How to Treat Acne Breakouts During Pregnancy

It is very common for women to develop acne during pregnancy. In fact, acne is thought to affect over 40% of pregnant women.

While pregnancy acne is treatable, certain acne medications can be very dangerous to take if you are pregnant, as they can increase the likelihood of miscarriage and severe birth defects.

Here's what to know about what causes pregnancy breakouts and what you can (and can't) do about them.

A pregnant woman putting cream on her face
AND-ONE / Getty Images 


Hormones fluctuate dramatically during pregnancy. Progesterone is one of the hormones that contribute to acne development.

Progesterone helps your uterus prepare to support a growing baby, but high levels of this hormone also stimulate the skin's oil glands, making them produce more oil. When oil clogs the pores, it can lead to acne breakouts.

Although acne can appear at any time during or after pregnancy, it's most likely to develop during the first trimester, when pregnancy hormones start ramping up. Sometimes there is another flare-up during the third trimester when there is another hormonal surge.

Not every pregnant woman will experience acne breakouts. In fact, some women find their existing acne clears up. Others will notice no discernible change in the skin—good or bad.

Women who have had acne in the past are more likely to get it during pregnancy.


Acne that appears or worsens during pregnancy is no different than acne at any other time. The most common form of acne is acne vulgaris, but there are more severe types as well.


Acne can be treated while you're pregnant, but care must be taken when choosing treatments. Certain acne medications (like isotretinoin) should never be used by people who are pregnant or nursing.

Even certain topical medications should be avoided during pregnancy. Make sure you ask your doctor before using any acne treatment product, including those sold over-the-counter.

Acne medications that are considered safe during pregnancy include:

Lasers are considered safe for women who are pregnant. However, some may require a numbing solution that may not be recommended, so it's crucial that you tell your doctor that you are pregnant.

Medications that Are Not Safe During Pregnancy

These medications should never be taken during pregnancy, as they have been linked to serious birth defects:

All-Natural Treatments

There's no evidence that home remedies and natural treatments can actually make acne go away, but practicing good hygiene and dietary habits may help prevent breakouts.

The best way to care for your skin is to:

  • Wash your face twice daily day with a mild cleanser and lukewarm water. Avoid scrubbing your face.
  • Use an oil-free moisturizer and oil-free cosmetics.
  • Shampoo regularly and try to keep your hair off your face.
  • Avoid picking or popping pimples to reduce the chances of infection or scarring.

The role of diet in preventing acne is controversial. A 2016 study looked at some of the foods and nutrients commonly associated with acne prevention, including dairy products, chocolate, glycemic load, dietary fiber, fatty acids, antioxidants, zinc, vitamin A, and iodine. The study concluded that there may be a link between a diet with a high glycemic load and acne as well as with dairy products. The roles of omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, vitamin A, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and iodine remain unclear.

Finally, you may be tempted to try home remedies to treat your skin, but so far there is no scientific evidence that things like apple cider vinegarMilk of Magnesia (magnesium hydroxide), toothpaste, or other home remedies clear acne.


The good news is that acne that appears for the first time during pregnancy typically goes away on its own once the baby is born and hormone levels return to normal. Make sure to check with your doctor before resuming any medications you normally take for acne, as they may not be recommended if you are breastfeeding.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why am I breaking out so much during pregnancy?

    High levels of the hormone progesterone are produced during pregnancy. This hormone also stimulates your skin's oil glands to produce more oil. When the oil clogs your pores, it can lead to acne breakouts.

  • How long does pregnancy acne last?

    The duration of pregnancy acne varies. Typically, acne flares up during the first trimester, when progesterone levels are high, and may settle down later in the pregnancy. Often, acne resolves completely once the baby is born.

  • How can I get rid of acne during pregnancy?

    Treatments that are considered safe to use during pregnancy include salicylic acid, azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and certain laser therapy treatments. However, there are several acne medications that can cause miscarriages and severe birth defects, so always check with your doctor before taken any acne medication during pregnancy.

  • Is acne common in early pregnancy?

    Yes. Research has shown that more than 40% of women develop acne during pregnancy.

A Word From Verywell

While pregnancy acne can be an unwelcome surprise, it is usually self-limited. The best thing to do is ask your obstetrician and/or your dermatologist to help you devise an acne treatment plan that is both effective for you and safe for your baby.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Is any acne treatment safe to use during pregnancy?

  3. Elsaie ML. Hormonal treatment of acne vulgaris: an updateClin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016;9:241–248. doi:10.2147/CCID.S114830

  4. Chien AL, Qi J, Rainer B, Sachs DL, Helfrich YR. Treatment of acne in pregnancy. J Am Board Fam Med. 2016;29(2):254-62. doi:10.3122/jabfm.2016.02.150165

  5. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Skin Conditions During Pregnancy.

  6. Mayo Clinic. What's the best way to treat pregnancy acne?

  7. Kucharska A, Szmurło A, Sińska B. Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris.

    Adv Dermatol Allergol 2016; XXXIII (2): 81–86. doi:10.5114/ada.2016.59146

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.