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Ever wondered why pregnant women look radiant or have that abundance of rosy glow on their skin? Here is the reason why. They experience an increase in blood flow and changes in hormones can cause the glands in their skin to produce more sebum — this results in a rosy, shiny glow. But at some point during your pregnancy, some pimples (or maybe more than a few) may start to pop up.

It is common for women to experience acne during pregnancy but thankfully, pregnancy and postpartum acne is usually temporary. It is likely to clear up once the hormones return to normal.


Causes of pregnancy acne


The main cause of acne during pregnancy is caused by the change in hormone levels (usually due to the increase in Oestrogen levels).  Typically, it is worser during the early periods of pregnancy and improves over the course of pregnancy. It’s hard to predict who will develop pregnancy acne but women who are prone to breaking out during their menstrual cycle have a greater likelihood of pregnancy acne.

Managing acne during pregnancy can be tricky. That’s because many prescription and over-the-counter treatments come with risks that may affect the foetus. In general, if you are facing such a situation, you should avoid any medication that has even a remote chance of harming your baby.

Do check with a medical professional on which acne medications are safe during pregnancy.

Preventing pregnancy acne


Here are some complexion-clearing tips that can help:

  1. Use a gentle face cleanser.
    Prevent flare-ups by taking good care of your skin during pregnancy. Cleanse your face gently with a mild, soap-free cleanser twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Make sure to wash and rinse thoroughly, especially where pores tend to get clogged, often around your hairline and jawline.
  2. Avoid over-washing.
    It doesn’t mean that having oily skin means to keep washing your face multiple times throughout the day. In fact, you might be facing with extra sensitive skin during pregnancy and over-washing strips your skin of its natural moisture. This in turn causes your oil glands to go into overdrive trying to replenish what you’ve removed, making your skin more prone to breakouts. Over washing can also make your skin dry and irritated and this can accentuate breakouts as well.
  3. Avoid scrubbing or squeezing.
    Resist the urge to get aggressive, tempted though you might be. As the professionals have always warned you, these tactics will only make zits last longer and can increase the risk of scarring.
  4. Keep moisturising.
    While it might seem counter-intuitive, using an oil-free moisturizer can actually help minimize the irritation. Sometimes skin that’s overly dried by harsh acne soaps is more prone to breakouts.
  5. Keep it clean.
    In addition to washing your face twice a day, wash your hair on a regular basis, especially if it’s oily. Keep your pillowcases, towels and any hats you wear regularly clean, and get in the habit of wiping down your phone too.
  6. Choose oil-free skin-care products.
    Opt for skin care, makeup and even hair care products that are oil-free and labelled non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic (formulated not to cause acne).
  7. Always use a sunscreen.
    Too much sun not only increases your risk of skin cancer and causes early aging of the skin, but it can also bring on other blotches during pregnancy. Use sunscreen of at least SPF 30 once you step out of the house — and make sure it is an oil-free one. Better still, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for extra protection.
  8. Increase dosage of vitamin A.
    Increase your dietary intake of vitamin A — which helps keep skin healthy — through foods such as milk, fish, eggs and carrots. But do note to stay away from vitamin A derivatives (ie. Retinoids and their equivalent in skin care products or oral medications) as these have a harmful effect on your baby.
  9. Fill up on wholesome foods.
    Cutting back on sugars and refined grains may help clear up your skin. Opt for more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish instead. Believe it or not, dark chocolate can also be a skin-friendly food.
  10. Drink plenty of water. Just one more reason to stay hydrated: Drinking enough water helps your skin stay hydrated and looking its best overall.
  11. Seek help from medical professionals. Medical doctors can prescribe topical acne treatments that are safe to use during pregnancy. You may also be able to use creams that contain erythromycin or other antibiotics — as long as they’re cleared by your practitioner.

Unsafe Treatments for Pregnancy Acne.

The following treatments are usually prescribed to treat Acne breakouts but must be avoided at all costs when pregnant.

  1. Isotretinoin.
    An oral medication that has revolutionized the way severe acne is treated. It’s especially dangerous when you’re pregnant because it can cause serious birth defects.
  2. Oral tetracyclines. These include antibiotics such as doxycycline, minocycline, and tetracycline, which can inhibit bone growth and discolour the teeth of the baby.
  3. Topical retinoids.
    This includes adapalene (Differin), tazarotene (Tazorac), and tretinoin (Retin-A). These products are similar to isotretinoin and should be avoided during pregnancy. Although studies show that the amount of these medications absorbed through the skin is low, there’s a concern they could pose an increased risk of birth defects. Products are required to carry a warning that states it’s unknown if these medications can harm a developing baby or a child that is being breastfed.

For the same reasons, it is also recommended against using topical treatments containing salicylic acid. This is an ingredient found in many over-the-counter products.


Medications that are Safe during Pregnancy


1. Topical Benzoyl Peroxide
This is commonly found in many over-the-counter products and are safe during pregnancy.


2. Azelaic acid and Glycolic Acid
Once again, these are active ingredients commonly found in products and are deemed safe to use during pregnancy. 


3. Antibiotics
Topical antibiotics and oral Erythromycin, Penicillins and Cephalosporins are safe for use during pregnancy.




Pregnancy is a hormonal roller coaster, and your skin has no choice but to go along for the ride. It is mostly temporary, and although the usual medications are not advisable to be used to treat it, there are other ways to go about treating it and keeping it under control.

At M-Aesthetic, Dr Ho Rui Ming is experienced in treating all kinds of Acne breakouts with proven effective medications and treatments. Dr Ho takes into consideration your lifestyle habits, diet, and whether you are pregnant or not, before customising a treatment plan for you.




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