Can You Develop Acne During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy comes with lots of exciting changes! One of the less life-altering, but nonetheless annoying, can be acne. You may not have had a pimple since the tenth grade. Yet all of the sudden you are facing some whopping zits at the same time your pants are becoming tighter. Acne is one of the most common skin changes during pregnancy, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (“ACOG”). Nevertheless, many women still have concerns and questions as to why those pesky bumps pop up. Along with what safe treatment options exist to make them go away. 

Why has pregnancy caused me to break out?

There are many factors that contribute to acne during pregnancy. The main culprit is the hormone progesterone. Recall that this hormone prepares your body for pregnancy. As an androgen hormone, progesterone is also responsible for the oil production within your pores. As progesterone spikes during pregnancy, so can your oil production.  These high levels of oil production (often referred to as the “pregnancy glow”), can result in clogged pores and ultimately acne.

Breakouts can occur anytime throughout pregnancy. You may find that you develop blemishes significantly beginning at around six weeks and through the 20- 25- week mark. Progesterone is surging during this time. Just like any breakout, acne is likely to fade once your hormones level out. It should be no surprise if you find more pimples pop up closer to the end of your pregnancy. As well as after you deliver, as your hormone levels are once again changing rapidly.

This is not to say that all pregnant women will experience an acne breakout. Some women have said their acne cleared up. While others have said they did not notice a significant change in their skin. This likely comes down mostly to your personal history. If you typically experienced breakouts during your menstrual cycle, it’s more likely you will during your pregnancy as well. Learn more about adult acne causes and prevention here.

What acne treatments are safe during my pregnancy?

The ACOG has issued recommendations for over-the-counter topical products they consider safe to use for acne during pregnancy. These are listed and discussed here, and they include many of the active ingredients that are standard-of-care in treating acne. They are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic, azelaic, and glycolic acids. We love the oil-soluble properties of salicylic acid and the bacteria-obliterating power of benzoyl peroxide. Azelaic acid is showing significant promise, but it can be difficult to find over-the-counter products containing this active ingredient. 

If you’re new to these products please exercise caution when adding them to your skincare routine. First, your skin may be unusually sensitive or reactive during pregnancy. Second, these products can be irritating and drying if you use too much at one time. We typically recommend patch-testing any new product on a small area of your skin for a week to gauge for any adverse reactions. Assuming all goes well, incorporate new products by applying a thin layer on the affected area every two-to-three days for the first few weeks. You may graduate to daily use after that if your skin is tolerating the less frequent use. But stick with the “thin layer”… more isn’t better and can actually be much worse. 

It is likely that your physician will recommend you discontinue many medications (oral and topical) you may be taking for acne once you become pregnant. Both the AAD and ACOG have published strong warnings regarding the adverse effects of many of these medications when taken during pregnancy, including topical retinoids, some oral antibiotics for acne, isotretinoin, and of course hormone therapies such as spironolactone. You can find those here (AAD) and here (ACOG). Please heed this advice.

Final Thoughts

Our last suggestion for treatment options is to make an appointment with your local esthetician. At Clinically Clear in Atlanta, we are prepared for acne in all walks of life. We help clients of all ages, including pregnant women, feel more confident in their own skin.  Do not leave questions or concerns lingering in your mind. Schedule your free consultation today and get the answers you deserve. We can’t wait to see you! 

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