Having acne during pregnancy can be a part of the hormonal roller coaster you experience during your first and second trimester. Half of pregnant women are bound to have acne while they're pregnant, sometimes until after they've delivered their babies (post-partum acne).
Some women who didn't have acne during their teens or who were in high school the last time they got zitty, may suddenly experience it anytime during their pregnancy, sometimes as early as six weeks, when they're not even aware that they’ve already conceived.
Some say that pregnancy acne is an indication that you'll be having a baby girl, but there's no scientific evidence that backs this up. Instead, acne during pregnancy is your body's way of preparing for the new life in your womb. Progesterone hormones cause your skin's sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. The overabundance of your body's natural oil can clog your pores, providing a conducive environment for acne-causing bacteria. Toxins can also build up in those pores as your body tries to retain more water and fluids for the sake of the growing fetus inside you.
Although pregnancy acne may wane and stop occurring toward the last trimester, it can intensify during the last months of pregnancy among some women. If you've had acne breakouts as a teen or before your pregnancy, you're likely to get acne when you become pregnant, according to doctors. However, there are also cases wherein women's acne conditions improve during pregnancy, most likely due to the lack of ovulation. This leads to a decline in the fluctuations of hormonal activity that contributes to acne.
How to Deal with Acne During Pregnancy
There are several practical steps to manage acne during pregnancy:
1. Cleanse your face daily using gentle solutions.
Avoid masks, facial scrubs, and astringents that may irritate your skin. Choose non-comedogenic (non-pore-clogging) and water-based products, including moisturizers, instead of creams and gels with alcohol, oil, and soap.
Mandelic acid, a mild alpha hydroxy acid made from bitter almonds, is one of the recommended gentle cleansers for pregnancy acne. This acid will not trigger any inflammation due to its large molecules that are absorbed by your skin more slowly.
It's all right to use a hot towel wrap or to steam your face, although having a sauna or hot bath on your tub is discouraged. Your heart is already working extra hard to supply oxygen to your baby, and the heat from a steam room or hot tub can be an added burden to your circulatory system. Exposing the whole body to steam might also pose risks to your baby, particularly brain and spinal cord abnormalities, also referred to as neural tube defects.
2. Alter your makeup choices.
Choose makeup products that are similar to your cleansers: water-based/non-comedogenic and oil-free.
3. Exercise and stay hydrated.
Do moderate-intensity exercises for about half an hour daily to help flush out your body's toxins through sweating. Moreover, drink plenty of water to improve both your skin and overall health.
4. Keep your skin clean.
Keep your hands off your face as much as possible, and don't squeeze or pick your pimples and skin blemishes.
Shampoo regularly if you notice the appearance of acne on your hairline area. Although sweating through mild exercises is recommended, sweat that develops and gets trapped from wearing tight hats and clothes can allow grime to get clogged in your skin's pores.
5. Watch your diet.
Consult your ob-gyn doctor or dermatologist about achieving the right balance of vitamin A, which can improve cell turnover and reduce your skin's sebum production. Meanwhile, include vitamin C-rich vegetables and fruits in your diet to help with your skin's elasticity. Minimize or avoid processed food altogether, especially products with refined sugar. High-glycemic-load diets are linked to the occurrence of acne.
6. Develop a healthy sleeping pattern.
Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep. Your skin tends to create more sebum when you don't get the amount of rest through sleeping. Dim lights, and avoid watching TV or using electronics half an hour or so before bedtime so you'll have an easier time falling asleep.
7. Manage your stress level.
If you've been living a high-stress life before your pregnancy, you'll have to reduce your chores or tasks because your stress also affects your baby. Your body produces more cortisol hormones when you're under stress, causing your sebaceous glands to release more sebum. You'll need to slow down, stay healthy, do relaxation techniques, and ask for help by joining a support group or finding a therapist to help you with stress management or feelings of anxiety or depression, if necessary. Ask your ob-gyn how you can handle discomfort.
Products to Avoid
Anything you apply on your skin can be absorbed by your body internally and reach your baby, so you should check the products you currently use for your regular skincare routine to know if they're safe for you while you're pregnant.
While you can raise your pregnancy acne concerns with your prenatal care provider, some products are already proven to be harmful to women on the family way, according to theAmerican Academy of Dermatology. Steering clear of these medications will not only prevent your acne from aggravating, but you will also spare your unborn child of any birth defects.
Oral retinoids include isotretinoin (Accutane, Claravis, Sotret, Absorica, Amnesteem, Myorisan, and Zenatane), tetracycline antibiotics (doxycycline, minocycline, and tetracycline), and spironolactone (Aldactone). Tetracycline is known to damage the bones and teeth of fetuses.
Topical retinoids are creams and gels with retinoids such as isotretinoin, adapalene (Differin), tazarotene (Avage, Zorac, Tazorac, and Fabior), and tretinoin (Retin-A).
Salicylic acid is a popular acne medication due to its antibacterial and exfoliating properties. However, it contains beta hydroxy acid—a derivative of aspirin—which women are advised to avoid while pregnant. Check with your doctor when using cleansers with salicylic acid.
Seek Advice for Skincare Procedures
It's best to consult your physician before considering undergoing any procedure. Your doctor will likely tell you to abstain from the following:
This procedure is not advisable during pregnancy as it could worsen skin pigmentation. You'll only be wasting money because discoloration and acne could come and go throughout the nine months. The effects of peels will also be extra painful during pregnancy as your skin is more sensitive at this time. Recovery time is likely to be slower. Moreover, chemicals might get into your bloodstream as it's absorbed by your body, potentially endangering your baby.
Your extra sensitive skin might be irritated or scarred during this abrasive procedure so it's better to delay until after you've delivered your baby.
Some laser or light procedures will require numbing medicine or solutions, which could affect your unborn baby, so get advice from your dermatologist first. Just like peels, laser procedure during pregnancy may also permanently discolor your skin.
Nobody has dared conduct a test on the safety of botox and other injectable fillers on pregnant women. Although some physicians don't believe Botox will reach the baby because it isn't injected into a vein and will only stay around the injection site, the consensus among practitioners is to avoid its use during pregnancy.
With self-care and support from others, you can manage acne and even achieve healthy skin as you await the arrival of your bundle of joy.