Pregnancy and Acne

Pregnancy and Acne

Why am I suddenly breaking out now that I’m pregnant?

Hormones play a role in virtually every case of acne. In particular, sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen affect your sebaceous glands, which regulate your skin’s oil production. And as we have learned, more oil means more acne. So it’s no surprise that when someone becomes pregnant, their hormone levels change drastically, which directly affects their complexion.

Pregnancy and acne medications:

If you become pregnant, we recommend immediately discontinuing any acne regiment that you are currently on and discussing your treatment options with your dermatologist, family doctor, or OBGYN. Why is that? What is safe prior to conception may not be safe during pregnancy. Regrettably, there have been few published studies in which women took acne medication throughout pregnancy, so most physicians tend to lean toward the cautious side.

Medications that are UNSAFE during pregnancy:

Almost all prescription acne medications are deemed unsafe for pregnant women. While many are applied topically, some of the medication is absorbed into your bloodstream and and travels to the baby inside of you. These medications include:

Oral retinoids: Isotretinoin (AKA Accutane) is extremely dangerous for pregnant women. It causes severe birth defects and should not be taken by anyone that is not actively avoiding pregnancy. If you are on isotretinoin and become pregnant, inform your physician immediately.

Topical retinoids: These include retinol creams like Retin-A, Differin, Epiduo, and others. These medications can cause birth defects and should not be used during pregnancy.

Oral and topical antibiotics: Most antibiotics, including the tetracycline group, can cause birth defects and deformities in the fetus. However, erythromycin appears to be safe and is approved for pregnant woman, but only on a “needed” basis.

Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO): While BPO is a topical antimicrobial. Small traces of the medication are absorbed into the bloodstream and potentially into the fetus. There has been no research on BPO’s safety during pregnancy, but also no reported problems. Still, many dermatologists and Ob-Gyn’s shy away from using BPO because of the lack of research.

Salicylic acid: Physicians usually advise pregnant women to stay away salycilic acid, the most common over-the-counter treatment. There is a lack a definitive evidence, but many believe that salicylic acid, when absorbed into your bloodstream, can increase the likelihood of birth defects.

Herbal remedies: These are not government regulated or research-proven for pregnant women. We recommend avoiding these.

Safe medications during pregnancy:

If you’re looking for a way to get rid of your pregnancy-caused breakouts, a discussion with the doctor overseeing the pregnancy and/or a dermatologist is absolutely necessary. The medications deemed safe to the fetus, can only be obtained with a prescription and they include:

  • Erythromycin (Erygel)
  • Azelaic acid (Azelex, Finacea)

There are also some habit changes that may yield clearer skin:

  • Use a mild cleanser and lukewarm water to wash your face twice-a-day
  • Keep your hands away from your face and avoid picking at your acne
  • Decrease your intake of high glycemic foods and beverages
  • For all cosmetics and moisturizers, make sure they say “noncomedogenic” or “doesn’t clog pores”

Acne is a very common occurrence during pregnancy. If your acne is hurting your self-esteem or relationship, remember that it is only temporary. If you’re seeking a treatment to get rid of your pimples, make sure you consult with a doctor first. Your baby will thank you later.


Rothman, K., and P. Pochi. “Use of Oral and Topical Agents for Acne in Pregnancy†.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 19.3 (1988): 431-42. Web. <>

Gollnick, H. “Management of Acne.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 49.1 (2003): S1-S2. Web. <>.

Gibson, Lawrence E., MD. “Pregnancy Acne: What’s the Best Treatment?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 03 Sept. 2010. Web. <>.


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