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Acne Wash & Pregnancy

By Kristin Leigh ; Updated June 13, 2017

Acne commonly flares up during pregnancy because of the hormonal shifts that occur. Unfortunately, this common pregnancy problem can also be tricky to treat during pregnancy because many acne medicines can be dangerous to a developing baby. Finding an effective and safe acne wash is often the best approach to treating pregnancy acne, and can prevent the potential adverse effects associated with more potent acne medications.


Acne affects a staggering number of people. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne affects 40 to 50 million Americans and is the most common skin problem in the United States. Approximately 85 percent of all people suffer from acne at some point during their lives. Pregnancy can cause acne in women who have never had breakouts or who have not had acne since adolescence. In addition, pregnancy often exacerbates acne in women with acne-prone skin.

Gentle Cleansing

For the occasional pimple during pregnancy, a gentle cleanser may help the problem. Gentle cleansers formulated for sensitive skin can help remove dirt and excess oil without irritating the skin. In addition, a mild cleanser may be followed with a pregnancy-safe spot treatment such as benzoyl peroxide. Cleansing twice daily and following with a mild spot treatment as well as an oil-free or non-comedogenic moisturizer may be the best approach to treating the occasional blemish during pregnancy.

Benzoyl Peroxide

For mild to moderate pregnancy acne, a benzoyl peroxide acne wash may provide some relief. Benzoyl peroxide reduces excess oil production which can help reduce clogged pores and inflamed breakouts. In addition, benzoyl peroxide fights P. acnes, a skin bacteria that can become trapped in clogged pores and cause pimples. According to the American Pregnancy Association, benzoyl peroxide treatment has been recommended safe for use during pregnancy. Benzoyl peroxide may cause the skin to become overly dry at the onset of treatment, which can be reduced by following up with a non-comedogenic moisturizer after cleansing.

Salicylic Acid

Many over-the-counter acne cleansers contain a 2-percent concentration of salicylic acid. According to the American Academy of Dermatology's AcneNet, salicylic acid does not reduce excess oil and bacteria like benzoyl peroxide does, but it regulates skin sloughing to prevent dead skin cells from clogging pores and helps reduce inflammation. The use of salicylic acid treatment during pregnancy is controversial. Salicylic acid is in the aspirin family, and oral preparations of the medication have been shown to cause birth defects. According to "Safe Skin Care During Pregnancy" from BabyCenter, Dr. Sandra Marchese Johnson of Johnson Dermatology in Fort Smith, Ark., states that small amounts of topical salicylic acid may be safe for use during pregnancy. However, consulting with an OB/GYN or dermatologist prior to treating with salicylic acid is recommended.

Natural or Organic Washes

Multitudes of natural or organics over-the-counter washes exist claiming to provide effective acne treatment. According to the American Academy of Dermatology's AcneNet, the effectiveness of these remedies has rarely been tested in clinical trials. In addition, some herbs and other ingredients used in natural remedies may cause harm to an unborn baby. Consulting with an OB/GYN before using any natural, herbal or organic remedies is recommended to avoid the harmful effects that can occur when using the seemingly gentle ingredients in these products. Some common herbs, such as aloe, are considered unsafe for oral use during pregnancy, and an OB/GYN may recommend avoiding topical use of these herbs as well.

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