Acne is always a bitch, but when you’re having a baby, the last thing you want to worry about is breakouts. We take a look at the science behind pregnancy acne, and tips for keeping your skin in baby-bottom condition.
If you’re experiencing pregnancy acne right now, you’re not alone. More than 50% of people experience the dreaded breakouts when pregnant. Whilst more aggressive medical treatment is off the cards when pregnant, you can still take steps to manage your pregnancy acne.
Who gets pregnancy and postpartum acne?
The clue is in the question - those who are pregnant or have just had a baby are susceptible to hormonal acne. However, you’re more likely to experience it if you’ve suffered with hormonal acne in the past, or if you get acne at the start of your monthly periods. Some people are just born lucky, right?
What causes pregnancy and postpartum acne?
Let’s start with the science
Contrary to popular belief, pregnancy acne is not simply karma for all those teenage tantrums your mum had to deal with. It is, in fact, due to your hormones going haywire in response to being pregnant.
The hormone in question is called progesterone. Progesterone is the female sex hormone, made in your ovaries. It builds up in the uterus during your monthly period, and also increases when pregnant, to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
“Baby is brewing. I repeat, baby is brewing. Send in reinforcements.”
Your progesterone hormones when pregnant, running around your ovaries carrying walkie-talkies and wearing dark sunglasses.
Although we need these essential hormones to their job, they also trigger pregnancy acne. Higher hormone levels increase sebum (oil) production. Sebum is the main ingredient in your body’s natural oils. It coats, moisturises and protects your skin. But again, in abundance, it can be a bitch. Extra sebum can clog pores and cause you to breakout.
Usually, after giving birth your hormones return to normal. In this case, pregnancy acne should disappear. However, it may take a little longer for this to happen, and acne may linger for several weeks or months.
Progesterone isn’t the only cause of postpartum acne. If your stress levels are high after giving birth, due to a really cute but really tiring bundle of joy, you could experience acne as a result. When your stress levels are high, your cortisol levels spike. Increased cortisol levels also provoke extra sebum production.
How to tackle pregnancy acne
The most important takeaway is not to try any medications or medicated creams that may pose risk to your baby. Several aggressive acne treatments can cause birth defects, and even low-risk medications should be avoided.
To get your acne under control, you can practice the following tips for good skin care:
- Limit washing your face to twice per day, at morning and night or after excess sweating. Over-cleansing your face can strip your skin of its natural oils, wreaking further havoc on your sebum production.
- When washing your face, use an oil-free, alcohol-free cleanser.
- Wash skin gently, and pat dry rather than rubbing skin. Hormonal skin needs delicate care, not punishment.
- If you have oily skin or an oily scalp, shampoo your hair frequently. We normally advise against over-washing, but it may be necessary to wash hair every day or every other day during pregnancy to cleanse your hairline of oils. If this causes your ends to feel dry, you can use our natural hair oil, Crowning Glory, to add a little life to them.
- Change your pillowcases regularly.
- Avoid touching your face. Bacteria and oils from your hands can settle in your pores.
- Wash fabric face masks after wearing.
- Don’t squeeze your spots - no no no. It might be satisfying but it spreads bacteria and aggravates your skin.
- If you wear makeup, opt for water-based products rather than oil-based. Look for products that are non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic.
- Removing all makeup every day is a must.
How to tackle postpartum acne
All of the above tactics are still advisable, but here’s a few more:
- Manage your stress levels by practicing self-care. This can include anything you have time for, such as a short walk, a guided meditation or making yourself a cup of camomile tea.
- Keep a food diary to check if anything in particular triggers your acne response.
- You can now use some topical treatments that were off-limits during pregnancy, such as retinoids and benzoyl peroxide. However, if you have acne on your chest, you should not apply these products to your chest if breastfeeding. We don’t want baby ingesting them.
- Sun exposure can cause redness and inflammation, so be sure to keep your face out of direct sunlight as much as possible, and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
- Speak to your doctor if your acne persists in spite of trying these remedies.
- Drink plenty of water. We know this is obvious advice, but it’s so important so we simply can’t leave it out.
Sorry if these lists feel like another task to consume your time, but we wanted to empower you with all the information. Taking care of your skin should feel relaxing, and not a chore. When you’re looking after your skin, you’re acknowledging that you deserve some self-care, which is amazing.
Above all, remember that your hormones will calm the hell down soon and your skin should return to normal. Our skin dictates so much of how we feel about ourselves, but try to bear in mind the incredible things your body has done over the past nine months.
Love, Nessa. x