By Maryann Mikhail, MD
Pregnancy is supposed to be a magical time full of hope and wonder. For some people, it is also full of pimples and cysts. Hormone changes responsible for creating a human being can also activate pathways that cause breakouts. In some cases, women suffered from acne previously but were controlled on medications that needed to be discontinued. Other times, breakouts happen to people who never had acne. Either way, pregnancy acne is no fun and here’s how to handle it.
Skincare really matters. Many women embark on the journey to motherhood understandably wanting to be as chemical free as possible. This means they eliminate their good ole Cetaphil moisturizer and purchase natural products that contain oils, waxes, or shea butter. Unfortunately, these ingredients are often pore clogging and can cause or worsen breakouts. When choosing cleansers and moisturizers, be careful to select non-comedogenic and oil free products.
During pregnancy, the typical acne treatments containing retinoids, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are best avoided. Products that contain alpha hydroxy acids and sulfur based are considered safe and effective.
Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring antibacterial that also has keratolytic, comedolytic and antioxidant activity. This means it kills acne causing p. Acnes bacteria on the skin surface. In addition, it loosens skin cells so they don’t clog pores, reduces inflammation, and decreases hyperpigmentation.
Glycolic acid is another naturally occurring alpha hydroxyl acid derived from sugarcane. It works by speeding up the process of exfoliating dead skin cells and eliminating excess oil. This helps reduce pimple causing clogged pores and encourages new, fresh skin cells to come to the surface.
Sulfur based products have antimicrobial effects and are effective in drying out excess oil. While they are effective, most preparations have a strong, unpleasant scent that limits use in pregnant women who are hypersensitive to stinky smells.
If you are suffering from pregnancy acne, your dermatologist should be your best friend. First of all, there are forms of folliculitis that can mimic acne. Early diagnosis and proper management can save a lot of frustration. Also, dermatologists offer face saving extractions, cortisone injections, and if necessary, pregnancy safe prescriptions and procedures to help your acne.
An extraction procedure is a medical grade facial, where a dermatologist uses a sterile tool called a comedone extractor to remove clogged pores. Since clogged pores turn into pimples, it is beneficial to eliminate them!
Cystic pimples begin underground, can be painful, and often leave marks behind. Fortunately, a tiny dose of liquid cortisone can be injected into cysts to decrease the inflammation and shrink them quickly. Cortisone shots contain a minute amount of dilute cortisone. Since there is very limited systemic absorption, it is considered a safe option throughout pregnancy and while nursing.
Other pregnancy safe procedures include blue light facials, microdermabrasion, and glycolic acid peels. If prescriptions are necessary, there are options such as topical and oral antibiotics as well as prescription strength azelaic acid.
Pregnancy acne is unavoidable for some women. However, it can be treated and improved safely by optimizing skin care, incorporating alpha hydroxy acids, and working with a trusted dermatologist.