Is acne a sign of early pregnancy?

Some women have all the luck! Their skin troubles exit the room just as the baby bump starts to show. But not every new mother-to-be is blessed with glowing skin. Far from that. Nearly one in every two women gets the dreaded pregnancy acne. What’s the link between acne and early pregnancy? Find out here, along with tips on how to control acne while expecting a baby.


Acne as pregnancy test

Pregnancy acne shows up during the first trimester, around six weeks into pregnancy. Some women notice the zits before even realising they are pregnant. Yes, bad skin can be an early clue that a teeny baby is on the way.

Moms-to-be who draw the acne card often get zits through the first and second semesters. Some suffer from skin problems throughout their pregnancy. The acne goes away on its own after the baby is born and once hormone levels return to normal.

As for moms with zero pimples through the first trimester? They usually close out the pregnancy with no significant breakouts.


Causes of pregnancy acne

If you have a history of acne flares, you are at risk. So is anyone who gets zits around the start of their menstrual cycle. Just remember that pregnancy acne is no different from regular acne. Here’s why it is happening to you:

  • Fluctuating hormones: Pregnancy throws your hormones into a tizzy. One hormone in particular messes with your skin at this time: progesterone.
Progesterone is useful during early pregnancy because it gets the uterus ready to accommodate the foetus. On the flip side, it stimulates the oil glands to produce more sebum. This makes your skin oily, and the excess sebum gets trapped in the pores. And, as you well know, clogged pores are prime locations for pimples to turn up.
  • Water retention: The body retains more water when you are pregnant. The fluid helps in carrying the foetus. But there is a disadvantage to having all that extra fluid inside of you.
Toxins build up in the body when you excrete less fluid. The body may now try to eliminate the toxins through sweat. When this happens, the toxins sometimes collect in the pores, leading to acne.

How NOT to treat pregnancy acne

Moms-to-be are handed a long list of do-s and don’t-s while carrying and nursing a child. One big don’t is a bar on many common medicines—including substances used in acne treatment. Here are some acne-control products that are sure to go off the table during pregnancy:

  • Isotretinoin: This Vitamin-A based acne treatment cannot be used by pregnant and nursing mothers as well as women who are trying to conceive. It has been linked with severe birth defects.
  • Hormone therapy: Oestrogen and certain anti-androgens are often used against acne—just not by pregnant mothers. They could mess with the pregnancy hormones and harm the foetus.Oral tetracyclines: Common antibiotics like minocycline, doxycycline, and tetracycline are off-limits in pregnancy. They could restrict bone growth and cause teeth discolouration in the foetus.
  • Salicylic acid: The jury is out on whether salicylic acid may be used by pregnant moms. Until there is more evidence on its safety, consider locking your salicylic acid products in the bathroom cabinet till after the baby is born. 
  • Topical retinoids: Common retinoids like adapalene and tretinoin are absorbed through the skin to a small extent. To safeguard the baby’s health and development, however, it is advisable to avoid retinoid products for the time being. 


How to treat pregnancy acne safely

Topical prescription medicines containing azelaic acid or erythromycin could

still be used for acne—but only after your doctor signs off on this. You could also consult the doctor about over-the-counter products containing benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid.

Your best options for acne control are the simplest ones!

  • Cleanse your face twice a day using an oil-free, alcohol-free, non-abrasive cleanser. Do it no more than twice a day or you could overstimulate the oil glands. You don’t want that at a time when many acne treatments are off-limits for you.
  • Use only oil-free moisturisers and cosmetics. You could also try a gentle, plant-based formula like Clearica Anti-Acne Cream. Whatever you use, read the ingredient list and check with the doc when in doubt.
  • Shampoo regularly (do it daily if your skin is super-oily) and keep hair off your face. Take the fingers off your face as well. Those pimples won’t magically disappear, and touching them constantly will only spread the acne bacteria around.


When your problem skin gets to you, look on the bright side. Pregnancy acne is self-limiting—it goes away after delivery. Besides, acne or not, you will soon have a cute and happy baby to look forward to as well. Congratulations!





Disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a recommendation or for diagnostic purposes. Please consult your dermatologist or doctor before acting on any of the information provided here.