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Safe Treatment for Acne in Pregnancy

Safe Treatment for Acne in Pregnancy Safe Treatment for Acne in Pregnancy


Acne is a nuisance for many pregnant women. Women who already have acne may experience worsening of their acne, and women who have never been bothered by acne may experience it for the first time. Finding a safe and effective treatment for acne during pregnancy can be tricky because some of the more common and effective acne treatments are not recommended during pregnancy and may cause harm to an unborn baby.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter acne medications. Benzoyl peroxide is absorbed into the pores and cleans out the clog causing the pimple, as well as dries up excess oil. While benzoyl peroxide is absorbed into the skin, according to, it is generally considered a safe topical acne treatment during pregnancy. Different concentrations of benzoyl peroxide are in different products, ranging from about 2.5 percent up to 10 percent. Lower concentrations not only have a milder effect but ensure that less chemical is absorbed into the body.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is safe to use under certain circumstances. Many over-the-counter acne treatments such as washes, toners and creams contain salicylic acid and are considered safe to use during pregnancy at concentrations below 2 percent. According to, salicylic acid in oral form is contraindicated during pregnancy and shouldn't be taken. Face and body peels containing salicylic acid should be performed by a dermatologist who can perform the peel safely.


For more stubborn cases of acne during pregnancy, a dermatologist may prescribe erythromycin topical gel plus benzoyl peroxide. Erythromycin is an antibiotic that fights P. acnes, a bacteria that contributes to the formation of acne. The gel may come by itself or already mixed with benzoyl peroxide. Erythromycin plus benzoyl peroxide has a fairly high success rate at clearing acne, but it can be very drying on the skin. Erythromycin is best for people with moderate to severe acne during pregnancy.

Natural Alternatives

For those who wish to avoid chemicals entirely during pregnancy, there are other ways to treat or manage acne. Simply washing morning and night with a mild soap and patting the skin dry may help. Tea tree oil has some of the same drying and healing effects as benzoyl peroxide without the harsh chemicals. Making an exfoliating mask using oats and egg whites to apply to the skin may help treat skin breakouts as well. Mud masks that contain no harsh chemicals are also effective in exfoliating the skin.

Prescriptions to Avoid

Prescription medications with questionable safeness include tretinoin, or Retin-A, and tetracycline. According to the American Pregnancy Association, tretinoin is a schedule C medication, which means the risk of harm to an unborn baby when taking this medication is unknown. Tetracycline, a schedule D medication, may cause slow or inadequate bone growth and teeth discoloration in an unborn baby and should be avoided.

Accutane Warnings

Isotretinoin, or Accutane, tops the list of acne medications that are potentially dangerous to an unborn baby. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the Organization of Teratology Information Services states that approximately 25 to 35 percent of infants exposed to isotretinoin during the first trimester of pregnancy showed a pattern of birth defects. Birth defects associated with isotretinoin use include craniofacial defects, central nervous system defects and heart defects. Women taking this medication are required to use two reliable forms of birth control and submit to a regular pregnancy test.

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