What's the best way to treat pregnancy acne?

Answers from Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D.

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 acne-prone areas carefully. Be gentle and use a mild cleanser with lukewarm water in the morning and at night. You might also wash your skin after exercising.
  • 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 cause scarring.
  • If you use cosmetics, stick to oil-free products. Look for descriptions such as water-based or noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic.

Beyond self-care, you might consider medication as a treatment for pregnancy acne. However, any medication that's applied to your skin or swallowed can enter your bloodstream and affect your baby. As a result, it's important to exercise caution during pregnancy — even with over-the-counter products.

Options for treating pregnancy acne with medication include erythromycin (Erygel), clindamycin (Cleocin T, Clindagel, others) and azelaic acid (Azelex, Finacea). These medications are typically applied to the skin and are available by prescription. However, opinions about using benzoyl peroxide to treat pregnancy acne are mixed. There's little research on the safety of benzoyl peroxide during pregnancy, although problems haven't been reported.

Jan. 15, 2014 See more Expert Answers