Top tips to treat pregnancy acne


Pregnancy provides a beautiful glow to some women, thanks to the skin’s elevated hydration and moisture-retention levels, along with amplified exposure to vitamins and minerals via placental fluid transport. But for other moms-to-be, explains Dr Judey Pretorius, co-founder of Biomedical Emporium, the increased and fluctuating hormonal activity during the first trimester can have the opposite effect. This includes increased sebum production and pigmentation due to the overstimulation of melanocyte-stimulating hormones – which results in pregnancy acne.

ALSO SEE: Your guide to pigmentation in pregnancy

Pimples during pregnancy might seem like cruel and unusual punishment as you may already be dealing with weight gain, nausea, exhaustion and ever-changing hormones that affect your mood. But it’s these hormones, combined with other factors like gut bacteria and medication, that contribute to the acne, explains Dr Maureen Allem, founder and medical director of Skin Renewal.

“Acne during pregnancy mostly occurs during the first and second trimesters, when there are unusually high levels of androgen hormones,” according to Dr Bradley Wagemaker, medical director at Lamelle Research Laboratories.
Dr Pretorius adds that if you don’t develop acne during the first trimester, it’s unlikely you’ll have breakouts that are out of the ordinary during the second or third trimesters. She says that more than half of pregnant women can expect to develop acne. In some cases, it may be severe but usually resolves about three months after birth.

While acne is not uncommon during pregnancy, what differs is the degree or severity of the breakouts. “If you had acne during your teenage years or fall pregnant later in life, you may be more prone to acne – but these aren’t hard and fast rules. Pregnancy hormones affect individuals differently, so anyone could develop acne during pregnancy,” says Dr Allem.

Can you preven pregnancy acne?

The bad news is that you can’t prevent it from happening, but you can manage or minimise it. Dr Allem recommends following a healthy diet, and taking prebiotics and probiotics. Dr Wagemaker says, “In most cases the outbreak can be adequately managed with home-care products that contain ingredients such as topical salicylic acid and azelaic acid. Topical retinoids have not been tested adequately to confidently recommend their use in pregnancy and oral retinoids should also be avoided.”

Trusted tips


  • Keep your skin well hydrated. Look for hydrating serums and creams that contain hyaluronic acid and vitamin E.
  • Choose products with antioxidant ingredients, such as vitamin C. These will enhance your skin’s barrier function and promote skin-cell turnover rates.
  • Use a good broad-spectrum facial sunscreen.
  • Take probiotics.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Start facial treatments as soon as possible after your baby is born to restore your skin’s health as quickly as possible.


  • Pick, scratch or extract, as this can cause scarring.
  • Over-cleanse.
  • Use harsh soaps or exfoliators that dry out your skin. Rather choose products containing alpha-hydroxy acids, such as lactic acid and glycolic acids.
  • Use home peeling systems.
  • Have active treatments or acne facials.
  • Expose your face to the sun.

5 treatments to try

Six Purifying and Mattifying Booster Elixer Serum, R220

Six purifying and boosting elixer

Biomedical Emporium Anti-Acne Serum, R615

Bio Medical Emporium Anti-acne serum

Placecol Spot-on Therapy, R200

Placebol spot on therapy

Eucerin DermoPurifyer Hydrating Care, R190

Eucerin Dermo Purifier

Cetaphil Dermacontrol Wash, R161

Cetaphil Dermacontrol Wash

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