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When the Glow Goes Wrong: Pregnancy Acne

Katlyn Joy |22, October 2012


Pregnancy acne isn't an actual separate condition. It is just plain acne but many women experience such heightened levels of break outs that it seems to be a specialized form.

Of course, the blame goes to hormones which lead to overproduction of oil in the skin. This results in the lovely glow of pregnancy becoming a shiny pimply mess. However, there are options to help clear the blemishes and get the glow back.

What You Should Avoid

Some well known and often used medications or treatments for acne are off-limits for pregnant women. These are potentially or known to be dangerous to fetuses and therefore not prescribed or recommended.

These oral antibiotics which include doxycycline and minocycline, are not prescribed during pregnancy because of side effects in unborn babies including discoloration or staining of teeth and possible interference with bone growth. This medication is used to treat respiratory infections and acne in non-pregnant women.

Drugs in this group such as Accutane, Isotretinoin, adapalene, tazorac, topical tretinoin and Ziana are frequently used medications for the treatment of acne in non-pregnant women. They are not used with expectant mothers due to serious concerns about birth defects. These drugs should also be stopped at least a month before attempting to get pregnant.

Oral contraceptives or hormone therapy.
Birth control pills are considered a class X drug for pregnant women meaning they are known to be toxic during pregnancy and breastfeeding. They may cause birth defects and must be avoided.

Questionable Treatment Options for Pregnancy Acne

Some debate exists on whether the use of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are viable options for pregnant women struggling with break outs.

Many dermatologists prescribe salicyclic acid as a topical treatment although high levels of oral salicyclic acid is associated with birth defects. Similarly, benzoyl peroxide products are sometimes recommended by some medical professionals while avoided by others. These medications often are found in over the counter skin treatments for acne. It is recommended that you discuss the options and risks with your health care provider or dermatologist.

Safe Treatments for Acne during Pregnancy

There are some simple ways to fight skin eruptions during your pregnancy.

- First, wash your face with a mild cleanser twice a day. Don't use products that contain grainy, abrasive ingredients as they can irritate skin further or even cause damage.

- Be kind and gentle with your skin by never squeezing, popping, or picking at pimples or blemishes. This can spread infection and even create scarring of the skin.

- Wash your hair and keep it free from a greasy texture as this can create break outs where it touches the skin, especially in areas such as the forehead. Also, notice if certain hair products seem to exacerbate acne.

- Watch for labels on make up and other cosmetics. You want to find products that are labeled non-comedogenic, oil-free or water-based. Be sure to completely remove your cosmetics from your face before going to bed at night and to keep your skin hydrated without over moisturing it.

- Keep your hands off your face. You may have a habit of resting your chin in your hands which can result in a patch of pimples in that area.

If these simple home remedies and lifestyle modifications don't ease your pregnancy acne, you may speak to a physician about medical options that can be used with pregnant women.

One possibility is the drug erythromycin which is an antibiotic that is both an oral and topical drug. This medication is considered relatively safe and often used as a first line drug for pregnant women struggling with acne.

Another option is the drug Azelaic acid also called Azelex and Finacea, which is considered a safe drug treatment for acne. This medication contains ingredients found in foods such as wheat, rye and barley and found in food products like Rice Krispies and corn flakes cereals.

Both erythromycin and Azelaic acid are by prescription and are available as topical medications in either gel or lotion form.

If you struggle with acne during pregnancy, keep in mind that following your baby's birth, your skin will most likely return to its pre-pregnancy condition so if you didn't have acne woes before, you should have clear skin once more. If however, you have had long troubles with your skin, remember that certain drugs or treatments should be avoided while breastfeeding as well. Once you've weaned your baby, you can try more aggressive acne treatments if necessary.

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