Acne and Pregnancy: How to Treat It Safely

Woman feeling her skin in the mirror Acne and Pregnancy: How to Treat It Safely

Pregnancy is an exciting but difficult time in many women’s lives. As if swelling feet and morning sickness weren’t enough, acne can rear its ugly head when you’re expecting.

What to Know About Skin Care While Pregnant

Making Sense of Acne During Pregnancy

Acne is troubling whenever you encounter it, but during pregnancy, it can feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Why does acne impact pregnant women? The answer is simple, thankfully, and has a straightforward explanation. Acne is strongly tied to our adolescence and teenage years, as that’s when it hits for pretty much everyone. Puberty is a time of intense hormonal changes, and some of these rushing hormones can cause the skin to produce more sebum. Sebum is the oil our skin produces to protect itself from damage and moisture. This oil is good for the skin, but when there’s too much of it, our pores can become clogged. When this happens, a blackhead or whitehead form. During pregnancy, many of those hormones from years past are at an all-time high, and they can trigger excess sebum production. Progesterone is the hormone present during puberty and pregnancy most responsible for this overproduction.

Safely Treating Acne While Pregnant

Acne isn’t often a cause for concern when it comes to your health, and for most women, their skin will clear up after pregnancy. But for many of us, acne is a lingering or pre-existing concern that pregnancy may only exacerbate. Regardless of whether or not you’ve already been struggling with adult acne, you’re stuck dealing with it for the next few months now.

Unfortunately, treating acne during pregnancy is very tricky. Many medications that doctors prescribe to treat acne are not safe during pregnancy, or there’s not enough data on whether it could negatively affect your baby’s development. As with all medications, pregnant women are not part of pharmaceutical trials. Some of the traditional oral drugs for treating acne, like isotretinoin, are not safe for most pregnant women. Some oral antibiotics for severe acne may be safe for women to take during pregnancy. The antibiotics doxycycline, minocycline, and tetracycline should not be taken while pregnant. Other oral antibiotics may still be acceptable, but you should consult your obstetrician and dermatologist. This advice is true for any of the acne treatments that are available.

So what can a pregnant woman do to keep acne at bay? Many of the topical acne treatments are considered safe during pregnancy. Topical antibiotics like clindamycin are believed to be safe. These can keep your skin protected from inflammation, infection, and even help keep acne from forming. Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, two common drugs used in over-the-counter and prescription anti-acne creams, are generally believed to be safe in moderation. Benzoyl peroxide works by killing bacteria on the skin, while salicylic acid can dissolve dead skin cells and other debris to keep pores clear. Of course, you'll always want to speak with your dermatologist to see what works for you.

One newer treatment for acne, laser therapy, works very well on treating acne in pregnant women and is thought to be safe. There are many different kinds of laser treatments for acne, ranging from visible to infrared lasers. Many of the lasers employed use intense heat to kill the bacteria responsible for acne and help calm inflammation. While there haven’t been tests on pregnant women, some laser therapies seem safe. Always consult your OB and dermatologist before beginning treatment.


Acne during pregnancy can ruin your glow, but you don’t have to let it. If you’re interested in treating your acne while you’re expecting, call in the pros at Northeast Dermatology for a consultation today.

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