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Why Acne During Pregnancy, Symptoms, How to Safely Treat and Prevent It


What is acne? Why is acne common during pregnancy? Can acne be that severe while one is and what can be done to treat and prevent acne during pregnancy? Learn more about the causes of acne during pregnancy and how to deal with acne while pregnant as well as unsafe treatment for acne during pregnancy.

Acne during pregnancy
Pregnancy acne 

Understanding acne

Before we proceed, I want us to have an understanding of what acne is. Well, acne refers to a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that leads to blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, nodules, and pimples.

Acne occurs when the sebum (a natural skin oil), dead skin cells and hair form a plug in the follicles. When this plug get infected by bacteria, the follicles will then swell leading forming a pimple.

Acne commonly appears on the face, back, shoulder, breast among other body areas that hair follicles. They are usually mild but can also be severe in some occasions. Risk factors for this condition include the following:

  • Genetic
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Hot and humid climate
  • Application of oil-based makeup
  • Popping or squeezing of the pimples
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Certain medications containing androgen and lithium

This factors can aggravate the already existing pregnancy acne or even trigger new ones.

Enough about acne let us get on our topic. Why is acne common during pregnancy, or what is the connection between pregnancy and acne?

Why is it common during pregnancy

Many medical studies have come up with a conclusion that acne is a prevalent disorder during pregnancy.  As WebMD notes, “acne is common during pregnancy. In fact, more than one out of every two pregnant women can expect to develop acne” []. Now, why is this so?

Besides all the risk factors for developing acne that already highlighted above, the primary cause of acne during pregnancy is the rise in the level of hormone androgen or others hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, something that occurs during the first trimester.

When the level of this hormone increases, the production of sebum will also surge and thus increase the chances of the blockage of the hair follicle pores.

Although acne is widespread during pregnancy, it is not a guarantee that every pregnant woman will get it. However, almost 50 percent usually do.

Another significant point worth mentioning is that acne can occur anytime during pregnancy, it can come and go or persist during the entire period of pregnancy.

Let us look at some signs and symptoms acne while pregnancy before we look at safe treatments skin condition.

Signs and symptoms

Acne occurring during pregnancy has many symptoms. Therefore, we are going to touch on the most common symptoms.

Symptoms of acne while pregnant include unsightly skin bumps or pimples on face, back, shoulder or breast. Sometimes you will find the victims avoiding public places because they get embarrassed about the appearance of such bumps. Other common symptoms include:

  • Itching, burning sensation or swelling on the affected area.
  • Extreme pain especially if the acne is squeezed, rubbed, picked or popped
  • Pus-filled blisters
  • Reddening, tendering or swelling of the affected skin
  • Sores on the affected skin
  • In severe cases, expectant women may experience bleeding if they agitate the affected surface.
  • Oil face or oily skin
  • Spread of the infected bumps to other areas

These are just but a few of the symptoms. Now we should tackle insight treating pregnancy acne that will be safe to your unborn baby.

Safe treatment

First, we must acknowledge that controlling acne during pregnancy is not a straightforward affair. You must avoid all options that have serious side effects or congenital disabilities. This is why treating pregnancy acne is even trickier.

Therefore, avoid prescription or over the counter acne treatments to some levels.  Consult your doctor before you try any OTC acne treatments. What we recommend are the drug-free home remedies.

Some acne treatments during pregnancy may be risky and lead birth side effects. They can also aggravate the already existing acne or trigger new ones. Here are some of the acne treatments we consider unsafe during pregnancy.

Unsafe treatments

These are the acne treatments that can lead to congenital disabilities.

  • Hormone therapy
  • Topical Retinoids
  • Oral tetracyclines
  • Isotretinoin

Besides the above unsafe pregnancy acne treatments, some medical experts also don’t allow the use of topical acne treatments containing salicylic acid though, detailed study about topical therapies and pregnancy acne is not clear yet.

Drug-free treatments

Usually, pregnancy acne will resolve on their own when the levels of androgen hormone get back to the optimum level. So after childbirth, the condition will be gone. The best solution for acne while pregnant is proper skin care. Here are the useful treatments suitable for acne during pregnancy that do not involve any drug.

  • You should avoid of excessive skin washing or avoid hot baths; these can stimulate oil glands to produce excessive oil
  • Avoid the spread of bacteria by touching affected areas. On the same note, you should make sure to change your pillowcases frequently and make sure your clothes washed thoroughly. Also, avoid holding mobile phones against your ear
  • During baths, avoid harsh detergents and soaps but instead use a gentle, oil-free, alcohol-free and non-abrasive cleanser.
  • Make sure you wash your body after sweating but don’t overdo it.
  • After bathing, rinse your skin using lukewarm water and after that make sure you apply moisturizers. After bathing, you may use a good face wash for pregnancy acne such as aloe vera.
  • Don’t pop, pick, rub or squeeze the acne bumps; this may result in the formation of ugly acne scars.
  • Keep your skin well hydrated by drinking sufficient amount water daily
  • Adopt good diet plans by having fruits and vegetables among other nutrients such as proteins and minerals
  • Keep your hair clean and use lemon juice in case you have oily skin on the scalp. Again, you must only use makeups labeled ‘non-comedogenic’ since they will not aggravate acne.
  • You should shampoo regularly and with good brands of shampoos.

Some of the symptoms of pregnancy acne such as itching, inflammation or burning sensation may be relieved by home pregnancy acne products such as aloe vera, coconut oil, honey, oatmeal, cucumber, lavender oils, olive oils, egg yolks, and so on.

Mild over the counter treatments such as erythromycin or azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid may also form pregnancy safe face wash for acne. However, consult your doctor before the using them.  


Acne while pregnant is a common problem that has mild, moderate or severe symptoms. It is majorly due to rise in levels of some hormones which is common during pregnancy and puberty, but again certain foods, stress, and medications can trigger these acnes during pregnancies.

So, besides embracing the drug-free treatments, if the symptoms may persist, seek the help of your skin doctor treatment.

Remember if the untreated acne can cause complications such as scarring, or spread the infections leading to severe acne symptoms such as large cyst or nodules.

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