Acne During Pregnancy: Causes And Natural Ways To Prevent Them

Acne During Pregnancy

Image: iStock

Those blisters will not go. Yes, when you are pregnant your acne will only worsen. You could have acne during pregnancy due to the changes in the body, including fluctuations in hormonal levels.

MomJunction tells you about acne when you are carrying a baby, what you can do to get relief from them and then what you should not do.

What is acne?

Acne is an outburst from the skin. They appear when the oily secretions from the sebaceous glands, along with the dead skin cells, clog the tiny pores creating room for bacterial growth (1). If the opening of pores is small, then the clog takes the form of small white colored bumps called whiteheads, and if the pore opening is large, the clog takes the form of blackhead. Both these clogs further develop into tender inflammations, or pimples or deeper lumps.

What is acne

Stages of acne. (A) Normal follicle; (B) open comedo (blackhead); (C) closed comedo (whitehead); (D) papule (a small pimple); (E) pustule (a pimple with pus).

(Image: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0115/p357.html )

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Is Acne A Sign Of Pregnancy?

Fluctuating hormones could show their effect on your skin just like they do on your body in general. If you have a history of having acne, you have a higher chance of getting them during pregnancy. If you already have them, they might worsen during the early days of pregnancy but will settle down (2) once the hormonal activity stabilizes.

[ Read: Hormones Changes During Pregnancy ]

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When Does Pregnancy Acne Start?

Acne does not necessarily affect every pregnant woman but it can flare up during early pregnancy. It may improve during the first trimester and worsen during the third trimester due to an increase in the maternal androgen level (3).

Androgen level is just one of the reasons for pimple during pregnancy because the problem is also caused due to other reasons.

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What Causes Acne During Pregnancy?

Here are a few reasons for acne outbreak during pregnancy:

  1. Increased hormonal level during the first trimester is the primary reason for acne in pregnancy. The maternal androgen in pregnant women triggers oil production in the skin (sebum), clogging the skin pores and creating room for bacterial growth.
  1. If you use oil-based, greasy make-ups, the chances of acne breakouts are high.
  1. If you are having a history of acne, then an acne outburst is very likely during pregnancy. If you usually get acne before your period starts, then you are likely to experience it during pregnancy as well.
  1. Immunological factors affect your skin, making it sensitive. Weak immunity attracts bacteria, which gets trapped in the follicles and causes inflammation.

Acne cannot be brushed aside as a minor skin irritant because severe cases could have a psychological effect, increasing the risk of depression and suicidal ideation during pregnancy (4). The repercussions depend on the severity of the problem, and how you can manage it.

[ Read: Is It Safe Make Up During Pregnancy ]

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How To Manage Acne Based On Its Severity?

Acne is not a problem about which you should worry, especially when it is mild. But if the intensity is high, you keep thinking about it the whole day. Here’s how you can manage acne (5):

1. Mild acne

Mild acne is associated with whiteheads and blackheads and does not cover large areas of your face. Regular preventive skin care measures can help reduce mild acne.

Mild acne

Image: iStock

How to manage mild acne?

  • Ask the pharmacist for some over-the-counter treatments for your skin type. A non-acnegenic product can help prevent acne. It is advisable to talk to your doctor before using them.
  • Carefully follow the instructions given on the package.
  • Do not keep changing the treatments.
  • Use a gentle cleanser and mild moisturizer.
  • If your acne does not improve after eight weeks, then visit your doctor.

2. Moderate acne

Moderate acne is associated with raised reddish bumps (papules) or raised reddish bumps with white centers (pustules), wherein the lesions are spread across your face. Such breakout takes a long time to disappear.

Moderate acne

Image: iStock

How to manage moderate acne?

  • Make an appointment with your doctor.
  • Your doctor may prescribe an oral or a topical antibiotic. Follow it for 12 weeks or as advised by your doctor.

Moderate acne left untreated can leave permanent scars on the skin.

3. Severe acne

Severe acne is associated with deep, large, and painful lumps or cysts under your skin, and covers a larger area on your face. It needs timely treatment to avoid permanent and deforming scars.

Severe acne

Image: iStock

How to manage severe acne?

  • See a dermatologist.
  • Follow the medications prescribed by them.

In addition to these measures you need to follow a healthy skin care routine, and eat healthily.

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General Measures To Deal With Acne During Pregnancy

Dr. Jonette Elizabeth Keri, associate professor of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, says: “Acne is not a condition that should be dismissed because a woman is pregnant because it’s important for women to feel good about themselves during pregnancy.”(6)

Therefore, do not ignore personal care when you are pregnant. Here is what you can do to prevent or mitigate the spread of acne while pregnant:

[ Read: Oats During Pregnancy ]

1. Keep your skin clean

Use a soap-free and mild cleanser to keep the skin pores clean.

