Pregnancy is full of wonderful surprises, but acne is not one of them. The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy are normal and healthy, but can also cause an increase in sebum (oil) leading to acne on the face and other body parts. Bacteria on the skin, called Propionibacterium acnes (P.acnes) feeds on sebum and contributes to acne’s inflammatory lesions.
Pregnant women with acne can experience pain, scarring, infections and a decrease in self-esteem. Many acne treatments are NOT SAFE during pregnancy. These treatments include:
Isoretinoin (aka Accutane), which is a vitamin A derivative. Accutane and high doses of vitamin A can cause birth defects, and must be avoided in pregnancy or while trying to conceive. Also avoid using topical tretinoin-like Retin-A creams or gels due to transdermal absorption, which is the absorption of chemicals through the skin.
Some antibiotics like tetracycline are NOT SAFE during pregnancy. Tetracycline can affect the formation of teeth and bones in a developing fetus.
So what should you do if you have acne and are pregnant?
- One of the biggest mistakes I see with regards to acne is over cleansing the skin. Using harsh chemicals can dry the skin and actual trigger the body to produce more oil. Using a mild, pH balanced cleanser and argan oil as a moisturizer can be beneficial. Organic argan oil can help regulate the production of sebum and has vitamin E to help fade acne scars. Make sure to buy a certified organic product to avoid absorbing pesticides or other harmful chemicals through the skin.
- Avoid over-exfoliating. When our skin is inflamed, exfoliating with harsh scrubs can worsen acne. This includes DIY scrubs made out of sugars or crushed nut shells.
- Reducing the consumption of white sugar and milk. White or simple sugars are pro-inflammatory, rapidly raise blood sugar levels and can worsen acne. Research has also shown that milk, especially skim milk, can contribute to acne.
- Stress can elevate cortisol (our stress hormone), which stimulates the production of sebum. Meditation or prenatal yoga can help decrease cortisol, and potentially reduce acne flare-ups.
- It’s sometimes tempting to pick those red painful spots. However, it’s important to avoid picking at acne lesions in order to reduce scarring and infections.
- Make sure you’re getting enough water to stay hydrated as well as flush unwanted toxins out.
- Make sure to wash any makeup off at night and change your pillowcase every three days. Oil and dirt from our skin, hair and the environment gets trapped onto our pillowcases and can be transferred to our face while we sleep. This can clog pores and contribute to acne. Also, make sure to clean your makeup brushes weekly.
Simple changes may not be enough for some individuals since hormones are the root cause of acne during pregnancy. If acne is still affecting your quality of life, consult a doctor (naturopathic physician, family physician, or dermatologist).
Please note that this information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice nor does it replace the advice of your medical doctor or other healthcare practitioner. Never delay seeking medical assistance.