The best products for pregnancy acne

Pregnancy brings many changes to your body, ranging from increased blood flow to excess sebum (thanks to increased production of estrogen and androgen). That extra oil can make rare women glow, but for most of us, it just revives skin conditions we thought we’d beaten, like hormonal acne – you know, the cysts that develop under your skin and s lurking there, painfully, like a canker sore your tongue just can’t go away on its own. You’re likely to see the unfortunate results of those clogged pores on your chin, cheeks, neck, back and shoulders, or maybe your legs and buttocks (joy!). The icing on the hormonal cake is the hyperpigmentation that everyone leaves behind. Even women who have never faced hormonal acne could find themselves facing it when they are pregnant.

To add to all the upheaval, pregnancy flare-ups can be difficult to combat because many of the most reliable acne-fighting ingredients – AHAs, retinols and others – aren’t considered safe to use. So what can you do to be able to face your face for those nine months or more? I spoke to several experts – dermatologists, estheticians – and tested several myself to find out which products are both safe and effective in the fight against hormonal acne during pregnancy.

Best treatments for pregnancy acne

A powerful multitasking serum

“Azelaic acid is an amazing multitasking ingredient for pregnancy acne. It’s a gentle exfoliator that unclogs pores. It kills bacteria and is anti-inflammatory. Plus, it fades post-acne dark spots. However, it takes time to work, so patience is key,” says Patricia Lo, a dermatologist who sits on Versine’s medical board. The brand’s formulation, found in this serum, is particularly pleasant for women who want to avoid anything with a hint of potential worry.It does, however, contain vitamin C and niacinamide (to heal and relieve hyperpigmentation); squalane, hyaluronic acid and ceramides for deep hydration; and kakadu plum extract to promote collagen production.


An affordable skin cleansing treatment

This is another azelaic acid treatment recommended by New York dermatologist Michelle Henry. This line is also excellent because it is very affordable. At $10 a tube, you can top up all nine months guilt-free. And it’s damn clean, free of perfume, alcohols, parabens, formaldehyde or oxybenzone.


A safe alternative to retinol for pregnancy

The active ingredient in this Henry-recommended serum is bakuchiol, which has been shown to be as effective as prescription topical retinols. Just check with your doctor before using it; as with glycolic acid, some advise against using even small amounts during pregnancy.


An anti-breakout oil treatment

Kristina Holey, a skincare specialist in San Francisco who has a line of products with Marie Veronique, recommends applying this oil morning and night to combat first-trimester breakouts. It contains argan and tea tree oils to thin oil, omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation, and willow bark extract to target acne at the source. (Side note: This literally saved this writer’s skin.)


An anti-inflammatory bath

Although eating and drinking yogurt and dairy products can trigger breakouts, they are actually mildly anti-inflammatory when you apply them. topically, said Henry. So feel free to slather on your face or fill your pot with yogurt or whole milk (including the coconut type, featured here) – it’s really nice. Herbivore’s Coconut Milk Bath Soak has a lovely light scent and is very hydrating. It also contains no synthetic ingredients, so you can feel good relaxing for a while. Just be sure to keep the water temperature a little cooler than normal (no more than 100 degrees) to be safe for baby.


Soothing cleansers for pregnancy acne

A super gentle facial cleanser

“A simple routine is best for pregnancy, and a good cleanser is key,” says Jennie Gao, attorney and founder of Versine. “This one is soft and well formulated. It cleanses without disrupting your natural skin barrier. It contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture and prevent skin from drying out (pregnancy is one of those fun times when you can be particularly oily and dry), and it’s suitable for eczema if you want to use it all over your body. Yes, eczema is something you might experience for the first time when you are pregnant too.


A plant-based cleansing oil

Gao also loves this vegetable oil-based cleanser from Australian brand Go-To. “It does a good job of removing makeup, which is essential for clear, healthy skin, and it’s safe for pregnancy,” she says. It’s sulfate and paraben free, and we love that it’s not tested on animals. Camellia oil, sunflower oil and sweet almond oil provide nourishing fatty acids and vitamins.


A cleansing oil with a soothing scent

This luxurious cleanser with a bouquet of natural oils and extracts is incredibly rich and ideal for cleaning. I tested it and my skin looks almost – dare I say – glistening. It smells so restful, with spicy and earthy notes. It’s a small bottle, but a worthy indulgence. And it made my face deeply hydrated, plumped and better overall.


Targeted cleansers for hormonal acne

An anti-stain facial cleanser

Some doctors recommend avoiding even low levels of salicylic acid or glycolic acid, as well as natural ingredients like willow bark extract, because there isn’t much research showing that they are definitely safe. If you want to be ultra-cautious, go ahead and skip them all. However, Henry recommends this one: Made by longtime skincare guru Martha Stewart, it contains glycolic acid (the percentage isn’t listed on the package) to deep cleanse and eliminate congestion. The company recommends using it one to three times a week in place of your regular cleanser. You can also use it only on the places that bother you, like your chin or elsewhere (hello, random shoulder button). Check with your OB-GYN first.


A balancing skin cleanser

Maison/Made founder and mom-to-be Carolina Prioglio uses it when she’s not using her own biodynamic cleansing oil. She describes it as follows: “A very mild and extremely simple formulation that is gentle on the microbiome and does the job.” In other words, it will remove the oil without stripping your skin and maintaining this vicious cycle.


Is there really a “pregnancy burst”?

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you might have wondered, like me, if this glow is a myth or just unlucky. “Personally, I’ve never known anyone in real life who shone during pregnancy,” Gao says. This “glow” can be attributed to the increased blood flow that occurs when you become pregnant. To be clear, this is very real: your body is actually producing almost twice as much blood as usual. (That’s the equivalent of about four pounds – a statistic that blew my husband away.)

At the same time, your body also increases the production of estrogen, as well as the hormone androgen; it’s the one that causes the sebaceous glands in your skin to secrete more sebum, just like during puberty. Sebum, as you may know, is basically oil.

How long does pregnancy acne last?

Unfortunately, it’s not just something that pops up for a short period of time. Like everything else in pregnancy, it’s unpredictable, according to Holey. It tends to start around six weeks and can fade gradually, last until baby arrives, or come and go in waves, much like your appetite.

What anti-acne ingredients should be avoided during pregnancy?

At the top of the list are all the retinols (including isotretinoin, aka Accutane and tretinoin, as well as over-the-counter serums and moisturizers), which could have controlled your skin by stimulating cell turnover. Also banned are derm go-tos like doxycycline, benzoyl peroxide, and alpha hydroxy acids.

Some essential oils are also questionable. It depends on the type of oil and the dosage, explains Prioglio. She suggests avoiding them during the first trimester, when you and your baby are very sensitive, and then limiting your exposure thereafter. In his company’s formulations (which smell divine, even to this pregnant woman’s nose), for example, the total dosage is less than 1%.

In terms of what’s going on in your body, Henry recommends avoiding dairy products, which we know are inflammatory, as well as sweets or empty carbs: “Anything that could cause insulin to spike can also help reduce flare-ups. acne.” Good luck with that – for some of us (ahem) it may be a lost cause.

About Sally Dominguez

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