Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before using any acne treatments or medications during pregnancy.
Did the promised pregnancy glow turn out to be a layer of oil and acne?
Maybe this is the first time you’ve experienced breakouts like this, or maybe you’ve already gone through acne and thought you had come out the other side. Either way, you are probably wondering when does pregnancy acne start, and how long does pregnancy acne last?
What Causes Pregnancy Acne?
There are a number of causes of acne during pregnancy, including:
During pregnancy, hormonal fluctuations play a significant role in the development of acne. The hormone progesterone rises during pregnancy to support the growth and development of the fetus. Estrogen and androgen levels also increase during pregnancy, which can contribute to skin changes. These elevated hormone levels can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, leading to clogged pores and the formation of acne.
In addition to sebum production, pregnancy hormones can affect your immune system, leading to changes in inflammatory responses. The immune system changes in order to allow the fetus to grow without being rejected by the mother’s body by suppressing the immune system’s ability to attack foreign cells. Unfortunately, this can also lead to an increased risk of inflammation, making your skin more susceptible to inflamed breakouts.
While hormones are the primary trigger, other considerations such as stress and genetics can influence the severity of pregnancy acne. Factors such as pre-existing acne conditions, skin type, individual hormone levels, and higher cortisol levels due to stress can influence the extent of the breakouts.
If you had acne prior to pregnancy, particularly hormonal acne, you may experience a flare-up during your pregnancy. According to a French study, 90% of women with pregnancy acne had previously experienced acne at some point before pregnancy. Additionally, certain skin types, such as oily or combination skin, may be more prone to acne during pregnancy.
If you’ve previously been on acne medication that is not safe for pregnancy, such as spironolactone and retinoids, you might experience acne when you stop their use for pregnancy. The sudden withdrawal of acne treatments can disrupt the balance of sebum production, leading to clogged pores and inflammation. It can be a frustrating experience when you have found a treatment that works for your acne, but must discontinue it during pregnancy.
You may have also benefited from clearer skin from hormonal birth control for years without realizing that it was helping your acne until you discontinued it for pregnancy. Hormonal birth control that contains both estrogen and progestin can regulate hormone levels and reduce acne by suppressing the production of androgens, which are hormones that can contribute to acne formation. When these hormones are discontinued, your body’s hormone levels may fluctuate, leading to an increase in androgen production and thus acne.
When Does Pregnancy Acne Start?
The onset of pregnancy acne can vary. If you’re wondering when does pregnancy acne start, for many pregnancy acne typically starts during the first trimester when hormone levels are rapidly changing.
Progesterone increases the most during the first trimester which can cause increases in acne. The exact timing depends on individual hormonal levels and the way your body responds to these changes.
If you have gone off of acne medication or hormonal birth control in preparation for pregnancy, you may start experiencing acne before conception. For some people, stopping hormonal birth control can uncover acne that had been suppressed by the hormones. At other times, acne after stopping birth control is a temporary period of adjustment as your skin responds to the new changes in hormone balance. Some fertility treatments such as the progesterone used for IVF, may also change your hormones and cause acne before pregnancy begins.
When Does Pregnancy Acne Go Away?
As pregnancy progresses, some people may notice a reduction in acne during the second and third trimesters, while others may continue to experience breakouts throughout the entire pregnancy. While everyone’s experience may vary, the good news is that acne related to pregnancy is usually temporary and tends to go away on its own after birth when progesterone plummets, or as hormone levels stabilize postpartum.
Acne disappearance timelines can differ for each person, and you may require additional time for your skin to normalize after pregnancy. In some cases, acne may persist for a few months or require additional treatment. Your doctor may also want you to limit certain acne treatments while breastfeeding which might prolong the period of breakouts if you usually use acne treatments to maintain clearer skin. Additionally if you are experiencing a lot of stress postpartum with a new baby, higher levels of cortisol can also contribute to breakouts.
