When I was pregnant with my first child I was surprised why I kept getting acne breakouts during my first trimester. I spent hours researching why I was getting acne breakouts for the first time since high school. The short answer is the increased hormone production during pregnancy greatly increases the chances of acne and blackheads. The spike in hormone production during pregnancy typically leads to increased production in sebum oil which can clog the pores and trigger acne breakouts. These hormones are so powerful they can even cause acne breakouts during your newborn’s first few weeks of life. There are several hormone changes that can trigger acne breakouts during pregnancy, namely progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone released by the ovaries, which greatly increases sebum oil production during pregnancy. However, these hormone spikes are not unique to pregnancy. In fact, hormone fluctuations are common during your period, pregnancy, a miscarriage, or even menopause.
When I was a teenager I tried multiple soaps, creams, and medications to treat my acne breakouts which all had varying levels of success. However, I was nervous to try anything new this time because I was pregnant.
Many women (including me) are justifiably skeptical about trying any new products during pregnancy. This includes supplements, soaps, medications, and even clothes!
Acne during pregnancy is difficult. Your body is changing in a lot of ways and most women (including me) become very self-conscious about these changes. Fixing my acne during pregnancy was about more than general skin health. It was was really important for my self-esteem. Below I have outlined the 5 strategies I used to treat and prevent acne breakouts during both of my pregnancies.
When Does Pregnancy Acne Start?
Most women typically begin to experience acne breakouts during the second month of pregnancy however, acne breakouts can occur at any point during a pregnancy. Typically, if you do not experience pregnancy in the first or second trimesters you will not develop it in the third trimester. Additionally, many women experience their acne clearing up during the first trimester as women’s hormone levels return to a more normal range.
Natural Remedies For Acne During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, you need to be very careful about what you are putting in your body. This includes foods, supplements, medications, soaps, moisturizers, and perfumes. When I started having acne breakouts during my pregnancy I was extremely hesitant to try any prescription medication or supplements. Because of this, I tried a variety of natural remedies that all had varying levels of effectiveness.
Apple Cider Vinegar For Acne
Apple cider vinegar is used to treat everything from mole removal to weight loss. While some of the claims surrounding the uses of apple cider vinegar are not confirmed by doctors or real studies, the fact that so many people use it with no side effects makes it very popular with pregnant and nursing women. When I was pregnant I used an apple cider vinegar-based solution as a toner to help clean out my pores. If you decide to try using apple cider vinegar to clear up your acne make sure to mix it with distilled water. Applying pure apple cider vinegar to your skin will cause dryness and peeling. I recommend using 3 parts distilled water for every 1 part of apple cider vinegar.
Baking Soda For Acne
I read several blogs online that suggested using baking soda as a topical agent to dry the oil on your skin. This made a lot of sense to me since acne breakouts during pregnancy are primarily driven by increased oil production in the skin. While this seemed to help a little I did not notice a major improvement. Additionally, my dermatologist recommended mixing the baking soda with water because using pure baking soda can dry out and irritate the skin.
Honey Masks For Acne
Raw honey is packed with multiple anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. For hundreds of years, honey has been “prescribed” to help with dozens of different skin conditions. Today honey is recommended by many dermatologists as a way to help ease the effects of eczema, psoriasis, acne, and seborrheic dermatitis. Honey was the first “natural” acne treatment my doctor recommended when I asked about natural acne treatments. Ultimately I did not end up using honey masks consistently because it is recommended to keep the honey on your face for 30-40 minutes before washing it off. However, many doctors agree that using raw honey face masks and following a low inflammation diet is one of the best ways possible to naturally clear your skin and heal acne scarring.
Oatmeal & Cucumber Masks For Acne
Oatmeal & cucumber face masks are an extremely cost-effective and natural way to hydrate the skin and clear breakouts. Although most people do not think of cucumbers and oatmeal going together, their properties actually mix perfectly to hydrate your skin, lower inflammation, and loosen blackheads.
Oatmeal contains an antioxidant called avenanthramide, which is a great anti-inflammatory for the skin. Blended oats are also great for mixing and sticking to the skin Additionally, oatmeal masks and scrubs are great for poison ivy, chickenpox, and eczema.
Cucumber is well known for its cooling properties along with oatmeal. Additionally, cucumber contains lots of silica, which helps moisturize the skin and clear wrinkles.