  • Use the cleanser twice a day — in the morning and at night before going to bed.
  • Wash your face and pat dry gently.
  • Do not rub your skin.
  • Keep the area near your jawline and hairline clean as these areas get clogged the most.
  • Use a good shampoo to wash your hair because oily and greasy hair can cause a breakout.
  • Use clean towels and change your pillows often to avoid any contact with the residual oils.
  • Don’t over-wash your face as it removes the natural moisture of your skin.
  • Avoid using hot water as it can lead to drying of skin.
  • Use a soap-free, mild cleanser with lukewarm water to clean your face in the morning, night, and after sweating.

2. Do not poke

While cleaning your face, do not scrub the acne because it can worsen the condition. During pregnancy, your skin becomes so sensitive that even slightest rubbing can cause injury. Scrubbing can strip off moisture from the skin, causing the oil glands to secrete more oil to replenish, which leads to pore clogging and acne outbursts. Pricking or squeezing the pimples can lead to permanent scarring and spots.

  • Go for gentle exfoliation.
  • Use a soft washcloth or your hands for gentle pressure cleaning of your skin in a circular motion.
  • Wash and rinse thoroughly.
  • Pat the skin dry and use a gentle, oil-free moisturizer.

3. Moisturize your skin

Use oil-free moisturizers that are specifically formulated for acne-prone skins. This will keep your skin hydrated. Moreover, washing your face frequently can make your skin dry as it is stripped of moisture. Using the right moisturizer will help maintain the pH balance of the skin.

4. Avoid overexposure to sun

Overexposure to the sun can not only damage your skin but also trigger acne breakout. It can lead to pigmentation and spots on your skin during pregnancy. Apply sunscreen to prevent skin damage. Ensure that the sunscreen is specially formulated for an oily and acne-prone skin.

5. Avoid using makeup

It is better to stay away from cosmetics when you have an acne outburst. But if you like applying makeup, use water-based cosmetics and not oil-based ones. Also, wash it off as soon as you can.

Eat healthy food

Remove sweets and refined grains (high in carbohydrates) from your diet to get rid of the pimples. Avoid baked and fried foods as they contain unsaturated fats that make your skin vulnerable to acne. Instead of using sugar, switch to jaggery or honey and in place of refined grains make use of whole grains. Include nuts, fresh fruits, and green, orange, and red vegetables to get all the essential nutrients. Talk to your doctor before altering your diet and eat everything in moderation.

[ Read: Is It Safe To Use Clearasil During Pregnancy ]

7. Increase the intake of vitamin B2

The deficiency of vitamin B2 can lead to increased oil secretions in the skin. Include greens such as beet greens, spinach, asparagus, yogurt, and almonds as they are rich in the vitamin.

8. Stay hydrated

Drink a lot of water because dehydration leaves your skin dry. Include fresh fruit juices, healthy smoothies, milkshakes, and vegetable juices in your diet. The adequate supply of nutrients will keep your skin healthy and prevent any acne outbreak.

The above measures will help you control the spread of acne but may not remove them from your skin. Therefore, you may want to nip them in the bud through some home remedies.

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Home Remedies To Treat Pregnancy Acne

Acne is temporary and can be treated with right skincare routine. Here is a list of natural remedies for pregnancy acne:

1. Coconut oil

Coconut oil

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • A few drops of oil

How to:

  1. Cleanse your skin and pat it dry.
  2. Use coconut oil to massage the affected area for a minute or two.
  3. Leave it overnight.

When should you do this?

Every night

Why this works:

Coconut oil is known for its antimicrobial and antifungal properties. It combats the acne-causing bacteria. Moreover, it nourishes and hydrates your skin.

[ Read: Coconut Oil During Pregnancy ]

2. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar

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You will need:

  • A little amount of raw, unrefined apple cider vinegar.

How to:

  1. Mix one part apple cider vinegar to three parts distilled water.
  2. Soak a cotton ball with apple cider vinegar.
  3. Apply it to the skin to absorb the oil.

When should you do this?

Once a day

Why this works:

It is a natural toner rich in alpha hydroxy acids and naturally occurring enzymes.

3. Baking soda

Baking soda

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You will need:

  • A little amount of baking soda.

How to:

  1. Mix about one tablespoon of baking soda with one tablespoon of water.
  2. Apply the paste on each pimple.
  3. Allow it to dry before washing off.

