Pregnancy-safe Acne Treatment

As an expecting mother, how can you have a pregnancy-safe skincare routine that still includes actives?


Oftentimes, becoming pregnant can cause hormonal changes that bring on acne, blemishes, or even hyperpigmentation. While there are a wealth of amazing ingredients on the market that treat these skin concerns, some of them are not approved or at least worrisome for pregnant people. So, when you’re struggling with sensitive skin, melasma, or breakouts, or other common skin conditions due to pregnancy, how do you treat your skin whilst keeping your baby safe? In this article, we’ll give you some great suggestions on things to avoid and us. However, always bring concerns to your doctor first. 


First, we’ll start with the skincare ingredients that you should avoid while pregnant, then we’ll suggest pregnancy-safe alternatives.


Avoid Retinoids:


During pregnancy, there are ingredients like retinoids that dermatologists don’t recommend. Retinoids are vitamin A, which our body makes naturally but they are not approved for internal or topical use during pregnancy. No vitamin A means no retinol, no retinaldehyde, no PR (ester form of retinoic acid), and definitely no tretinoin. 


What to use instead:


Lactic Acid:


While retinoids reduce fine lines and wrinkles, increase the production of collagen, stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin, soften skin, and improve skin color, mild exfoliating AHAs are the better option for pregnant people. Mild AHAs like lactic acid can help with dark spots and pigmentation left from breakouts during pregnancy.


Lactic acid also increases cell turnover and helps eliminate accumulated dead skin cells on the epidermis, the top layer of the skin. Lactic acid can help the skin become firmer and thicker. As a result, your skin can get a smoother appearance and have fewer fine lines and deep wrinkles.


Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum -  $12.99



Avoid Salicylic acid : 


While this mainly refers to the oral ingestion of salicylic acid, many people don’t feel comfortable using it in skincare out of precaution. Benzoyl peroxide and hydroquinone are other actives for dark spots and acne that may bring concerns to some pregnant people.


What to use instead:


Azelaic acid


Azelaic acid exfoliates the skin by loosening the bonds between dead skin cells and by revealing a more radiant complexion underneath. If your skin is more sensitive during pregnancy, azelaic acid is a great choice as it is even more gentle than lactic acid. While Azelaic acid isn’t oil soluble like salicylic acid, it can work to treat acne by killing the bacteria that infect pores and by decreasing the production of keratin, a natural substance that can lead to the development of acne. Moreover, azelaic can help with papulopustular rosacea. 


You can use azelaic acid during the day or night, and you should rub it all over your face. 


Holifrog Galilee Azalaic acid -$48


Revolution Azelaic Acid Moisturizer - $13.80

Versine Azelaic Acid Creme Serum -$80

Inkey list Oat Cleansing Balm -$9.99


Although salicylic acid is good at removing makeup because of its penetrating qualities, as mentioned before, some women may not want to use it during pregnancy. However, this cleanser is very gentle and particularly good at removing makeup and reducing any skin irritation from makeup. 

HERO Pimple Patches


Pimple patches aren’t all pregnancy safe because some of them have salicylic acid.

However, the HERO patch originals are pregnancy safe. They are your basic hydrocolloid gel patches that mitigate pimples and help people from picking. You can use them during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 

HERO Patches -$21.99

Avoid Hydroquinone:


Hydroquinone is often used to brighten dark spots and melasma caused by hormonal changes. This medicine works by blocking the process in the skin that leads to discoloration, but is not fully approved for pregnancy 


What to use instead:




SPF is more of a preventative measure, and once again, you should always speak to your doctor to find out what’s best for your needs. Some derms and doctors guard against sunscreens that aren’t carbon-based or chemical. Rather, they suggest inorganic or mineral sunscreens because they tend to cause fewer reactions on the skin like burning and itching. 


SPF can prevent pigmentation by protecting the skin from UVB rays that cause melanin production and visible light that causes irritation and therefore post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Anytime, the skin is irritated, there is an increased risk of acne since, an inflammatory response. Thus, using SPF can work to prevent hyperpigmentation as well as acne.


ISDIN Ultralight Mineral Sunscreen -$70

This is a broad spectrum SPF 50. It’s 100% mineral and water-resistant. It’s vegan, cruelty-free, and totally worth it.

Cleure Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen -$39



If you want an SPF option for the entire body, this one from Cleure is also pregnancy safe. Especially if you have sensitive skin, Cleure makes a lot of products that help to support the skin. Dr. Dray also recommends it. Please note though that it’s a bit pasty and takes time to rub in. 


These are a few of our suggestions, and you can watch here for a further explanation on these product from Cassandra. Always chat with your doctor first, and congratulations!