If you want this face mask can be made for less than $5 at home. After mixing the oats and cucumber together you should put them in the freezer for 15 minutes to help with the consistency. If you are not in the mood to make the face mask your self you can always buy a premixed tub. Cucumber and oatmeal face masks have become so popular that you can buy a premade mixture that that is easy to apply.
Citrus fruits such as lemon and lime have high levels of vitamin C, which helps clear out free radicals and naturally improve collagen production. Lemons in particular have high levels of citric acid which dry up the oils on the skin. Unfortunately, many people experience dryness and cracked skin when they apply pure lemon juice directly to their skin. I have always suffered from dry skin (especially in the winter) so I did not personally use lemon juice on my skin to clear up acne. However, there is a general consensus in the dermatology community that lemon juice is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial which are both great for calming and cleaning acne breakouts.
For those unfamiliar rose hip is the fruit of a rose plant. It contains high levels of vitamin C and linoleic acid and is generally agreed upon to moisturize and hydrate the skin. However, linoleic acid is high in omega 6 fatty acids which are known to increase the production of sebum oil. If you are suffering from acne breakouts due to dry skin rose hip is a great natural solution. However, the vast majority of pregnant women dealing with acne breakouts are producing too much sebum oil. For this reason, I do not recommend that pregnant women use rose hip as a treatment for pregnancy acne.
Aloe Vera For Acne
Aloe vera is one of the safest and most versatile medicines on the entire planet. Aloe vera has been used for centuries to treat burns, rashes, cuts, and infections. Aloe vera soothes the skin, reduces inflammation, and is anti-bacterial which makes it a perfect natural remedy to use for treating acne. I frequently used aloe vera to treat my acne breakouts during both of my pregnancies and it always reduced redness and inflammation. Additionally, aloe vera does not need to be washed off, it can absorb straight into your skin. Because of its low cost, safety, and multiple healing properties, aloe vera is my top choice for mothers who are scared to use medications, supplements, or chemical applicants to treat acne.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a great natural acne treatment alternative that I have had a lot of success with. Tea trees are native to Australia and have been used for hundreds of years as medicine. My preferred method is to mix tea tree oil with olive oil and apply it straight to my blemishes. Based on my own personal testing this treatment seems to work better
Turmeric has been used as a medicine, supplement, and cooking product for hundreds of years. Tumeric’s healing properties come from the antioxidant, curcumin, which is anti-bacterial, decreases inflammation, and improves collagen production. Many people use Turmeric both as a supplement to ingest and as a topical treatment. During my pregnancy, I found that Turmeric upset my stomach, so I used a Turmeric face mask infused with Vitamin C to help remove dead skin and accelerate the healing process for blemishes.
How To Pick a Facial Cleanser For Pregnancy Acne
Facial soaps, cleansers, and moisturizers are very important variables to consider when trying to clear up acne breakouts. Some soaps and moisturizers can actually trigger acne breakouts. Many exfoliating scrubs actually scratch your pores making them wider and increasing the chances that they get clogged with oils, mascara, or dirt. I frequently used exfoliating facial scrubs because I thought it would help scrub the dirt out of my pores. However, after speaking with my dermatologist I realized these scrubs actually did more harm than good. During my pregnancies, I used a gentle facial cleanser from Cerave, which helped keep my skin healthy and moisturized while still removing sebum oil buildup. I chose Cerave because the soap was non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, and recommended by my dermatologist for my sensitive skin. If you are looking for a more aggressive approach picking a soap with salicylic acid will give your pores a deeper clean. However, because salicylic acid is an active ingredient I highly suggest speaking with your primary care physician before using this soap.
How To Pick Prenatal Vitamins
Many women are unaware that many prenatal vitamins can trigger acne breakouts. In fact, lots of women actually begin dealing with acne breakouts when they start taking prenatal vitamins. Like almost every type of supplement, there are good prenatal vitamins and bad prenatal vitamins. Just because you start having acne breakouts does not mean your prenatal vitamins are bad. Every pregnancy is different and increasing vitamin levels can trigger acne and pimples in some people. For example, vitamin B12 is crucial for healthy fetus development. However, taking too much B12 can cause acne in some people. The best thing you can do is talk to your doctor in order to find a supplement that gives you and your child the essential nutrients you need while minimizing potential side effects.
