Mother and Baby

Pregnancy acne


You’ve had spots in your teens and thought the days of having to worry about pimples were well and truly over, right? Wrong. Now you’re pregnant, you may be prone to breakouts and even some unsightly rashes.

But don’t panic, pregnancy acne is perfectly normal as with most pregnancy symptoms, it's those hormones you've got to blame. 

What causes pregnancy acne?

When you're pregnant, there's an increase of the hormone androgens, which can cause the glands in your skin to grow and produce more sebum, making your skin more oily. This increase in oil production can often clog your pores leading to more spots and breakouts and some pregnant women can develop acne particularly on the face and around the chin. According to one 2017 study, women are more likely to suffer from pregnancy acne if they have previously experienced acne in their teenage years or early twenties. 

Fortunately, pregnancy acne is only temporary and should clear up once your hormones have balanced out and are back to normal. In the meantime, there are a few things you can try to combat acne breakouts to make yourself look, and feel better.

Remedies for pregnancy acne

During your first trimester, you may find your skin changes, and you may want to change your skin care routine accordingly. 

‘You might need to change the products you’re using to adapt to your skin’s changing needs – use something extra moisturising if you’re drier than usual, or avoid anything too greasy if you’ve developed spots,’ says Dr David Harris of the London Clinic of Dermatology.

Other remedies for your skin during pregnancy:

  • You should always choose a gentle and mild face cleanser 
  • Avoid squeezing spots
  • Stay away from harsh scrubs 
  • Use moisturiser 
  • Regularly wash towels, bedding and hair
  • Avoid over cleansing
  • Use SPF everyday

Here are some pregnancy safe skincare products you might want to try to help your pregnancy skin. 

The best skincare products for pregnancy

This gentle cleanser is safe to use during pregnancy and ideal if your skin is on the dry side as it is formulated to keep the skin hydrated and nourished. 

One reviewer said: 'This is gentle and cleansing on my sensitive skin. I was using the salcura antiac face wash but switched to the bioskin face wash when my skin was suffering with more irritation. Any irritation disappeared within a few days of using bioskin. Very pleased.'

Another one formulated to balance out the oils in your skin and keep your pores clear is this super gentle hydrating cleanser from CeraVe. 

One reviewer said: Love this, my second bottle. This gets off all my makeup and leave my skin soft not dry. Very moisturizing and gentle on your skin. I have sensitive skin and this is perfect for me, will be hard to find a face wash cleanser that will beat this. Will buy again and again love it.

This gentle, all natural toner from The Body Shop is a great one to add to your skincare routine. Not only is it super calming on inflamed skin, it's also great for keeping your skin clean and is ideal to use in place of a cleanser in the morning to avoid washing the face too often. 

One reviewer said: 'I have been through one bottle already and I am absolutely obsessed with this toner. It takes off any trace of remaining makeup and makes your skin feel calm and refreshed. Has reduced my blemishes and helps calm my spots. She’s a winner.'

Okay, so we know this is actually for babies, but according to Mother&Baby's Editor, this works a treat on pregnancy acne. 

One reviewer said: 'I found this cream very effective and could feel the extra protection on my face whilst out in the very cold weather. I actually blended it in with my normal moisturiser and found this the easiest way to use it so I could apply my face make-up without problems.'

Although you don't want to be exfoliating your skin too often (especially if it's inflamed) if you feel your skin is in need of a bit of exfoliation, this Aveeno one is sure to be gentle on your skin so that you avoid any further irritation. 

One reviewer said: 'This is a very gentle exfoliating scrub which my skin can tolerate daily. It has a light fragrance and I haven't had any reactions to it. My skin hasn't really changed since I purchased it but I do like the feel of my skin after use. I would purchase again, even though I do wish it was a little bit cheaper.'

You probably used this on any blemishes as a teenager and some trusty tea tree oil will still work a treat now to clear up any blemishes you experience during pregnancy. 

One reviewer said: 'I've been purchasing this oil for the last 6 months as it is great on spots. I've used Tea Tree oil previously and always had bad experiences but this one is so gentle yet effective. A small amount goes along way so the value is also fab!'

