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Pregnancy acne: Why does it happen?

Pregnancy acne is a common condition that many moms-to-be face. It happens due to increased hormone levels.

The soft hues of powder blue or baby pink, glowing skin and a well-rounded belly are what pregnancy is often made out to be in popular media. But for many moms-to-be, the reality includes pregnancy acne along with a baby bump. If you are someone who has pregnancy acne, seek some respite in knowing the fact that you are not the only one dealing with this! Read on to learn more about pregnancy acne, why it happens, and how to treat it.

What is pregnancy acne?

Pregnancy acne is the same as regular acne. “Acne is common during pregnancy and is caused by hormonal changes,” explains obstetrician-gynecologist Dr Rohan Palshetkar. The National Institutes of Health states that more than 42 per cent of pregnant women suffer from acne. In fact, in 60 percent of the cases, the acne becomes worse during pregnancy. It is most common in the first two trimesters and clears out as you approach the end of your pregnancy.

Causes of pregnancy acne

The main reason for acne during pregnancy is the increased hormone levels called androgens in the first trimester. The higher levels of hormones promote the skin’s production of natural oils or sebum. This oil leads to the clogging of pores as well as inflammation and acne breakouts.

If you are wondering do all women get pregnancy acne? Then the answer is no. However, it is difficult to foretell who will develop pregnancy acne. “If you don’t get acne in the time of your first trimester, then it’s improbable for you to have breakouts that are out of the ordinary during the second or third trimesters,” says Dr Palshetkar.

Can you prevent pregnancy acne?

Here’s the good news for you! Pregnancy acne can be prevented. However, managing acne when you’re pregnant can be tricky but there are some things you could do to clear up or reduce the amount of acne:

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  • When you cleanse your face, ensure that you are using a gentle, oil-free, alcohol-free, and non-abrasive cleanser. Don’t use scrubs as they can irritate the skin
  • Make sure that you are changing the pillowcases often.
  • Avoid over-cleansing. It can overstimulate the skin’s oil glands.
  • Keep your hands off your face as there are bacteria on the fingers.
  • Avoid the urge to pop your pimples since it can lead to permanent acne scars.

Besides this, keeping your skin hydrated, eating a nutritious diet, relaxing and avoiding stress, and using oil-free make-up and skin products can also help prevent pregnancy acne.

A woman popping a pimple
It is important to avoid the urge to pop your pimples since it can lead to permanent acne scars. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

How to treat pregnancy acne?

If you have landed up with a bad case of pregnancy acne, and are wondering how you can get rid of it, it is important to note that since this is due to increased hormone levels, acne will disappear when the levels return to normal. You should ideally avoid any over-the-counter harsh skincare products or spot medications. Acne medications can be dangerous when you are pregnant and should be avoided. It is believed that topical prescription products that have either benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid, azelaic acid or erythromycin are safe to use in pregnancy. However, it’s important to consult with a doctor before trying out any acne medication regime. Home remedies for pregnancy acne can be effective too.

Home remedies to treat pregnancy acne

Here are a few drug-free home remedies that might help your pregnancy acne:

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apple juice and can help acne. Following a 1:3 ratio, mix ACV with distilled water. This is rich in natural enzymes and hydroxy acids. Dip a cotton ball into the mix, and dab it on your skin. Keep this for 20 minutes, and then wash it off. However, make sure to dilute the mixture first. A study, published by the National Institutes of Health, states that Propionibacterium acnes, or Cutibacterium acnes – bacteria that cause acne – might be killed with ACV. However, more research is needed on this.

A girl looking at her pimple
Home remedies for pregnancy acne include coconut oil, Apple Cider Vinager. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Honey

Honey is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, and can help with pregnancy pimples. Make sure to use raw and unprocessed honey. It needs to be applied directly onto the acne spots after you have washed your face with lukewarm water. Rinse your face after 30 minutes. This also reduces the pain of a breakout. A study, published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, suggests that Manuka honey is the best for the job.

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3. Coconut oil

The good old coconut oil can do wonders here as well. It soothes the skin and gets naturally absorbed. You can apply virgin coconut oil every night, and you will soon see a difference. Coconut oil is antibacterial and antifungal, and helps acne, states this study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.


Pregnancy acne is a common problem during pregnancy and happens due to the production of excessive oils on the skin. This is because our hormones are heightened during pregnancy. In most cases, the acne settles later in the pregnancy, or after it. There are many home remedies such as using honey, coconut oil and apple cider vinegar to treat pregnancy acne.


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