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Skin Tips for Pregnant Women with Hormonal Acne

As someone who is currently pregnant, I can tell you it is a life changing time. It is pretty incredible to bring a new life into the world. But let’s be real; it isn’t easy physically or emotionally. One’s body and skin goes through a lot in 9 months. For some women this means a surge of acne. We all want that “pregnancy glow” we are told about. For some, that does not feel like a reality. So what can be done? Thankfully there are some great options for women and pregnancy.

Why Does Acne Occur During Pregnancy?

Hormones! Pesky little troublemakers! Female hormones (progesterone and estrogen) and male hormones (testosterone and other androgens) all tend to rise during pregnancy. Increasing levels of progesterone and estrogen help to stabilize the uterus, direct nutrients to the placenta and facilitate growth of the fetus. While it is less understood how androgens facilitate pregnancy, we do know around 6 weeks of pregnancy, a production of androgens begins to surge. This surge of androgens can cause excess sebum production. This can be problematic for some women.

What is sebum you might be wondering? Sebum is a natural oil that is secreted by your skin’s sebaceous glands. This excess sebum can clog pores leading to acne symptoms. Studies show, unfortunately if you were acne prone in your adolescent and adult years before pregnancy, you are at a higher risk to have acne during pregnancy.

So What are Safe Options?

While the choices for treatment are more limited than when not pregnant, there are still some really great options. Acne can be treated with both prescription medications as well as cosmetic procedures. Alpha hydroxy acids (or AHAs) can actually do some pretty great things for your skin. Let’s take a look at one particular AHA.

Glycolic acid is an AHA that penetrates the most easily into the skin because of its molecular size. Glycolic acid can improve skin issues like blackheads and enlarged pores. It is an excellent peeling and exfoliating agent, which can brighten and improve texture of your skin. You can find glycolic acid in other things besides just peels. Our Glytone creamy and gel wash are glycolic washes that can be perfect for acne prone skin (available in our office). So, if you find yourself dealing with dull skin, acne, and/or hyperpigmentation during pregnancy, glycolic acid could work for you.

Other Options:

Sometimes topical prescriptions will be recommended by your dermatologist. Two commonly used topical are Azealic Acid, or Clindamycin.

  1. Azealic acid has both anti microbial and anti inflammatory properties. It works by clearing your pores of acne causing bacteria. It also helps to reduce inflammation so acne becomes less red and irritated.

  2. Clindamycin also has anti microbial and anti inflammatory properties. Clindamycin works to suppress inflammation in the skin, thus reducing the amount of accumulation of material in skin pores leading to inflamed acne lesions.


CO2 slushes can be a fantastic addition to a skin regimen during pregnancy. These are performed in our office by our aesthetician. The CO2 slush procedure is performed by applying a gauze pad with a dry ice mixture over the skin which exfoliates and reduces the redness and inflammation of acne.

Acne facials are a medical facial for acne prone skin. Your skin will be thoroughly cleansed and prepped and steamed, in order to open up the pores. Blackheads and whiteheads will be extracted and when these areas heal up in a few days, the skin will be smooth and free of these blemishes.

Even when pregnant, UV protection should be applied daily. We recommended an SPF 30 or higher to be applied every single day. This not only is protecting your skin from unwanted UV damage, but also can be helpful to prevent hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin during pregnancy).

What to Avoid:

As a general rule of thumb, product descriptions that say “anti-aging,” “skin lightening,” “wrinkle creams,” are not safe during pregnancy. Some over the counter acne medications also should not be used. A lot of these products contain retinoids, hydroquinone, or salicylic acid, all of which should be avoided during pregnancy.

  1. Retinoids are a common anti aging cream used to prevent fine line and wrinkles and prevent collagen from breaking down. When looking at a label you want to avoid names like adapalene, tretinoin, retinoic acid, retinol, retibyl linoleate, retinyl palmitate, tazarotene.

  2. Isotretinoin is another commonly used medication to treat people with severe cases of acne. It should NEVER be used during pregnancy and has been shown to cause birth effects.

  3. Salicylic acid is an extremely common in acne skincare products. It works well for whiteheads and blackheads. However, salicylic acid shouldn’t be used during pregnancy.

Please consult with your OBGYN or dermatologist before starting any new products if pregnant. Our providers at Northeast Dermatology are ready to answer any questions you might have and help get your skin glowing.



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