From environmental toxins to ingested substances, a pregnant woman exposes her unborn child to everything her body encounters--and topical medications are no exception. Benzoyl peroxide, an ingredient commonly used for fighting acne, is sometimes prescribed for combating hormone-induced breakouts that occur during pregnancy 2. Understanding the uses and safety considerations of benzoyl peroxide can help you determine whether or not to use this treatment while expecting.
As a skin treatment, benzoyl peroxide works by controlling the growth of P. acnes--a strain of bacteria responsible for acne breakouts. As Acne.com explains, benzoyl peroxide sterilizes and oxidizes the skin, preventing pores from clogging and lesions from forming. Because hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause acne or exacerbate existing outbreaks, expecting mothers may use benzoyl peroxide to maintain healthy, blemish-free skin 2. Although this medication can treat acne during pregnancy, it does not cure it 2. Benzoyl peroxide is only effective with consistent and long-term use.
- As a skin treatment, benzoyl peroxide works by controlling the growth of P. acnes--a strain of bacteria responsible for acne breakouts.
- Because hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause acne or exacerbate existing outbreaks, expecting mothers may use benzoyl peroxide to maintain healthy, blemish-free skin 2.
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Although many benzoyl peroxide products are sold over-the-counter, prescription medications are also available and may contain higher concentrations of this ingredient. Pregnant women should consult a physician when deciding what type of product to purchase and how frequently to use it.
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the few acne medications considered safe for use during pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association 2. Other popular drugs--including tetracycline, tretinoin and isotretinoin--can pose risks to developing fetuses, including birth defects, inhibition of bone growth and an increased chance of miscarriage. Benzoyl peroxide offers the same acne-fighting benefits of other medications without jeopardizing the health of your unborn child.
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Because hormone-induced acne during pregnancy is usually temporary, some women choose to forgo medicated acne treatments and wait for the condition to clear up on its own 2. In some cases, adjustments in diet or grooming habits can improve your complexion and make benzoyl peroxide-containing acne treatments unnecessary. Making lifestyle changes in lieu of medication can protect your child from exposure to this chemical, as well as any accompanying ingredients found in acne products.
Some benzoyl peroxide-based acne treatments contain additional ingredients that may be harmful to a developing fetus. These include salicylic acid, which the American Pregnancy Association advises expecting mothers to avoid. Before choosing a topical medication, read all ingredients and consult with a physician to ensure the product is not harmful. Additionally, even though dermatologists generally consider benzoyl peroxide safe during pregnancy, no controlled data exists examining its effect on unborn children. Drug Information Online recommends using this chemical only when the benefits are greater than potential risks.
- Some benzoyl peroxide-based acne treatments contain additional ingredients that may be harmful to a developing fetus.
- Additionally, even though dermatologists generally consider benzoyl peroxide safe during pregnancy, no controlled data exists examining its effect on unborn children.
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- Drug.com: Benzoyl Peroxide Topical Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Warnings
- WhatToExpect.com: Acne During Pregnancy
- Matin T, Goodman MB. Benzoyl Peroxide. [Updated 2020 Mar 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). Topical Acne Drug Products for Overthe-Counter Human Use — Revision of Labeling and Classification of Benzoyl Peroxide as Safe and Effective Small Entity Compliance Guide. June 2011. fda.gov
- Burkhart CG, Burkhart CN. Antibacterial properties of benzoyl peroxide in aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Int J Dermatol. 2006;45(11):1373‐1374. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2006.02877.x
- Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;74(5):945-73.e33. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2015.12.037
- Masini F, Ricci F, Fossati B, et al. Combination therapy with retinaldehyde (0.1%) glycolic acid (6%) and efectiose (0.1%) in mild to moderate acne vulgaris during the period of sun exposure--efficacy and skin tolerability. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2014;18(16):2283‐2286.
- Chularojanamontri L, Tuchinda P, Kulthanan K, Pongparit K. Moisturizers for Acne: What are their Constituents?. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014;7(5):36‐44.
- Kim C, Craiglow BG, Watsky KL, Antaya RJ. Allergic Contact Dermatitis to Benzoyl Peroxide Resembling Impetigo. Pediatr Dermatol. 2015;32(4):e161‐e162. doi:10.1111/pde.12585
- Burkhart CG, Burkhart CN. Treatment of acne vulgaris without antibiotics: tertiary amine-benzoyl peroxide combination vs. benzoyl peroxide alone (Proactiv Solution). Int J Dermatol. 2007;46(1):89‐93. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2007.03081.x
- Kircik LH. The role of benzoyl peroxide in the new treatment paradigm for acne. J Drugs Dermatol. 2013;12(6):s73-6.
Denise Minger, an independent researcher, writer, editor and public speaker, published her first book, "Death by Food Pyramid," in January 2014. Passionate about health, she runs a blog at rawfoodsos.com dedicated to debunking bad nutritional science, and offers health consultations for individuals with special dietary goals.