Pregnancy can impact your body in numerous ways. Some of those effects are more difficult to deal with, such as hormonal changes and shifts. It’s those pesky hormones that are also behind the skin troubles you might be seeing in the mirror.
An increase in oil (sebum) production during pregnancy can lead to breakouts and acne, ranging from mild to severe. It’s frustrating whether you’re dealing with skin issues for the first time or you treated acne before. Complicating matters is the fact that many acne meds are off-limits while you’re pregnant. Even so, there are things you can do to combat your acne. Let’s look at four of them.
1. Try Safe Topical Treatments
If you’ve kicked acne to the curb before, you may already be familiar with a few topical treatments. Some topicals are available over the counter, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, while others require a prescription. Topical means you apply the acne treatment to your skin instead of taking a pill.
Topical antibiotics like clindamycin are safe to use when you’re expecting, but they do require a prescription. You can get one through a local medical professional or seek treatment online. Benzoyl peroxide is widely available OTC, although you may want to start with a milder 2.5% or 5% concentration. Both antibiotic solutions and benzoyl peroxide reduce skin bacteria that lead to acne. Benzoyl peroxide also dries out the skin and works to get rid of dead skin cells.
Another acne-fighting topical is azelaic acid, which comes from wheat, barley, and rye. Available OTC or through a prescription, azelaic acid reduces inflammation. The treatment can also help prevent hyperpigmentation, or the marks that acne leaves behind. Lower concentrations are available OTC, while concentrations of 15% and above require a pharmacy visit.
2. Use Gentle Cleansers
A bar of soap or a gentle, nonmedicated cleanser and warm water will help wash away excess skin oils. If you’re going to use bar soap, stay away from the antibacterial variety. Because the antibacterial ingredients aren’t selective, they can wipe out good bacteria in your body. Plus, there’s a lack of evidence on whether those ingredients are safe for pregnant individuals.
During pregnancy, you should also avoid any exfoliating face and body scrubs. These can irritate your skin and acne. While these cleansers are great at getting rid of dead skin cells, they can increase inflammation. That means those mild breakouts might stand out more and become sore to the touch. Gentle cleaners remove the oil and debris without all that irritation.
Cystic and more severe forms of acne also do better with gentle cleaners. Stick to washing your face twice a day — once in the morning and at night. You can also sneak in a third face or body wash after a good workout. Removing sweat from your skin is a good way to stop acne in its tracks.
3. Keep Bedding and Clothes Clean
Bedsheets, pillowcases, hats, clothes, and anything that touches your skin may cause acne. Sweat and oil can build up and transfer to your face and back. Two to three weeks later, you’ve got a patch of new breakouts to treat.
Changing out of sweaty and dirty clothes after exercise or lawn work helps. So does washing your pillowcases and bedding at least once a week. If your skin was acne-prone before pregnancy, you might want to step up your pillowcase washing to twice a week.
It sounds gross, but oils and bacteria from your hair and skin get on those sheets every time you sleep. Pillowcases are almost guaranteed to come in contact with your face, an area where oil glands are more active. The last thing you need is more sebum!
During pregnancy, you might also want to avoid wearing tight-fitting hats. As you perspire, sweat becomes trapped by the hat’s materials. You might notice more breakouts across your forehead, along your hairline, and on your scalp. If you do wear a hat to protect yourself from the elements, make sure it’s clean and fits comfortably.
4. Limit Certain Cosmetics and Styling Products
No, you don’t have to avoid wearing makeup or using all hairstyling products. But you should limit your use of cosmetics and products that are oil-based. It’s also a good idea to put makeup, sunscreens, and styling products with irritating ingredients on pause.
Instead, use water-based and hypoallergenic cosmetics. Many foundations, concealers, and other skin products carry the noncomedogenic label. This means they won’t cause acne if you use them properly. Always apply noncomedogenic makeup and sunscreens to clean skin and wash them off at the end of the day. It’s also helpful to wash cosmetics and sunscreens off after working up a sweat outdoors or in the gym.
If you use hair styling products like serums or curl defining creams, try to keep them off your forehead and the skin near your hairline. Should you get some on those areas by accident, wipe the product off with a gentle cleanser and washcloth.
Treating Acne When You’re Expecting
Dealing with breakouts during pregnancy takes an ounce of careful prevention so you can avoid the pound of cure. After all, you can’t rely on many conventional treatments and medications, such as oral antibiotics and retinols.
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Tweaking your skincare products and keeping things clean will prevent inflammation and additional contact with oils and bacteria. And you can still use effective topical solutions like benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin.
Safely beating acne at its game is possible when you’re expecting. Before starting any treatments, however, it’s always best to seek advice from medical professionals.