! Is pregnancy acne a real thing? You thought you had left acne– sometimes even severe acne – behind, only to find out that pregnancy acne is as real as pregnancy glow. If only we could just have the glow….
Let’s look at pregnancy acne, and acne treatment safe to use during pregnancy.
What does pregnancy acne look like?
Unfortunately, acne during pregnancy looks quite similar to acne outside of pregnancy.
Women’s hormonal balance changes during pregnancy. This can cause the skin to have excess oil that could lead to clogged pores. This might result in the appearance of acne, especially in women who have acne-prone skin.
What causes acne during pregnancy?
Hormones, hormones, hormones! Just like most side effects during pregnancy, acne and pimples are the result of increased hormone production in your pregnant body. In this instance, they cause glands in your skin to enlarge and boost the production of sebum.
When sebum combines with dead skin cells, your pores become blocked and provide a neat little party pad for bacteria. Acne can vary in severity for each woman; it might just be an early pregnancy thing, or could persist throughout your pregnancy.
Acne during pregnancy is very unpredictable. Some women who have battled acne before becoming pregnant might find their acne improves; others who have never had acne before find they have the most problems. It all boils down to looking after yourself, if you happen to get it.
When does pregnancy acne start?
Pregnancy acne can start at any stage during the pregnancy. It depends on hormonal fluctuations, genetics and skin conditions. It could start even before you know you’re pregnant.
Acne during pregnancy – third trimester
Sometimes some women manage to spend most of their pregnancy free of acne and then develop acne as the due date approaches.
Research shows that pregnancy acne might increase during the third trimester due to increased concentration of maternal androgens as the pregnancy advances.
Acne during pregnancy – boy or girl?
Almost everything that happens to a woman during pregnancy has given rise to an old wives’ tale about whether the baby will be a boy or a girl.
In this case, however, there might be a small correlation between the appearance of acne and the baby’s sex.
Androgens are sexual hormones that are more prevalent in a man than in a woman.
When a woman is pregnant with a baby boy, it’s a time in her life when she has the largest number of male hormones running through her veins. Higher levels of androgens are linked to acne.
It doesn’t mean that if you develop acne you’re pregnant with a boy and if you don’t have acne you’re expecting a girl but if you suffer from pregnancy acne there’s a higher chance you are carrying a boy than a girl
When does pregnancy acne go away?
Acne during pregnancy might go away on its own at any stage during the pregnancy. Unfortunately, it can last until the end of the pregnancy or even become postpartum acne.
Let’s look at how to treat pregnancy acne.
Acne during pregnancy – treatment
There are many different acne treatments; however, not all of them can be used to treat pregnancy acne.
Here are several acne treatment options.
Improving your skin condition might not be enough to keep acne at bay but it will certainly help the process. Try to keep your skin clean and not to wear makeup. Just shampoo regularly with warm water, wash with a mild soap or a gentle cleanser and apply moisturizer in small amounts.
Mantaining a healthy skin also means checking on your diet and fluid intake. Make sure you keep hydrated and as far away as possible from refined flours and sugars.
Some pregnant women will need topical medications to treat pregnancy acne.
- Benzoyl peroxide. This is one of the topical acne treatments that can be used in pregnancy. Benzoyl peroxide is applied just to the inflamed spots
- Certain acids. Azelaic acid, glycolic acid and salicylic acid are considered safe acne treatments to use during pregnancy, under the right supervision
- Topical retinoids. Although they’re usually the first go-to for acne, topical retinoids are not safe to use during pregnancy. The use of topical retinoids during pregnancy has been linked with birth defects
- Topical antibiotics. Some antibiotics are safe to be taken during pregnancy, under the right prescription.
Some types of acne respond better to oral treatments.
Whether it’s Retin-A, oral erythromycin or other antibiotics, your doctor will be able to advise you about the best treatment for your acne.
Important: If you have acne during pregnancy
There are quite a few medications prescribed for acne which are NOT safe acne treatments to use while pregnant. An example of this is Accutane. Some medications can cause serious birth defects and complications.
Do not take any acne medications or use any topical acne treatments without speaking to a midwife, doctor or pharmacist, who can give you important drug safety information.
Even with over-the-counter treatments, you should first check that all ingredients are safe for your baby. Try natural solutions first and escalate to over-the-counter products or even prescription medications only if necessary.
Advice from BellyBelly’s naturopath on acne during pregnancy
Nicole Tracy, BellyBelly’s Naturopath from Nurtured by Nature, has this to say about pregnancy acne:
‘Acne can be a very frustrating side-effect of early pregnancy, even though it is generally a good sign that hormone levels are shifting in the right direction. Often low zinc levels are an underlying cause of acne, and low zinc can also slow the healing processes of your skin. The placenta is the highest source of zinc in the human body, so it is common for a woman’s reserves to be diverted to where they are most needed. For this reason, it is important to supplement women with zinc during pregnancy to ensure adequate reserves’.
She continues, ‘There are a few key signs that your naturopath can check, and often a zinc taste test is undertaken to identify a deficiency. A serum zinc test can also be conducted through your naturopath, GP, obstetrician or midwife. Vitamin C is also important to strengthen the immune system and prevent acne from getting infected, and drinking plenty of purified water is crucial for flushing out toxins’.
Coconut oil can help clear acne during pregnancy
Coconut oil is amazing for skin care and has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Do not confuse it with other oils. It’s great for your heart, for boosting your immune system and so much more.
Switch your moisturizer to coconut oil or apply a thin layer on the surface of your skin at least once a day. For information about how coconut oil clears up acne, check out this article from the Coconut Research Center.
Coconut oil is also great for cradle cap on babies’ heads. It worked really well for us. Like acne, cradle cap is caused by overactive sebaceous (oil) glands on the baby’s head.
Replacing cooking oils with coconut oil is a great idea, too.
Tips for acne during pregnancy (or any time)
#1. Don’t pick, scratch or pop acne
It will only serve to spread infection, at a time your immune system is already lowered, and can leave scars.
#2. Try natural solutions first
Start with the recommended zinc, vitamin C, coconut oil, probiotics and diet modification. It might be all you need and you’ll avoid having to use too many treatments.
#3. Don’t go crazy by over-washing your face or using harsh soaps
Stripping your skin of oil won’t make it oil free; it will only make it produce more. You could also end up with dry or irritated skin.
#4. Avoid wearing make-up whenever you can
If you must wear it, avoid clogging, oil-based make-up (opt for water-based instead) and make sure you wash it off each day – or as soon as you no longer need to be ‘made-up’.
#5. Don’t scrub
When washing your face, don’t scrub it or it might become ‘angrier’, which is not a good idea when you want to reduce inflammation.
#6. Keep your diet in check
This is important to reduce and flush out toxins. Stress and a poor diet can increase the risk of pregnancy acne; the usual culprits, such as sugar and processed grains, are inflammatory in nature. Cut back foods that contain bad fats, sugar (and anything with artificial sweeteners), and processed grains (especially wheat products – white flour, white bread, cake, etc). Don’t forget to eat your greens to keep your system clean and healthy – for you and your baby.
Dairy can also make acne worse for some women. Having a break from dairy can help your gut. You can easily get your calcium from other sources, which include seeds, sardines, almonds and leafy greens.
#7. Check with your midwife or doctor
There’s no need to go as far as asking for information from the teratology specialists (those who specialise in abnormal development) but always check with your healthcare provider before using any medicated acne products.
Read more in BellyBelly’s article Pregnancy Acne- Types, Causes And Treatment.