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Pregnancy Acne: Causes and Remedies

Many women find that the hormonal changes during pregnancy lead to more frequent or even painful breakouts of acne. For women who have enjoyed clear skin before becoming pregnant, this can be a hard adjustment. Fortunately, some basic lifestyle changes and remedies can help to alleviate pregnancy acne at least in part. 

Why does acne get worse during pregnancy?

Hormone changes are drastic during pregnancy. High levels of androgens are the guilty party—they enlarge your pores and stimulate increased secretion of sebum. The sebum traps skin cells and bacteria in your larger pores, so infection is more likely. Generally, hormone levels are the most active during the first half of pregnancy, so it's more common to have bad acne when pregnancy begins, but the acne could last the whole time and even extend into postpartum recovery as your hormone levels return to normal.

What can be done to prevent pregnancy acne?

If you are naturally prone to acne during pregnancy, there is nothing that can be done to actually prevent the condition. However, there are some things you can do to make acne less severe when it appears. For example, washing your face gently with just your hands will help to prevent irritation of the skin, which can happen when you use a loofa or washcloth. Irritation generally makes acne problems worse. You can also do the following things. 

Avoid using oily makeup or moisturizers. Some women who have naturally dry skin outside of pregnancy may be used to using a more oily moisturizer to compensate. However, a non-greasy moisturizer is better for pregnancy. 

Avoid the temptation to pop pimples or pick at scabs. Popping them increases the chances of scars developing.

Use only mild soaps, if you use soap at all. Gentle cleansers are less likely to aggravate the skin.

Eat a healthful diet. Greasy foods, high amounts of sugar, processed foods, and other chemical additives are inflammatory in nature. In general, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats will mean better skin (and a better pregnancy). Fish, vegetables, and probiotics can also be helpful. Before choosing a probiotic, talk with your doctor to make you choose one that is safe for pregnancy.

What are some remedies for pregnancy acne?

Unfortunately, typical treatments for acne are often unavailable for pregnant women. Medicated creams and lotions have not been properly studied to really know how they affect the health of your growing baby, so you'll have to talk to your doctor before buying and using more aggressive acne-treatment regimens. Some medications that are used to treat stubborn acne, like tetracycline, are also not suitable for pregnancy, as they can affect bone and tooth development in the fetus.

However, you can use some ingredients from home to combat acne. For example, you might try the following.

Baking soda. Baking soda mixed into paste with a little water can help dry out the oils on your face. You can apply the paste to pimples and let the paste dry before washing it off with a little water. 

Citrus. Use lemon juice on a cotton ball to wash over trouble spots. The acidity of the lemons acts to help remove dead skin cells, reducing the chances of your pores becoming infected. 

Honey. Honey is a natural antibiotic. Mix raw honey with a little warm water and dab it on trouble spots. Leave the honey wash on for about half and hour before cleaning it off with gentle soap and water. 

If your acne continues to be severe and painful, you'll need to visit with a dermatologist for a more specialized care plan. Just remember, your pregnancy acne will not last forever—you can look forward to clear skin after your baby is born. 

Talk to a professional, such as one at Northwest Dermatology, for more ideas.