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Pregnancy Acne: What To Avoid & How To Treat Breakouts

Acne Treatment, Laser Acne

Pregnancy Acne: What To Avoid & How To Treat Breakouts

Having a baby and becoming a parent is one of the most exciting and joyous milestones in one’s life – but it is also a time where many serious changes occur to both your skin and body.

While some of us are lucky to have the “pregnancy glow”, many will also experience more breakouts during this period.

Although a natural and common occurrence, whereby 1 in 2 can expect to develop acne; it can undoubtedly cause a dent in one’s confidence levels and cause anxiety.

Theoretically, pregnancy acne is the same as acne in non-pregnant individuals, appearing in the form of clogged pores, pimples, papules, pustules and/or cysts.

And while acne can be triggered by a plethora of factors – in the case of pregnancy acne, it is mainly due to the chaotic hormonal changes happening in our body to make room for the baby.

Unfortunately, cystic acne and comedonal acne are the two types that typically occur during pregnancy, which are also the hardest to treat.

There are also other conditions that pregnant women need to be worried about, including hyperpigmentation, itchy skin, stretch marks and hair loss; some of which are temporary while others become permanent.

Why pregnancy acne occurs

The main cause of pregnancy acne is due to the rapid surge of hormones during your first trimester (up to week 6), specifically progesterone and testosterone.

This causes an increase in your skin’s production of natural oils; which is one of the key factors for triggering acne. Those with a history of experiencing breakouts at the start of their menstrual cycle and have oily skin are also more likely to develop pregnancy acne, although this isn’t always the case.

In a 2017 study published by the Journal of Dermatology, 90% of participants who had acne before pregnancy also experienced the condition before they became pregnant.

During this time, your body is also retaining more fluids, which happens so that your body can accommodate the growing fetus. But because of this, toxins in your body may not be released as it normally would be, causing toxins to build up in your pores.

All of this makes the skin more susceptible to congestion, inflammation and creates the perfect environment for acne-causing bacteria to thrive – and we all know what happens next.

Although pregnancy acne usually subsides and goes away once your hormone levels stabilize after childbirth, it could take as long as six to eight weeks for them to settle down (in addition to the 9 months of dealing with pesky breakouts)

As mentioned earlier, pregnant women need to be more careful when choosing an acne treatment, and it can especially tricky to say with certainty what is safe and what is not since researchers do not carry out studies on pregnant women.

Note: Your skin is also more sensitive during pregnancy, so you need to proceed with caution in ALL treatments, not only for acne. Pregnant mothers are also more likely to develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and keloid scarring.

What can you use and not use?

When considering treatment options, there are several ingredients expecting moms should avoid as they come with a high risk of birth defects and can potentially harm your baby.

In fact, the FDA has released a Pregnancy Categories list that places different drugs and medications into groups based on whether or not they have the potential of causing birth defects if used during pregnancy.

Generally, category A, B and C can be safely prescribed, while category D and X should be avoided entirely.

Azelaic acid, for example, is a category B, while benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid is category C – although different doctors may argue about the safety of salicylic acid.

Retinoids and isotretinoin are under category D and X, which makes them NOT safe for use in pregnant women.

Reason being: isotretinoin is teratogenic, meaning to say that it has the potential to cause birth effects. When taken in the first trimester, this drug can cause facial, heart and central nervous system malformations; with studies revealing that roughly 42% of infants exposed to isotretinoin during pregnancy will have some form of a birth defect or die.

Research also tells us that pregnancy-related risks are still present for a month or two after stopping isotretinoin. This is why it is best to avoid virtually all oral acne medications during pregnancy as it can seep into your bloodstream and interact with your baby’s development.

Other treatments such as hormonal therapy like spironolactone, antibiotics such as minocycline and doxycycline and topical retinoids such as adapalene and tretinoin should also be avoided.

To be safe, the key is to work with GENTLE ingredients and products such as topicals. Only about 5% of topicals applied to the skin end up being absorbed by the body, so it is believed that such medications would not pose a serious risk of birth defects.

If you are facing more severe acne, your doctor can still prescribe certain antibiotics such as oral clindamycin and topical erythromycin in conjunction with other treatment modalities.

That being said, always speak to your doctor before starting any treatment, as even certain topicals like benzoyl peroxide should be ideally used in low concentrations.

Get a customized treatment plan @ The Clifford Clinic

While it may be frustrating to deal with breakouts while you are pregnant, it is always better to err on the side of caution and wait until you have given birth to start treatment.

It is important that you be wary of any laser acne treatment that requires a numbing solution or anesthesia as well, as this could also potentially affect your baby.

At our clinic, we have designed specialized programs and protocols that are safe for currently pregnant mothers as well as those in the post-partum phase.

One of the latest solutions that we have introduced at our clinic is our Gold PTT treatment. It is a non-invasive, effective and SAFE treatment that works wonder for treating pregnancy acne by targeting over-active sebaceous glands and reducing sebum production to neutralize ongoing acne and prevent future breakouts.

It features 3 key elements: ultrasound sonophoresis, laser therapy and most importantly, gold nanoparticles.

The gold nanoparticles are not absorbed by the body and the only side effects that you can expect are temporary redness, skin dryness or itching and discomfort at the treatment area. Because it uses heat instead of light energy, there is less risk of damaging the surrounding, healthy tissues. Also, no anesthesia is required for this treatment, which means there is no need to worry about unwanted chemicals entering your bloodstream!

Being the first to introduce Gold PTT in Singapore – we have come up with a proven safe and successful acne protocol that resolves even the most stubborn acne!

Our doctors have over 20 years of combined experience providing one of the best acne spot treatment in Singapore and can also recommend laser acne scar removal to help you become a more confident mama!

If you are still unsure about the ingredients listed on your products – feel free to get in touch with us today!


  • What does the procedure entail?

Our Gold PTT treatment is done in 3 steps:

1)An ampoule of gold nanoparticles is evenly applied to your face.

2)Using the Bellasonic ultrasound device, the gold nanoparticles are then delivered into the pores via sonophoresis.

3) Finally, using specialized lasers like the 1,064nm long-pulsed and 800nm diode laser to activate the gold nanoparticles, they are efficiently converted into heat energy to start treating acne.

Each session takes 30-45 minutes, and patients are recommended to undergo at least 3 sessions over a 1-week interval. Our doctors will further advise you on your individualized treatment plan during your consultation. 

  • Is the treatment painful?

You might experience a slight tingling sensation when the laser heats the gold nanoparticles. Other than that, this is a relatively comfortable and no-downtime procedure that allows you to go back to your daily activities immediately after!

  • What results can I expect?

This treatment is great for neutralizing ongoing acne and preventing future breakouts, and it is recommended for patients to undergo at least 3 sessions over a 1-week interval. Each session lasts 30–45 minutes, and you will be able to see improvements within 6 weeks after the last session!