What Causes Acne During Pregnancy?

Most future mothers confront with acne during pregnancy. What are the causes for their appearance and what ways of treatment are available will be discovered in the following article.

Acne During Pregnancy

Acne during pregnancy produces confusion regarding proper treatment, because most drugs for this condition aren`t allowed while pregnant. Let`s find out more regarding what medications are forbidden in treating acne during pregnancy and how to proceed in treating it.

What Is Acne?

Acne is characterized by reddish or purulent spots which might occur on the face, at hair`s base, neck, breasts and even buttocks, and is generally caused by the infection of the follicles and sebaceous glands. Even if you didn`t face this issue since adolescence, find that while expecting a baby this may occur first of all due to the explosion of hormones (especially progesterone which determine sebaceous glands to increase the secretion of sebum), and then due to the increase amount of liquids retained in the organism (some of these liquids may contain toxins that may lead to acne). Statistically speaking, 1 out of 2 pregnant women confronts with this issue. Moreover, among the excess of sebum (oily substance on the skin), the pores can block themselves (due to the destruction of the epidermis cells which support the follicles of the hair), becoming this way more prone to bacterial infections. Acne while pregnant can be mild, moderate or very serious and, surprisingly, sometimes may be less obvious than before pregnancy.

It was noticed that a lot of pregnant women confront themselves with acne, especially during the first trimester, after which the signs diminish and, fortunately, the skin returns to normal (only if you didn`t experienced acne before pregnancy). Although it can be quite disturbing, acne isn`t dangerous in any way and, therefore it doesn`t require emergency treatment, as we can only talk about affecting facial aesthetics.

What Causes Acne during Pregnancy?

Hormonal Imbalance

The main reason for the occurrence of acne is represented by hormonal changes. They occur during the first trimester of pregnancy, more exactly around week 6. Progesterone, especially, determines the increase of natural oil secretion in the skin (known as sebum), which blocks the pores and determines an accumulation of bacteria.

Water Retention

During pregnancy, your body will start retaining water. All this contains toxins that lead to more acute acne episodes.

Predisposition to Acne

If your skin is prone to acne, there are high chances to experience it during pregnancy. Also, if you are used experience acne before menstruation, you have a high risk of experiencing it during pregnancy as well. Fortunately, if you don`t have acne in the first half of pregnancy, you`ll most likely not have it in the last part either.

Why Acne Becomes Visible?

It`s believed that sebaceous glands are activated to grow and produce sebum (oil), either by increasing the male hormone, either by the increased sensitivity of androgen receptors to sebocytes (the cells that produce oil in the hair follicles). While all women produce androgen hormones in the ovaries and adrenal glands, hormonal imbalance during pregnancy can be changed to produce more male hormones to increase the sensitivity of hormonal receptors.

Unfortunately, only producing more oil isn`t enough to cause acne, so things become more complex. Due to reasons that are still unknown, the skin around the hair follicles (also might have a hormonal bonding) doesn`t change just as well, and this causes the blockage of the hair follicles (black and white spots).

When this doesn`t happen, sebum remains at the skin`s surface and it`s eaten by the bacteria that normally lives on the skin. The result consists of an irritation or red swollen inflammation.  When this happens, there`s still an immune reaction in the inflammatory cells, leading to the formation of pus pouches.

Diagnosis of Acne while Pregnant

Although most people first turn to a dermatologist, you should know that sometimes an endocrinologist`s examination is necessary, because hormonal imbalances may also cause this condition. Generally speaking, a microbiological examination is made (to exclude folliculitis with gram-positive or gram-negative germs), then the endocrine evaluation (if the doctor suspects a hyperandrogen) and even a pelvic ultrasound (polycystic ovaries are often associated) and hormonal dosing (to show any hormonal imbalances or ovarian malformations). – More similar info!

What Drugs Are Forbidden?

Unfortunately, a lot of the oral or topical drugs that are on the market aren`t allowed during pregnancy. Among these, we include:

  • Isotretinoin (known as Accutane) which was correlated with lots of birth defects as well as risk of miscarriage.
  • Topical retinoids (Retin-A, Differin or Tazorac). Although it isn`t known their exact effects during pregnancy, they aren`t recommended during these 9 months (or during breastfeeding), because they are a vitamin A derivative (research show that high doses of vitamin A can be harmful for an unborn child. Due to this reason, experts suggest caution when using these creams.
  • Hormonal therapy, which consists of estrogen and anti-androgenic medications. Spironolactone, cirpoterone, flutamide, acetate, because it`s usually done when acne is caused by ovarian issues and consists of contraception (obviously contraindicated while pregnant).
  • Oral tetracyclines (such as doxycycline, tetracycline and minocycline), because they might interfere with the normal bone development of the fetus, as well as teeth discoloration. Actually, no other antibiotic should be used during pregnancy, if the doctor didn`t agree to it.
  • Salicylic acid appears in the composition of some products for treating acne, such as cleaning and tonic lotions that may penetrate the facial oils into the pores to eliminate dead cells. Its derived form, BHA or beta hydroxybutyric acid, used in exfoliation lotions isn`t also recommended, especially in the oral version, because it may cause complications during pregnancy and birth defects. If you opt for exfoliation, talk to a professional (or a dermatologist) because applying the exfoliation lotions with salicylic acid is similar to the administration of some Aspirin pills (which aren`t recommended while expecting a baby).

What Acne Medications Are Safe during Pregnancy?

Usually, skin treatments that contain clindamycin (Cleocin T, Clindagel) and erthyromycin (Erygel) are safe to use. It`s not really established yet if benzoyl peroxide is safe to use during pregnancy. This particular treatment should only be used if really required.

Acne drugs known to lead to various birth defects, such as topical retinoids and oral isotretinoin (Claravis, Amnesteem), should really be avoided while expecting a child.

Natural Remedies to Treat Acne

  • Olive oil: It`s true, it may seem crazy to put oil on a fat skin and full of acne. The reason for which this treatment works is that the skin itself typically secrets oil, so this ingredient is good to use. When the skin doesn`t secrete enough oil, you get a dry skin that needs fed and helped. For a better result, put a small amount of oil into the palms and massage your face. Leave the oil to act for about 15 minutes and then place a towel on the face to absorb the excess of fat.
  • Castor oil: It functions just as well as olive oil when it comes to treating acne.
  • Sodium bicarbonate: It can be used in 2 different ways. It has 2 functions: it`s used as an exfoliant to remove dead skin and open pores, and the alkaline substances in sodium bicarbonate kills bacteria that causes acne. Make some pasta from water and sodium bicarbonate, and massage your face for 1 minute. Clean your face with cold water and swab it gently with a towel.
  • Oatmeal: It`s not only good for your body, but it makes wonders for your face as well. Oatmeal is rich in vitamins and helps in reducing inflammation resulted from acne. Put half a cup of oatmeal in half a cup of water, and after the new mixture has become cold, put in on your face gently. After 2 or 3 minutes, remove the remnants with warm water.
  • Honey: It`s another ingredient that helps in treating acne. The simplest method is to make a mask of honey by massaging your skin with this product. Leave it to act for 15 to 20 minutes and then clean your face with warm water.

What Is Allowed?

Sometimes, doctors prescribe topical treatments which include azelaic acid, benzonyl peroxide or glycolic acid, because it seems that only 5% from the active substance is absorbed by the organism and they cannot lead to birth abnormalities.

Doctors outline especially to clean gently the skin areas with water and soap or non-abrasive cleaning lotion (not scrub or lotions containing alcohol) and drying by gently pressing with tampons, because the issue may worsen. However, don`t wash excessively (2 or 3 times per day maximum), because you may over-stimulate sebaceous glands. Also, the hair is best to clean it regularly, and if you have an oily texture, even on a daily basis, using a product for constant usage. – Read also this!

You should avoid hair foam or gel, especially near the base of the hair fibers. If you choose to use a moisturizing lotion or cream, check not to be a oily one. When cosmetics are concerned, you should follow the existence of or non-acnegenic or non-comedogenic labels and ensure that you get rid of all your make-up before going to bed.

Don`t try to scrub, scrape or squeeze the acne lesions, because you may cause a bacterial overpopulation, and you may get scars (you`ll only get rid of the upper layer and the glands will try to replace it). If you have blocked pores, talk to a professional.

Regarding the hygiene, you should be careful not to touch the areas where your acne is with dirty hands as you may contaminate them with bacteria, change the pillowcases and towels often and clean the smartphone every chance you get, because they all represent bacterial sources. Last but not least, get enough rest, because stress may lead to skin problems (by affecting the endocrine and nervous systems) and opt for a well balanced diet. Although in the present it wasn`t made a connection between acne and diet, if you give up refined products fats and junk foods, both your body and baby will benefit from the necessary nutrients required for a healthy life.

Image courtesy of behealthy24.com

Show Comments


  1. zovzhg May 7, 2022
  2. RalphLep June 6, 2022
  3. ChesterDyesy June 7, 2022
  4. IverDarm June 7, 2022
  5. Stromvar June 8, 2022
  6. Gsdaux June 27, 2022
  7. Esuxys November 29, 2022

Leave a Reply