When should you do this?

Two to four times a week

Why this works:

Baking soda removes the oil from your skin and promotes healing. It is known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

4. Citrus fruit

Citrus fruit

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • A few drops of lemon juice

How to:

  1. Squeeze the juice from a lemon or lime.
  2. Apply directly on the spots with a cotton plug.
  3. Leave on for 10 minutes or until dry.
  4. Rinse off with cool water.

When should you do this?

Once a day

Why this works:

Lemon contains alpha hydroxy acid, which helps unclog pores and shed dead skin cells. Its astringent and antibacterial properties make it an effective exfoliant.

Note: If the raw lemon juice is too strong, then dilute it with water. Do not use it directly on face as it will irritate your skin.

5. Honey

Honey

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • A few drops of honey

How to:

  1. Rinse your face with warm water and pat it dry.
  2. Apply honey directly to the affected area.
  3. Leave it on your skin for 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse well with warm water.

When should you use this?

Twice a day i.e., during day time and at night before going to bed

Why this works:

Honey is known for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Also, it soothes your skin.

6. Witch hazel

You will need:

  • A few drops of witch hazel

How to:

  1. Take few drops of witch hazel on a cotton ball and gently swipe it over the affected area.

When should you do this?

Twice a day

Why this works:

Witch hazel is a natural astringent and has antibacterial properties. It maintains the skin’s pH and regulates oil production. This prevents clogging of pores by the excess sebum, which causes acne.

[ Read: Hives During Pregnancy ]

7. Turmeric

Turmeric

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • a. Half a teaspoon of turmeric and water

How to:

  1. Mix turmeric and water to make a paste.
  2. Apply it directly on the acne.
  3. Leave it on for an hour or so.
  4. Wash it off with water.
  5. Turmeric paste can be left on overnight.

When should you do this?

Apply it every day

Why this works:

Turmeric is a natural antiseptic and it helps enhance the complexion. It prevents pimples and improves skin quality, tone, and its texture.

Note: Wear old clothes while applying it over your face as turmeric can stain your clothes.

[ Read: Aloe Vera During Pregnancy ]

8. Aloe vera

Aloe vera

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • An aloe leaf

How to:

  1. Make a slice of the aloe leaf and transfer the gel present inside it into a container.
  2. Apply some of this gel on a clean face and massage gently.
  3. Leave the gel over the face for half-an-hour.
  4. Rinse it off with water.

You can leave the gel on overnight if it does not feel sticky.

When should you do this?

Apply it every night, before going to bed.

Why this works:

Aloe vera gel works wonders for a variety of skin problems. It helps to reduce acne and provides the right combination of nutrients for skin rejuvenation.

[ Read: Skin Problems During Pregnancy ]

9. Essential oils

Essential oils

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 1-2 drops of tea tree oil, 1 drop of lavender oil, and 4-5 drops of virgin coconut oil or olive oil.

How to:

  1. Blend these essential oils with carrier oil.
  2. Apply it directly to the affected area and leave it on overnight.

When should you do this?

Every night

Why this works:

The antioxidant, antimicrobial, and oil-balancing properties in lavender and tea tree oil help reduce acne and its scars.

Note: Essential oils may not suit everyone, as they are highly concentrated. They should be used only if your skin is not allergic to them. Consult your doctor before using them during pregnancy.

10. Fuller’s earth or multani mitti

Fuller’s earth or multani mitti

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • Fuller’s earth (multani mitti)
  • A few drops of rose water
  • A few drops of lemon juice

How to:

  1. Make a fine paste of Fuller’s earth by adding a few drops of rose water and 1-2 drops of lemon juice.
  2. Apply it over the affected area.
  3. Leave for five minutes and wash off with tepid water.

When should you do this?

Repeat it thrice a week

Why this works:

It reduces oil secretion and helps get rid of clogged pores.

11. Papaya

Papaya

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • Raw papaya

How to:

  1. Mash the papaya flesh and make a fine paste.
  2. Apply it on your skin and leave for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Rinse off with lukewarm water.

When should you do this?

Use it every day

Why this works:

It helps eliminate dead skin cells and prevents excess oil secretion.

12. Orange mask

Orange mask

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • Dried orange peels and rose water

How to:

  1. Grind the dried orange peels and add few drops of rose water to it.
  2. Apply this paste on the skin and leave for five minutes.
  3. Wash it off with clean water.

When should you do this?

Use this mask twice a week

Why this works:

Oranges have antiseptic and astringent properties. They are rich in vitamin C and inhibit the bacterial and other microbial growth.