Topical Acne Applications
Although many women want to be as “natural” as possible during pregnancy there are very same antiseptics and topical creams that are safe to use during pregnancy. I frequently used benzoyl to clean acne breakouts. It is cheap and can be bought without a prescription. Although benzoyl peroxide can sting sensitive skin it prevents infections and sterilizes the wounds. After discussing benzoyl peroxide with my primary physician I felt comfortable using it to treat breakouts during my pregnancy. In the past, I had used chemical applicants that contained both alcohol and salicylic acid. While these work fine for some people I was hesitant to use it during my pregnancy and found that the benzoyl peroxide checked all the boxes I needed.
Acne Medications During Pregnancy
Always talk to your doctor before you begin taking any type of medication or supplements during your pregnancy. Many acne medications “work” by altering your hormone levels of estrogen, which can cause serious birth defects for your child if you are pregnant. Because of this many acne medications requires women to use some form of birth control or IUD before prescribing a prescription for acne. Some of these medications include Accutane, Tazarotene, Differin, and Flutamide. I listed a few popular acne medications but keep in mind that there are dozens of other acne medications that can cause serious birth defects if used during pregnancy. Always make sure to talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or may become pregnant in the near future.
Other Recommendations For Dealing With Acne During Pregnancy
Change Your Pillowcase Frequently
Although most people are looking for a way to “do something” to clear up their acne breakouts most of the time the most effective thing you can do is remove a variable from your environment. Most people spend ~33% of their time sleeping. When you sleep on your pillow oil, dirt, mascara, and anything else on your face is absorbed into your pillowcase. Every time you lie down on your pillow your face is rubbing against the oil and dirt your pillowcase absorbed. Although it sounds crazy pillowcases are frequently the root cause of acne breakouts. I used normal cotton pillowcases my entire life and maybe washed them twice a month. During my first pregnancy, I switched to silk pillowcases and washed them once a week. This made a huge difference in my overall skin health within a few weeks.
Use Earbuds Instead of Putting the Phone to Your Face
Just like your pillowcase your phone screen picks up dirt and oil every time you touch it to your face. Additionally, you touch your phone at the gym, in the bathroom, and in all sorts of other fun places. I started wearing earbuds whenever I made a phone call in order to reduce the chances of irritants coming into contact with my skin. Even if you are not pregnant this is a really easy way to reduce the oil build-up on the side of your face.
Eat a Low Sugar Diet
Anytime you eat simple carbohydrates like cookies, chips, bread, or pizza your body produces insulin to help convert the food to energy. Thousands of years ago, when food was scarce, this was an extremely helpful mechanism that helped humans survive with scarce food resources. However, today more people in first-world countries suffer from overindulgence than starvation. Today most people produce too much insulin because they have food readily available 24/7. Non-stop snacking on foods causes the body to produce more insulin than it needs which triggers inflammation in many forms. High carb and sugar intake lead to acne breakouts, arthritis, and dozens of other health issues. Although carbs are an essential nutrient, I suggest keeping a food log for two weeks so you can objectively analyze your diet. If you are struggling with acne during your pregnancy cutting out sweets and fried foods can make a huge difference in your complexion.
Eat a Dairy-Free Diet
Many people are surprised when I tell them they should cut out dairy if they want clearer skin. Most people think of milk as a “healthy” drink that makes sure they get enough calcium and keeps their bones strong. However, traditional dairy milk triggers acne in lots of people because it causes insulin spikes. Because pregnant women frequently get acne breakouts due to hormone changes, dairy milk is actually one of the worst things they can consume on a daily basis. Fortunately, there are lots of great non-dairy milk alternatives you can still drink every morning without having to worry about triggering your acne.
Stop Wearing Makeup
Using makeup to cover acne breakouts is typically a losing battle. I can’t tell you how many times I would wake up with acne, put on makeup, and then wake up with even more acne the next day. Makeup is a reality for most women, especially in the workplace. However, if you are trying to get your pregnancy ance under control cutting makeup use could help calm the inflammation in your skin significantly. At a minimum, you should make sure to use makeup products that are free from alcohol, oils, and dyes. Those ingredients are all comedogenic and are likely causing clogged pores. Additionally, make sure to completely wash off your makeup before you go to bed each night.
Acne is never fun to deal with, especially when you are pregnant. With your body constantly changing you should be able to control your skin from constant breakouts. Everyone’s pregnancy journey is different so unfortunately there is no “magic bullet” that will immediately cure your acne. I hope you’ve found the guide I created based on my own personal experience with pregnancy acne. Many of these suggestions are not acne specific and led to an increase in energy and vitality when I implemented them as part of my daily routine.