Acne and Pregnancy: How to Treat It Safely

Pregnant woman with acne Acne and Pregnancy: How to Treat It Safely

Think you’ll never suffer from a breakout after adolescence? Think again. Pimples can pop up at different stages throughout adulthood, caused by various stressors. A prime example: changing hormones during pregnancy can wreak havoc on the skin, including causing adult acne. Here’s how to treat it safely.

How to Handle Acne While Pregnant

What Causes Acne During Pregnancy?

Many women experience outbreaks of adult acne during pregnancy, particularly during the first and second trimesters. Hormones called androgens drastically increase during this time. These hormones can cause pores to then produce more oil -- called sebum -- which can mix with bacteria, sweat, and dead skin cells, resulting in breakouts.

Acne during pregnancy can look like whiteheads (clogged sebum within a closed pore) or blackheads (clogged sebum that has been oxidized through an open pore.) It can most often be found on the face, shoulders, back, and chest.

How to Treat Acne During Pregnancy

It’s important not to pick at pimples or try to squeeze or pop them during pregnancy or ever. Oil from the hands and fingers can add to the clogged sebum, and the picking can exacerbate redness and irritation. Because so many of the prescriptions and over-the-counter treatments used to treat acne have warnings about potential birth defects, it’s crucial that you first consult a reputable dermatologist and then read all medication labels closely.

Most commonly, prescription treatments that doctors recommend during pregnancy include ingredients like azelaic acid or erythromycin. OTC products containing benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid might also be recommended. In general, prior to prescribing any additional medications, dermatologists first recommend a skincare routine with a gentle, oil-free cleanser and moisturizer. You might also find some relief from acne by washing your pillowcases in hot water several times a week.

A doctor may opt to prescribe topical creams, but products with the ingredients isotretinoin, adapalene, tazarotene, or tretinoin have all been linked to birth defects. Because of this, the medications must carry a warning, and providers must be enrolled in a risk management program, proving that they’re aware of the risks.


Fortunately, there is one cosmetic treatment that is safe for pregnant women since it’s superficial -- meaning it only affects the top layer of skin. Dermatologist microdermabrasion is a safe, non-surgical peeling therapy that removes the top layer of skin.

Using a minimally abrasive instrument, a clinician sloughs off the dead skin cells that trap dirt, oil, and bacteria. This works to treat existing acne, prevent future breakouts, and even reduce acne scars -- all without the skin absorbing anything that could be harmful during pregnancy. Just be sure to tell your provider that you’re pregnant so that they refrain from using any harsh chemicals on your skin.

Contact Vanguard Dermatology

If you’re in the greater New York City area and need help managing acne during your pregnancy or want to receive a dermatologist microdermabrasion treatment, contact Vanguard Dermatology today for an appointment with one of our doctors. We’re a group of leading board-certified providers with the knowledge and experience to make the appropriate recommendations for you.

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