The Essentials Of Pregnancy Acne: Does Pregnancy Cause Acne?

The Essentials Of Pregnancy Acne:

There are a lot of things you have to deal with once you get pregnant. Aside from your growing belly, you’ll also have to adjust to the frequent mood swings, morning sickness, and even weight gain.

And if those things aren’t enough, there’s pregnancy acne, too.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

Pregnancy is a perfectly great thing. It’s just that without the right information, these discomforts can easily suck that pregnancy glow out of you.

And for a pregnant woman, that doesn’t sound anything close to looking pretty.

So, how do you address pregnancy acne? What are the things that can cause acne while you’re pregnant? 

And to begin with, does pregnancy really cause acne?

Getting Pregnant And Acne: Does Pregnancy Cause Acne?

Pregnancy acne is very common during the first trimester. And there are three things to blame for it.

The first one has something to do with your raging hormones.

During the first three months of your pregnancy, your body tends to produce more hormones which result in cravings, fatigue, and even dizziness. Aside from these effects, the surge in hormones also causes your skin to produce more sebum than necessary.

The more excess oil your skin produces means the more chances of getting your pores clogged. It can also make your skin a more favorable environment for acne-causing bacteria to grow and proliferate.

The second possible reason for pregnancy acne involves fluid retention. As your pregnancy pushes through, particularly on the last few months, your body starts to hold more blood and fluid.

This excess fluid increases the workload of your liver and kidney. And because it doesn’t get properly eliminated, it has the possibility of harboring toxins.

The third reason has something to do with zinc. This mineral is very essential for the proper development of your baby’s tissues and DNA.

Because there’s a high need for zinc, you should have a good supply of the mineral throughout your pregnancy. Zinc deficiency isn’t only related to acne but it can also cause birth defects and behavioral abnormalities in children.

The tricky part, however, is that not all women experience pregnancy acne. In fact, there are women who felt their skin cleared up when they got pregnant.

Once your hormones return to their pre-pregnancy state, you should be able to see a noticeable change in your skin- but it’s not that immediate. In some women, pregnancy acne can extend even after they give birth.

How To Treat Pregnancy Acne

Pregnancy acne doesn’t look any different from your typical acne. However, because it’s related to pregnancy, treating it requires extra caution.

As there are ingredients in acne products that can affect both your pregnancy and your baby, it’s best to stick with natural remedies and these skin care tips:

Wash Your Face- And Your Linens

Washing your face regularly is a must- whether you are pregnant or not.

Cleansing your face, preferably twice a day, helps get rid of the excess oil your hormones produce. It also gets rid of the dirt clogging your pores.

You should, however, refrain from overwashing your face as it can lead to dryness. Dryness can cause acne, too.

As tempting as it seems, you should also refrain from exfoliating too much. Not only can scrubbing irritate your sensitive skin, it can also cause minute tears and breaks in your skin integrity.

And don’t forget to wash your linens and pillow cases, too. They can harbor thousands of bacteria that can get transferred to your face as you sleep.

Stay Hydrated

Unless contraindicated, make sure to drink enough glasses of water daily, preferably 8 to 12 glasses a day.

Staying hydrated can keep your skin supple and elastic. It can also help flush out toxins better.

Aside from these benefits, drinking the required amount of water every day can relieve most of the discomforts of pregnancy, such as headache and nausea. It can also help you avoid premature labor.

Take Your Supplements

Pregnancy can deplete your minerals and vitamins to support your growing baby’s needs. To make sure you have enough supply for your skin, you can take your doctor-prescribed supplements.

And I’m stressing this out. Before you take any supplement or medication, make sure you talk to your doctor first.

An excess intake of vitamin A, for example, can cause birth defects. There are also a lot of supplements that can cause acne.

Avoid Salty And Fatty Foods

Aside from the hormones and depleting zinc, what you eat during your pregnancy can also contribute to your breakouts. And for women who experience cravings, you know pretty well how hard it is to resist eating foods you shouldn’t be eating right?

To avoid breakouts, try your best to ditch peanuts and dairy food from your diet. You should also limit your intake of salty foods because aside from triggering acne, they can also increase water retention.

Instead, load up your meals with fresh fruits and vegetables. You can also try increasing your intake of protein and healthy fats.

Don’t Scratch That Zit!

It can be hard to resist but popping your pimples and scratching your zits can only make things worse. Other than inducing scars, picking at your pimples can also lead to a more serious infection and inflammation.

It can help if you can cut your nails short to avoid accidentally scratching your pimple when you're cleansing your face. To avoid the spread of bacteria, make sure you wash your hands frequently, too.

Your hands can harbor thousands and thousands of harmful microorganisms and you sure wouldn’t want these bad bacteria anywhere near your face.

Acne Medications To Avoid When You’re Pregnant

Unlike how you would normally treat acne, there are products and ingredients you should avoid using when you’re pregnant. Unless approved by your physician, it’s best if you can skip products that contain any of the following:

  • Isotretinoin is very effective when it comes to clearing up acne. It mainly works by decreasing the size of your pores and treating acne on a cellular level.

Unfortunately, isotretinoin is also considered teratogenic, which means it can cause birth defects and miscarriages. Although the potency of isotretinoin in topical products isn’t that high enough, it’s still recommended that you stay away from using products that have this ingredient.

  • Tetracycline, on the other hand, is a form of antibiotic frequently prescribed to eliminate acne-causing bacteria. In pregnant women, this drug can cause an inhibition of bone growth and teeth staining of the newborn.

Its derivatives, doxycycline and minocycline, can also cause the same effects.

  • Salicylic acid is another popular acne-fighting ingredient. You can find it in creams, cleansers and even toners.

When taken orally, salicylic acid can cause miscarriages and bleeding from both the mother and the fetus. It’s also linked to birth defects, primarily affecting the heart and lungs of the unborn baby.

While using it topically is not potent enough as oral consumption, it still isn’t safe enough to use during pregnancy. Did you know that one chemical peel using salicylic acid is almost equivalent to taking one aspirin pill?

The more product with salicylic acid you use means the more it builds up in your body.

  • Clindamycin and erythromycin are two other oral antibiotics frequently prescribed for acne. While erythromycin has been linked to cerebral palsy and epilepsy, clindamycin has a Category B Pregnancy Risk which means there’s no evidence of risk for humans.
  • Hormonal treatment for acne should also be avoided when you’re pregnant. Anti-androgen, for example, can infantilize a male baby.


Pregnancy can cause acne but it doesn’t mean that all pregnant women can develop pimples. Some women are just particularly more prone to it during pregnancy than the others.

If you are one of those unlucky women, then it’s important for you to know that pregnancy acne is temporary. As soon as your hormones return to its pre-pregnancy level, there’s a good chance for your skin to clear up.

This, however, doesn’t mean that your hormones will normalize as soon as you deliver your baby. There are women who still experience acne breakouts even after their pregnancy and while nursing their babies.

In addressing pregnancy acne, it’s essential that you stay away from using products that can compromise your pregnancy and your baby’s health. There are a lot of natural remedies you can turn to when it comes to clearing your skin.

Although it’s tempting to use your regular acne products, remember that pregnancy acne is temporary while the teratogenic effects of such products on your baby can be debilitating and long-lasting. 

Choose your products wisely.

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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