Causes of Pregnancy Acne and How to Treat It

Acne — those rashy, pimply bumps that tend to flare up just when you have a big meeting or wedding on your calendar — can appear on your face (of course), hairline, neck, breasts, and, yes, your butt. Even if you haven’t had a killer zit since prom night, you may get some doozies while you’re pregnant.

What causes pregnancy acne?

Two things conspire to cause breakouts, which tend to hit sometime around week 6 of pregnancy: hormone surges, of course (in this case, progesterone, which causes your glands to increase acne-causing secretions of oil, called sebum) can clog up pores and cause bacteria to build up, leading to breakouts. And your body is also retaining more fluids, which contain toxins that can lead to zits. Yikes!

What you can do about it

Clean up.

Your best offense is a good defense: Prevent flare-ups and scars by taking good care of your skin during pregnancy. Clean 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 around your hairline and jaw, where pores tend to get clogged. Wash your hair on a regular basis, especially if it’s oily. And keep your pillowcases, towels and any hats you wear regularly clean as well.

But don’t be tempted to scrub zits away.

Over-washing or getting overaggressive with scrubs doesn’t work — not only because you probably have extra sensitive skin during pregnancy, but because over-washing strips your skin of its natural moisture, which in turn causes your oil glands to go into overdrive trying to replenish what you’ve removed, making it more prone to breakouts.

And don’t squeeze or pick at pimples either, as tempted as you might be. As your mother always warned you (and this time she’s right), these tactics will only make zits last longer and can cause scars.


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.

Read before you buy.

Look for skin care, makeup, and even hair care products that are oil-free and are labeled non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic (formulated not to cause acne). Oil-free moisturizers and makeup are a good idea as well.

Eat smart.

Speaking of diet, cutting out (or just cutting back on) sugar and refined grains can do wonders for your skin. (Opt for whole grains instead.) Also, unhealthy fats (aka the saturated fats found in fried foods and many baked goods) can aggravate acne, so replace these eats with skin-boosting healthy fats like avocado, salmon, walnuts, and almonds. More skin-friendly foods: colorful fresh fruits and vegetables and, believe it or not, small amounts of dark chocolate (the darker the better). Just eat in moderation, Mama chocolate does contain caffeine.

Drink up.

Drinking plenty of water helps flush out your skin, keeping it moist and clearer.

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