Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Pregnancy acne: What's the best treatment?

What's the best way to treat pregnancy acne?

Updated: 09-22-2011

Answer

You have many options for treating acne during pregnancy, including self-care and medication.

Pregnancy acne isn't a special form of acne. Many women simply seem to have trouble with acne during pregnancy. Although it isn't always clear what causes acne to get worse during pregnancy, the likely culprit for most women is an overproduction of oil (sebum) — which happens when certain hormones go into overdrive. Fortunately, you're not at the mercy of your hormones.

To treat pregnancy acne, start with self-care:

  • Wash your face twice a day. Be gentle and use a mild cleanser with lukewarm water.
  • If you have oily hair, shampoo daily. Be careful to keep hair off your face.
  • Avoid picking, scratching, popping or squeezing acne sores. These habits can spread infection and potentially cause scarring.
  • If you use cosmetics, stick to oil-free products. Look for descriptions such as water-based, noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic.
  • Avoid resting your face in your hands. This can trap skin oils and sweat, which can irritate acne.

Medication is a second line of treatment for pregnancy acne. Any medication that's applied to your skin or swallowed can enter your bloodstream, so it's important to exercise caution during pregnancy — even with over-the-counter products.

Erythromycin (Erygel) is often the drug of choice for pregnancy acne. Azelaic acid (Azelex, Finacea) may be another option. Both medications are typically applied to the skin as a lotion or gel and are available by prescription.

Opinions about using benzoyl peroxide to treat pregnancy acne are mixed. There's little research on the safety of over-the-counter or prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide during pregnancy, although problems haven't been reported. In addition, any medication that could potentially cause birth defects — including isotretinoin and other retinoids, as well as minocycline, doxycycline and other tetracyclines — is generally avoided during pregnancy.

If you're concerned about pregnancy acne, consult your dermatologist or the health care provider who's handling your pregnancy. Together you can weigh the benefits and risks of various treatment options.

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