The Best Pregnancy-Safe Acne Products and Ingredients

Pregnancy is a whirlwind of change. How can it not be, when your body is growing and nurturing a baby? And as your body changes, your routines will change too. I’m here to tell you about your skincare routine. Prior to my first pregnancy, I regularly saw my dermatologist Shari Marchbein, who helped me control my breakouts by prescribing several over-the-counter topical creams. I had a few months of blissful fair skin, then found out I was pregnant with my daughter.

My skin was all over the first trimester, then a miracle happened: everything cleared up on its own. (If you believe old wives’ tales, you might think it was because I was having a daughter.) However, with my son, my skin was a city of escape. In both situations, I knew I had to deviate from what Dr. Marchbein had originally prescribed, because, as you may or may not know, many common skin care ingredients are not recommended during pregnancy.

It’s not that you should panic about skincare ingredients, says Dr. Marchbein, but you should be aware of what we know and don’t know about the safety of certain skincare ingredients. . “Do I think something you put on your face is going to your uterus? No,” she said. “These topicals do not migrate – but, since we are not testing on pregnant women, prevention is better than cure. Especially since there are ingredients and treatments that we know can affect the uterus; In all cases, the health of mother and baby is of the utmost importance, so we rely on science and data and err on the side of caution.

Skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy

As with anything pregnancy-related, dermatologists want to make sure they’re recommending things that have been shown to be safe through a patient’s three trimesters, Dr. Marchbein says. The first thing most dermatologists will recommend you stop using if you are trying to get pregnant is spironolactone, a potassium-sparing diuretic that is also used to treat acne because it slows the production of androgen hormones, such as testosterone. Because it affects your body’s hormones, doctors recommend avoiding it during pregnancy due to potential risks to the fetus.

Accutane is another no-no. Oral acne medication, usually prescribed for cases of severe acne, actually requires two forms of contraception when prescribed (think birth control pills and condoms) because it can cause serious birth defects. When it comes to acne topicals, Dr. Marchbein says she avoids prescribing Tazorac for his patients, as it can also cause serious birth defects; also on his list are not Retina A, Aczone (a topical version of Dapsone) and Winlevi Where different in (an over-the-counter retinoid). “Doxycyclinean oral antibiotic, is also best avoided during pregnancy as it can cause permanent yellowing of your baby’s teeth, a form of birth defect.

She also recommends avoiding topical products. beta-hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid, which she says “penetrates deeper into the skin and enters the sebaceous glands and can potentially pose a risk,” although studies indicate it’s safe in pregnancy. “Hydroquinone, which is used to help treat hyperpigmentation, is also an ingredient to stop using during pregnancy, as it has a relatively high systemic absorption rate, so it’s just not worth the risk,” adds she. She also recommends hitting pause on cosmetic and elective procedures, such as fillers and injectables, until you are finished breastfeeding.

If you find out you are pregnant, immediately stop taking any of the medications or using any of the topical ingredients mentioned above before starting a new routine.

Alright so what can you use during pregnancy, you ask?

Don’t worry, there are plenty of options. “It also depends on the comfort of each individual,” says Dr. Marchbein. She suggests working with your dermatologist on your routine, whether or not it includes over-the-counter prescription gels. “There are acne options that are efficient – you don’t have to stop everything, but you do need to know what is safe for pregnancy,” she adds.

Anti-Acne Ingredients That Can Be Used Safely During Pregnancy

Look for these key ingredients if you’re trying to create a pregnancy-safe acne routine, says Dr. Marchbein.

