Acne and pregnancy go hand in hand. Surging hormone levels in the body during pregnancy would usually cause regular breakouts on the face, neck, hairline, breasts and even the buttocks. And even though you may have never experienced an acne breakout before in your life, chances are you may start experiencing them regularly after getting pregnant.
So what exactly is acne? And how is it more prominent in pregnant women? Acne is a skin condition that is caused by overacting sebaceous glands on the body. Responsible for the secretion of an oily liquid called sebum, these glands help remove dead cells from the skin surface through small pores. The trouble starts when either the pores or the follicles that carry the sebum from the glands to the pores become blocked with dirt or other impurities. This blockage would lead to the formation of pimples, blackheads, whiteheads and zits on the face, neck, arms and breast.
Risk Factors Associated with Acne in Pregnancy: The Basic Causes
Pregnant women are more prone to develop conditions like acne during their pregnancy. During pregnancy, the body would produce large amounts of pregnancy hormones, namely progesterone and androgens which would stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. Excess sebum (along with the dead skin cells) would block the pores on the skin surface and make these areas active breeding grounds for bacteria, the result of which would be mild-severe acne (depending on the intensity of the infection).
Pregnancy would be a time when you would be advised to drink plenty of water and fluids to stay hydrated. However, certain toxins, bacteria and other harmful pathogens in the fluids that you intake can cause water retention which in turn can cause acne breakouts.
Water retention is usually characterized by the buildup of large amounts of water in between the skin cells and tissues. This would put excess pressure on the skin cells and block them. And when this happens, the sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria mix inside the trapped pores and cause acne breakouts.
Ways to Prevent Acne During Pregnancy
There are several ways you can prevent acne during pregnancy. However, there are also certain ways you should absolutely not try to treat or prevent acne. Therefore, before finding the solutions to the problem, let’s take a quick look at certain acne solutions you better stay away from during pregnancy.
Medications You Should Avoid
Topical retinoids like Accutane, tretinoin, Retin –A, tazarotene, isotretinoin and adapalene etc. are usually used to treat extremely severe cases of acne breakouts. The medications are strong and can be easily absorbed within the skin. And in most cases, once absorbed, they would make their way to the breast milk and the fetus’s bloodstream. So stay away from these drugs until you stop breastfeeding your infant.
In certain cases, topical retinoids like Accutane can cause birth defects in the baby while retinoids like isotretinoin can cause miscarriage. Oral tetracyclines can cause bone defects and teeth discoloration in the baby. It is therefore considered wise to stay away from these medications and even their derivatives during pregnancy.
Even standard acne creams that contain chemicals like salicylic acid and beta hydroxyl acid can cause unnecessary side effects to the mother and the baby. Staying away from the products that contain these chemicals can also help prevent harmful side effects to the baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Some women tend to take Vitamin A supplements that are known to have positive effects on acne prone skin. However, these supplements can potentially cause birth defects and miscarriages if taken during pregnancy.
Alternative Remedies for Treating/Preventing Acne during Pregnancy
With no medications to help you out, you may be doubtful of getting an effective cure for acne. Not to worry though, for there are plenty of alternative remedies out there that you can try out. Here are some of the more common ones.
Follow a Regular and Proper Skin Care Routine
Keeping your skin clean and healthy would be one of the best ways to treat acne during pregnancy. Make it a point to wash your face, neck and hands with a mild soap or cleanser at least twice a day (once in the morning and night). Wash these areas thoroughly, making sure you concentrate more on the areas like the jaw and hairline that are prone to breakouts. Be gentle for harshness while washing can cause skin irritation and breakouts.
Wash your scalp regularly with a mild shampoo to avoid oil buildup. Use oil free moisturizers to keep your skin hydrated and reduce irritations that could lead to acne. Don’t overdo the washing part though as it could strip away the essential oils on the skin and make it more vulnerable to bacterial infections that cause conditions like acne.
Keep Your Surroundings Clean
It pays to keep your pillowcases, bed sheets, blankets, towels, hats and scarves clean. Change your pillow cases, bed sheets and blankets often to minimize bacterial infections from the same. And make it a point to wash your clothes and accessories (including combs, blushes, and eye shadows etc.) in hot water at regular intervals to wash off bacteria and other unwanted impurities that could cause acne.
Stay Away from Food Triggers that Can Cause Acne During Pregnancy
Your diet would play an important role in preventing acne breakouts during pregnancy and afterwards. Try switching over to skin boosting foods like salmon, almonds, whole grains, avocado, walnuts, fresh vegetables and fruits, dark chocolate (not too much though), eggs and milk etc. while avoiding foods that contain saturated fats, refined grains and refined sugar that could aggravate acne. This essentially means you need to cut down on all kinds of baked and fried foods until childbirth.
Protect Your Skin from the Sun
Sun can dry out lesions caused in the skin by acne breakouts. But too much exposure to the sun can cause sunburns, premature aging or skin cancer in the worst case scenario. So make it a point to apply a good quality moisturizer before you step outdoors. Choose a product that has a good SPF factor (at least15) and is oil free so that it does not aggravate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. In addition to applying moisturizer before you go out, keep applying it at regular intervals throughout the day to maximize sun protection and minimize acne breakouts.
Read the Labels Carefully Before Buying Products
You would need to choose products that are branded nonacnegenic or noncomedogenic if you have skin that is prone to acne breakouts. Choosing oil free makeup products can also keep excess sebum secretion at bay. Read the labels carefully to see if the products contain any ingredients that could potentially cause acne.
Talk to Your Practitioner for Medications
If nothing else seems to help, talk to your physician about medications that you can use to treat acne without necessarily posing any risks to your pregnancy. While some doctors may prescribe regular antibiotics like erythromycin, others may advise you to stay away from all kinds of topical and oral medications while suggesting other remedies that may help reduce acne to an extent until you give birth.