This is a brilliant daily moisturiser for all skin types, especially if you tend to be a little oily in pregnancy. It also sits great underneath makeup. 

One reviewer said: 'I have a daily moisturizer with SPF but didn't have one without SPF or a night cream, so was on the hunt. This is perfect, it's cheap, lightweight and a little goes a long way. It doesn't have any fragrance (which is suppose to be better) which doesn't bother me but for those who it does this is a good choice. It isn't greasy and absorbs very well (4 little dots on my fingers were enough for face and neck). I got this on subscription, for 125ml it's a steal 10/10.'

Your skin can become more sensitive to UVA/UVB rays when you’re pregnant, so take care as you may burn more easily. Avoid sunbathing if you’re going on holiday and cover-up your body with long, loose clothes so the rays don’t penetrate your skin. Pregnancy can also trigger an over production of pigment cells, which can cause blotchiness, so it's a good idea to wear a good sunscreen on your face everyday even on an overcast, wintry day.

One reviewer said: 'I'm so glad I found this brand of sun screen. It is the best and I will definitely be buying much more. It soaks into the skin almost immediately and has no smell. I only need to apply once a day (gauge this yourself for your own skin) and I am totally protected. I have red hair and very fair skin so have used a number of sun screen brands and this is by far the best. Spend the money it's worth it.'

Skin complaints to be aware of when pregnant 

During pregnancy, some women can struggle with the below skin issues. 

  • Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP): A rash of raised spots or bumps which itch. They start on the abdomen and spread to the thighs at about 34 weeks but will disappear after the birth. Research suggests that it may be caused by the fetus’s cells invading the mum’s skin in pregnancy. This condition causes no long-term harm to the mother or baby and can be treated with corticosteroids, which must be prescribed by a doctor.
  • Papular dermatitis of pregnancy: An itchy rash, which can appear all over the body, consisting of red, raised spots that look like insect bites. It occurs anytime during pregnancy and is triggered by abnormal blood levels and fluctuating hormone levels. It won’t cause any complications for you, but can harm your baby if left untreated.

What products aren't safe for pregnancy? 

Don’t be tempted to treat pregnancy pimples with prescription acne medications as these can affect your unborn baby’s development. And avoid over-the-counter cleansers and moisturisers that contain chemical exfoliants, as they’ll be too strong for your skin. Speak to a dermatologist if you need help deciding which products to use.

If you’re really worried, speak to your GP who can refer you to a dermatologist on the NHS.

Other ways to combat skin problems during pregnancy 

Is dry, itchy skin driving you mad? Although it’s frustrating, remember that every drop of moisture in your skin is sucked up to carry nutrients through your blood to your baby. Therefore, your best defence is to drink at least eight glasses of water a day as it helps hydrate your skin from the inside out. Take short, lukewarm showers and baths as hot water can dry your skin out

‘While you’re pregnant, don’t bathe too often, and when you do, take short, lukewarm showers and baths as hot water can dry your skin out. Use simple products on your skin before you bathe, like aqueous cream, which washes off like a soap,’ advises Dr Harris. Then, when you get out of the water, slap on loads of moisturiser.

If you’re severely itchy all the time, seek medical help straight away. You may have obstetric cholestasis, a rare condition that affects your liver and kidneys and can also harm your baby.

Your baby will be absorbing many of the nutrients you’re eating and you need to make sure you have enough left for your own needs.

But the good news is that, during pregnancy, you become more efficient at absorbing nutrients into the digestive system. Good nutrition is vital for healthy skin, so eat at least five portions of fruit and veg a day, balanced with protein and calcium.

You should ensure your diet is rich in oily fish (containing omega-3&6) and antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, which play a part in maintaining healthy skin from the inside.

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  • Author: Lorna White Lorna White
  • Job Title: Digital Writer

Lorna is the digital executive and regular contributor for Mother&Baby. After running the Yours magazine website which specialises in content about caring for kids and grandchildren, she has now brought her expertise to the UK's #1 leading pregnancy and parenting magazine. Lorna specialises on a range of topics from potty training and nutrition, to everything and anything that will keep your tot occupied!

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