Managing Pregnancy Acne
While pregnancy acne can be challenging, there are strategies and treatments to manage its impact. Minimizing acne during pregnancy requires a gentle and mindful approach since certain acne treatments may not be suitable when you are pregnant.
Patience and consistent skincare practices are key during this period. Here are some tips to help minimize and prevent acne during pregnancy:
Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid derived from grains such as barley and wheat. It possesses anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which makes it ideal for addressing acne-prone skin. Azelaic acid is available as a topical treatment over the counter or by prescription and works on your skin by reducing the production of excess oil, unclogging pores, and preventing the formation of acne-causing bacteria. It can also help to fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, the dark spots that often linger after a pimple has healed.
Azelaic acid is also helpful in managing melasma, a skin condition of hyperpigmentation that often presents during pregnancy. As a topical treatment, azelaic acid is considered safe to use while pregnant.
While some pimple patches may contain ingredients that your doctor may want you to avoid during pregnancy, the standard ingredient-free hydrocolloid pimple patches are effective and safe to use. They come in many sizes and shapes to cover any breakout. Pimple patches work by absorbing fluid from a pimple and by creating a clean and moist environment for it to heal.
For acne, sulfur has mild exfoliating properties which allow it to remove dead skin cells to stop them and other debris from blocking your pores, while also absorbing excess oil. Sulfur is antimicrobial, so it can help kill the bacteria that leads to acne. Although it can still irritate sensitive skin, sulfur is seen to be a gentler acne treatment than other options and it is available over-the-counter in face washes, masks, and spot treatment. It is considered a safe and effective option for managing pregnancy acne, as it is a topical treatment that is not known to be absorbed significantly into the bloodstream.
If pregnancy-safe ingredients are not enough to unclog your pores, you can consider going to an esthetician for facials and extractions during pregnancy to help deep clean the skin and manually clear blocked pores to prevent breakouts.
If you had not experienced acne before pregnancy, you may not have felt the need to have an acne-safe skin care routine. Now you should be sure to wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser, and use a noncomedogenic moisturizer and sunscreen. You might need to be more careful with what you put on your skin and pause using products that are heavy and oily as they may have pore clogging ingredients that are contributing to breakouts.
If you tend to pick at your skin, it’s a good time to cut back. You can try using dimmer light bulbs or candles in the bathroom to reduce the temptation that comes from looking at a well illuminated mirror. Keeping your fingernails short and using pimple patches are also a great way to protect pimples from fingers that might mindlessly pick at them.
Try changing your pillowcases and towels more often to help prevent acne by reducing the amount of oil, dirt, and bacteria that is in contact with your skin. Hair care products can contain ingredients that clog your pores, so keep them away from your skin and use a different towel to dry your face than the one you use on your hair. Examine other aspects of your daily routine to see if there is anything that might be exacerbating your acne, and explore the Acne Club archives for more tips.
Visit the Dermatologist
Seeking the expertise of a dermatologist can be incredibly beneficial when dealing with pregnancy-related acne since treatment options can be limited. They can assess the severity of your acne and recommend effective treatments that are safe for pregnancy. With their expertise, a dermatologist can guide you on suitable skincare routines, provide advice on managing breakouts, and offer tips for maintaining healthy skin throughout your pregnancy.
If you are planning a pregnancy and are concerned about developing acne you can consult with your healthcare provider before you become pregnant to develop a safe and effective skincare regimen to address your specific needs during this transitional period.
If you are struggling with acne during pregnancy know that there are many in the same boat. While knowing when pregnancy acne starts and goes away is helpful, keep in mind that according to one study, up to 42% of pregnant women experience acne.
Acne during pregnancy can be difficult to fully clear due to the often hormonal nature and the limited treatments that are safe during pregnancy. Remember that pregnancy acne is a temporary condition and try to keep a mindset of acne neutrality so that you don’t let thoughts about your acne dominate your pregnancy.