Pregnancy is a time when hormones are raging. Your levels of progesterone and estrogen keep rising and this brings about major upheavals in the skin of pregnant women. Some women are lucky enough to have glowing skin during pregnancy. In others, who have always had clear skin, pregnancy could be the first time they get an attack of acne.
Causes of Pregnancy Acne
Acne lesions during pregnancy are in response to the tremendous hormonal upheaval that pregnant women undergo. If you can wait it out, most pregnancy acne cases heal in due course.
Pregnancy acne occurs as pustules, papules or nodules. The incidences are highest during the 1st trimester. This is when there is more production of the male hormone progesterone than estrogen. This increases secretion of sebum by the sebaceous glands, leading to more acne. Serious breakouts can occur during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters too. Unfortunately, pregnancy acne does not stop when you deliver your baby. Excessive hormonal production takes place even during breastfeeding.
Treatment of Pregnancy Acne
Pregnant women are always advised not to take too many drugs during pregnancy and this is true for treating acne too. Most women realize that their unborn fetus is their prime concern and are willing to tolerate some degree of discomfort as acne outbreaks. Your doctor will recommend safe acne treatment during pregnancy and warn you about treatments that could harm you and your baby.
Safe medications for Pregnancy Acne
Benzoyl Peroxide is considered safe for spot treatment of pregnancy acne. It is an OTC medication and after years of use, there have been no known problems for pregnant women. This is because only small amounts are absorbed by the skin and this does not harm the fetus. Even so, consult your doctor before trying this medication. A combination of benzoyl peroxide and erythromycin called Benzamycin Gel is considered a safer alternative.
Sulfur combinations: Sulfacetamide or other sulfur combinations are also recommended for pregnancy acne.
Unsafe medications for Pregnancy Acne
Accutane: Also called oral isotretinoin, this is a prescription drug that is used to treat very severe cases of acne. It is usually used only when all other treatments have failed and mostly to treat nodular acne. Accutane has a very serious side effect and it is not recommended for pregnant women. It causes birth defects in the unborn fetus. It could also lead to miscarriages or still born babies. Hence, do not take Accutane for pregnancy acne.
The dangers of isotretinoin are so great that even when women of child-bearing age have severe forms of acne, certain precautions are followed before prescribing this medication. They need to be on two types of birth control for one month before they take Accutane to ensure they will not get pregnant. They also need to continue the same birth control regime for a month after stopping acne treatment using isotretinoin.
Oral Tetracycline includes the entire family of antibiotics like tetracycline, minocycline and doxycycline – all which are unsafe during pregnancy as they can cause birth defects such as inhibited bone growth and discolored teeth.
Hormone therapy such as taking female hormones to offset the excess production of male hormones is unsafe for pregnancy acne. Female hormones unsafe during pregnancy are anti-androgens – spironolactone and fluatmide – and estrogen.
Topical Retinoids also need to be avoided for they have a similar effect to isotretinoin. Topical retinoids are tazarotene, adapalene and tretinoin. All these products carry a warning that they can be harmful to a developing fetus. So, read labels carefully before purchasing any product.
Climdamycin could affect a nursing baby and hence although there is no valid proof, it is not recommended for pregnancy acne.
Aczone gel contains dapsone that gets absorbed by breast milk and is not recommended.
Aromatherapy for Pregnancy Acne
Jojoba oil is safe for pregnant women to use. It can treat both acne and acne scars and safe for both mother and child. Since it can soothe, protect, moisturize, and restore the skin’s pH balance, it is an excellent natural remedy for pregnancy acne. Jojoba oil is available as creams or lotions. Mild acne scars and stress can be treated by a combination of jojoba oil and other essential oils like geranium, tea tree, rose and lavender.
Home Remedies for Pregnancy Acne
A simple precaution like drinking plenty of fluids – especially water can ward off pregnancy acne. A minimum of 8 glasses of water can balance hormone levels and hydrate the skin.
Mild oil-free cleansers can be used on areas where there is acne. Make sure these are made from natural ingredients and free from salicylic acid and other chemicals. Sloughing of dead skin cells at least twice a week with a good facial scrub can unclog pores. Facial masks can be made using ingredients found at home such as oatmeal, baking soda and water. These masks are inexpensive, safe and natural treatment for pregnancy acne.
A cucumber mask is a safe and effective way to control acne. Blend cucumber and water in a blender until a smooth paste is formed. Pat on affected areas and leave for 30 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water. It refreshes the skin, does not damage it and is safe for pregnant women.
While it is not possible to complete stop an attack of acne during pregnancy, there are certain steps you can take to minimize the attacks. Reduce stress that triggers acne outbreaks. Use gentle stretching exercises, deep breathing exercises and occupy yourself with useful activities if you do not work. This can balance your mood and relieve stress.
Make sure that any makeup or sunscreens you use are non-comedogenic so that pores do not get blocked. Eat plenty of vitamin A-rich foods such as fish, milk, carrots and eggs. These keep the skin glowing and healthy during pregnancy. Do not take vitamin A supplements when pregnant.
One very important note – During pregnancy, never try any kind of treatment without consulting your doctor.