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How to Safely Treat Acne When You’re Pregnant, According to Dermatologists

How to Safely Treat Acne When You’re Pregnant, According to Dermatologists

Acne during pregnancy can be frustrating, especially since certain common skincare ingredients, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, aren't recommended. Here are alternate ways to tackle pregnancy breakouts.

If you're pregnant and plagued by breakouts, shopping for spot treatments suddenly becomes very confusing. Most dermatologists and ob-gyns recommend their pregnant patients steer clear of skincare products that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, but these common pimple-fighters are featured in most over-the-counter acne products.

"Both of these ingredients are considered Pregnancy Category C," explains Purvisha Patel, MD, a dermatologist based in Tennessee and the founder of Visha Skincare. The term means that while there aren't enough well-controlled studies on the ingredients in humans, they have been shown to have adverse reactions on fetuses in animal studies. "Knowing this, they are generally avoided or used in very small concentrations," Dr. Patel says.

To further complicate your acne-fighting plan, other ingredients such as willow bark, the chemical bleaching agent hydroquinone, retinol, and prescription retinoids are also off-limits when you're trying to get pregnant or expecting. (Sadly, this means that Differin, one of the most popular over-the-counter acne treatments, is also not an option.)

How to deal with pregnancy acne

"It does seem grossly unfair to need to adjust to a changing body as well as skin that may have been clear since your teen years, and now you're breaking out all over again as if you were 14," says Ava Shamban, MD, a Beverly Hills dermatologist and founder of SKIN FIVE.

The good news? Many women will notice their acne improving as they near their due date. "In general, [it] is most prominent in the first trimester," Dr. Shamban says. "As estrogen levels rise in the rest of the pregnancy, the acne will clear."

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