  • Alpha-hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid: These have a small molecular weight, which allows them to easily penetrate your skin, targeting acne-causing bacteria, while helping with hyperpigmentation, general shine and clogged pores.
  • Polyhydroxy acids: These acids don’t even penetrate the skin as deeply as AHAs; however, they still reach the level in your skin that is needed to make a difference in your appearance.
  • Azelaic Acid: I used it during my pregnancy and can attest to its effectiveness. (Note: According to Dr. Marchbein, the 15% prescription amount is most effective; it works as an anti-inflammatory and is gentle enough even for sensitive skin. It also helps target hyperpigmentation and rosacea, by more acne.)
  • Clindomyacin and erythromycin: Dr. Marchbein notes that erythromycin is often less effective, but both are antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.
  • Benzoyl Peroxide: This ingredient is best as a wash or leave on gel; there is also a prescription version called Onexton — I also personally used it during my pregnancy. Think of it as a full spot treatment.
  • Hydrocolloid acne stickers: I also used them during my pregnancy. “These are also great if you’re a skin picker and for helping breakouts heal as well,” adds Dr. Marchbein. Try those from Starface, Mighty Patch or Good Light.
  • Vitamin C: This powerful antioxidant creates collagen and brightens the skin.
  • Steroid injections: These are also safe for pregnancy and super effective in helping reduce inflammation.
  • In-office extractions: Don’t try to do extractions at home – it can lead to inflammation and even scarring.
  • Augmentin or Keflexeven some forms of oral communication Aurithromyacin: Some dermatologists will prescribe off-label use of these antibiotics, all of which can help clear bacterial skin infections.
  • Sunscreens based on zinc and titanium: Zinc is a proven anti-acne ingredient. In addition, it protects your skin from the sun and prevents hyperpigmentation caused by UVA and UVB rays.
  • Niacinamide: Also known as vitamin B3, this skin-soothing ingredient also lightens dark spots.
  • Kojic acid and licorice root: These natural ingredients can help brighten your overall skin tone.
  • Bakuchiol: It is a natural ingredient that acts as a retinol substitute and helps firm and tone the skin.
  • Some LED light therapies: At-home devices with red (for aging) and blue (for acne) LED light can be a good option – just talk to your dermatologist before using to get the green light.

You can use most ingredients while breastfeeding.

It should be clear that you have many options for safely controlling your acne while you’re pregnant. The point to remember is to always meet with a dermatologist to make sure you’re using the right regimen for your skin concerns. And once your baby is born, chances are you can go back to your old routine. “As soon as someone is breastfeeding, I give my patients the prescriptions and ingredients that are part of their regular diet, because we have studies that show that these ingredients absolutely do not pass into breast milk,” notes Dr. Marchbein . Finally, if you have any additional questions, you can always email your OB-GYN a list of ingredients that apply to you (I’ve definitely done this several times!).

My pregnancy skincare routine

A M:

  1. Spray my face with water and pat it until the skin is damp.
  2. Vitamin C Serum – I used Beauty Stat Universal C Vitamin C Serum on my face, neck and chest).
  3. Apply Onexton, a prescription acne gel.
  4. Apply zinc and titanium oxide sunscreens. I love Isntree, DayLong SPF 50+, SuperGoop Mineral Sheer Screen.


  1. Wash my face with Simple Micellar Gel Cleanser – this one is still in the rotation to this day because it tastes so good and so soft.
  2. Apply the prescribed 15% Azelaic Acid Cream.
  3. Apply Augustinus Bader La Crème Riche.

Shop My Pregnancy Acne Picks

Studies cited:

Han, G., Wu, JJ and Del Rosso, JQ (2020). Use of topical tazarotene for the treatment of acne vulgaris during pregnancy: a review of the literature. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 13(9), E59–E65.

Cross, R., Ling, C., Day, NP, McGready, R. & Paris, DH (2016). Revisiting doxycycline in pregnancy and infancy – time to rebuild your reputation?, 15(3), 367–382.

Tang, SC and Yang, JH (2018). Double effect of alpha-hydroxy acids on the skin. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(4), 863.

Shalita AR, Smith EB, Bauer E. Topical erythromycin versus clindamycin treatment for acne: a multicenter, double-blind comparison. Ark Dermatol. 1984

Pullar, JM, Carr, AC and Vissers, M. (2017). The roles of vitamin C in skin health. Nutrients, 9(8), 866.

Gupta, M., Mahajan, VK, Mehta, KS and Chauhan, PS (2014). Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Research and Practice in Dermatology, 2014709152.

Hakozaki, T., Minwalla, L., Zhuang, J., Chhoa, M., Matsubara, A., Miyamoto, K., Greatens, A., Hillebrand, GG, Bissett, DL and Boissy, RE (2002). The effect of niacinamide on reduction of skin pigmentation and suppression of melanosome transfer. The British Journal of Dermatology, 147(1), 20–31.

Dhaliwal, S., Rybak, I., Ellis, SR, Notay, M., Trivedi, M., Burney, W., Vaughn, AR, Nguyen, M., Reiter, P., Bosanac, S., Yan, H., Foolad, N. and Sivamani, RK (2019). Prospective, randomized, double-blind evaluation of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoaging. The British Journal of Dermatology, 180(2), 289–296.

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