13. Cucumber and oatmeal

Cucumber and oatmeal

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • Cucumber and oatmeal

How to:

  1. Blend cucumber and oatmeal and put it in the freezer.
  2. Apply it over your face and leave for 10 to 15 minutes.

When should you do this?

Use it regularly

Why this works:

It soothes and cools the skin, giving relief from acne pain.

If your acne is not getting healed with natural remedies then go for medications, which your doctor prescribes. However, you need to be cautious about their safety during pregnancy.

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Is Acne Treatment Safe During Pregnancy?

Dr. Keri says: “It’s really a personalized decision to seek treatment for acne while pregnant, and women should consult their dermatologist to understand the options available to them.”

Acne is not a serious condition of pregnancy and it improves as your hormonal levels get back to normalcy. So, you may decide whether or not to take treatment based on the severity of acne and your doctor’s suggestion.

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What Acne Treatments Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Some safe acne treatments during pregnancy are:

  1. Topical medicines containing zinc sulfate, azelaic acid, erythromycin, and clindamycin. They work well in the case of mild and moderate acne (7):

i. Medicines containing salicylic acid are considered safe during pregnancy and can be taken without any prescription.

ii. Benzoyl peroxide is safe to use for acne treatment during pregnancy as only 5% of benzoyl peroxide is absorbed by the skin, which is then broken down into benzoic acid and excreted through urine.

iii. Azelaic acid is considered safe during pregnancy as it has shown no birth defects in animal studies.

iv. A cream or lotion with resorcinol or sulfur can help prevent blackheads and whiteheads.

v. Over-the-counter medicines and face washes containing glycolic acid in minimal amounts. Such small amounts are harmless during pregnancy.

  1. Oral antibiotics, including erythromycin, azithromycin, and cephalexin, are not associated with any pregnancy risks and hence, are safe to consider for acne treatment during pregnancy.
  1. Laser and light therapies (red and blue phototherapy) are safe. However, you may go for these only if the topical and oral treatments are ineffective because certain laser treatments use numbing solutions that can have a harmful effect on the baby.

Note: Do not buy any over-the-counter drugs before talking to your doctor because not just laser treatments, some oral medications are also unsafe during pregnancy.

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Acne Medicines And Treatments To Avoid During Pregnancy

As the effects of medicine vary from person to person, it becomes difficult to figure out which medicine will work for you during pregnancy. However, the medicines mentioned below are generally harmful during pregnancy (8):

  1. Isotretinoin is an oral medication, which is usually avoided during pregnancy because:
  • It causes various birth defects (9) in babies.
  • The effects of the drug are strong and it is compulsory that anyone who is linked to the medication in any way has to undertake a mandatory risk management program. It means that any doctor who prescribes the medication, any pharmacist who sells it, and any dispenser who distributes has to learn about the various ways in which they have to educate the users before they hand out the drug.
  • The risk factors associated with this drug are so high that any woman who is of childbearing age has to start taking two types of birth control pills before taking medicine. It is also mandatory for the person to take at least one form of the birth control pill at least one month before she starts to take the acne medication.
  1. Hormone therapy involves the use of anti-androgens (spironolactone and flutamide), which can cause birth defects.
  1. Oral tetracyclines contain antibiotics such as doxycycline and minocycline, which can interfere with the bone development and can also lead to discoloration of the tooth in your unborn baby. If you are in the 15th week of pregnancy, then avoid these medications as it can lead to birth defects.
  1. Oral corticosteroids are used to treat severe acnes. However, its use is inhibited during pregnancy because the drug poses the risk of oral clefts in the newborn, preterm birth, and miscarriages.
  1. Topical retinoids can enter the bloodstream through the skin layer and reach the unborn baby. The retinoids such as adapalene (Differin), tazarotene (Tazorac), and tretinoin (Retin-A) need to be avoided during pregnancy as they can negatively impact your developing baby.

Acne is not a problem that could threaten your pregnancy or your baby. However, severe acne might make a pregnant woman feel depressed, which is not good for her pregnancy. Try the home remedies and make some lifestyle changes. If they are not working, go for pregnancy-safe medication but only after you take the clearance from your doctor.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. When does acne during pregnancy go away?

Acne might reduce as your pregnancy proceeds or after childbirth. Taking good care of your skin will hasten the process.

2. Can acne during pregnancy determine the gender of the baby?

There is no scientific evidence to prove that acne can determine the gender of the baby. But, as per the old wives tales, if you lose your beauty due to pimples and have a lot of spots on your face then it is a girl. If you are carrying a boy then you retain a glow on your face.

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Do you have an experience to share on acne? Let us know in the comment section.

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