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How To Treat Acne During Pregnancy

From cute baby outfits to sleepless nights, there’s plenty to think about during pregnancy beyond your skin. However, if you’re breaking out while expecting, you’re not alone – acne during pregnancy is just as common as the famous pregnancy glow.

Why have I developed acne during pregnancy? 

Your body goes through countless changes during pregnancy – and these shifts are often reflected in your skin. 

“Often we’ll see acne in response to hormonal changes which obviously are very prevalent during pregnancy” explains Dr Jason Thomson, Head of Medical at Skin + Me. As your hormones fluctuate, your skin may produce more oil, which can in turn block your pores and prevent the turnover of dead skin cells. These blockages can appear as whiteheads or blackheads, and are most common across the jaw, forehead and around the nose. 

Why are some ingredients unsafe to use during pregnancy? 

If you’re already using products to treat acne, or looking to tackle pregnancy-related breakouts, it’s important to know what’s what. 

“Pregnancy-safe skincare is really about minimising risks and being cautious, as we don’t have evidence for how these different skincare ingredients can affect unborn babies,” explains Dr Jason. “We do know that some skincare ingredients can be absorbed into the blood, so there is a theoretical risk of them reaching an unborn baby.” 

“Presence of an ingredient in the blood doesn’t necessarily mean it would cause any harm as it’s really all about the dose and only very small quantities are absorbed,” he continues. “However, we just don’t know for certain, as studies in pregnant women are rare.”

The skincare treatments to avoid during pregnancy


Spironolactone is a prescription-only oral medication sometimes used for acne — but it’s a no-go if  you’re planning for a baby. “Spironolactone may be considered as a treatment for female adult acne that has not responded to standard acne treatments – it is not suitable to be taken during pregnancy,” says Dr Ben Esdaile, Consultant Dermatologist at Skin + Me. 


Whether you’re loyal to retinol, obsessed with your trusty tretinoin, or your doctor has prescribed Roaccutane tablets (the brand name for isotretinoin), you’ll need to take a break from all retinoids if you’re pregnant, trying to conceive or breastfeeding. 

“We know that retinoids are harmful to an unborn baby when taken orally, and therefore we are cautious and we advise against any topical use of retinoids – both prescription and non-prescription – during pregnancy,” says Dr Jason.

Salicylic acid 

Salicylic acid can be an effective chemical exfoliator on your journey to glowing skin, but it’s wise to remove it from your routine during pregnancy. “Salicylic acid is another ingredient that is generally considered best to avoid during pregnancy, although some people will recommend up to 2% as being safe when applied topically,” explains Malvina Cunningham, Dermatologist at Skin + Me

Pregnancy-safe ingredients for acne 

First things first – look at the label to check for any warnings. “If there are any ingredients that should not be used in pregnancy, this would usually be displayed,” says Dr Jason. “However, this may not always be the case, and if in doubt it is best to speak to a healthcare professional to check that your product is safe.”

Azelaic acid 

Azelaic acid might be a staple of your skincare routine already, and we have good news – you don’t have to give up this hard worker if you’re pregnant. 

“Azelaic acid acts as a chemical exfoliator by unblocking the pores that have become blocked in acne,” explains Dr Ben. “It penetrates down the blocked pore and helps break up the blockage (known as the keratolytic) as well as killing the bacteria that drives acne (cutibacterium acnes).” 

Glycolic acid and lactic acid 

If you’re a fan of using acids to brighten your skin and reduce breakouts, you don’t have to give them up entirely – just make sure you pick one that’s pregnancy-safe. “Although salicylic acid is generally not used during pregnancy, you can use other acids in the AHA group, so ingredients like lactic acid are generally considered safe and help to exfoliate the skin,” says Dr Malvina. “Glycolic acid is beneficial in fighting acne, and is considered safe to use in pregnancy and when breastfeeding in concentrations less than 10%.”


Niacinamide is having a bit of a moment – whether you have acne or not, it’s great for boosting glow and strengthening your skin barrier – and you’ll be happy to hear it’s gentle enough to use during pregnancy. “Niacinamide (a form of vitamin B) is another ingredient that can help, with studies showing it can reduce the oil production that can lead to blackheads forming,” says Dr Ben. 

The Skin + Me pregnancy-safe routine 

At Skin + Me, we’ve developed a pregnancy-safe skincare routine that tackles acne at its root, for healthy, happy skin. “It is gentle yet effective and can target the main skin issues experienced during pregnancy such as sensitivity, hormonal acne and hyperpigmentation,” says Dr Jason. 

Pregnancy-safe evening routine for acne 

“The evening routine consists of cleansing the skin with our gentle Purify + Prep Hydrating Cleanser, which contains glycerin,” says Dr Jason, who is a fan of the skin soothing ingredient . “Treatment is a personalised solution usually containing ingredients such as niacinamide and azelaic acid, which are both safe in pregnancy. Then, apply a moisturiser that contains key ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin and ceramides to boost the skin barrier.”

Pregnancy-safe morning routine for acne 

“The hydrating morning routine is similar, with the cleanser and moisturiser,” says Dr Jason. You might like to add in a morning treatment step too – like the latest Skin + Me launch, Brighten + Boost Calming Azelaic Acid Serum, designed specifically to soothe angry skin. Finally, don’t forget your broad spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen for UV protection. 

Final thoughts 

While there are a few key ingredients to avoid, you can build a pregnancy-safe routine to calm your skin and keep breakouts at bay. If you need help finding the right products, sign up to Skin + Me for expert advice and a personalised plan – it’s one less thing on your mind while you wait for your new arrival. 

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