Becoming a mom changes your priorities, your sleep habits, your marriage and even your skin. The hormonal craziness of pregnancy and early motherhood can give you breakouts that rival any teenager’s. Time-pressed moms find it tough to squeeze in a shower, much less a complicated skin-care routine. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the ingredients list when you’re shopping for products to treat your acne.
Benzoyl peroxide works by soaking up the two things that are most likely to clog your pores and cause acne: dead skin cells and too much oil. The Mayo Clinic says benzoyl peroxide is probably the most effective acne medication you can get over the counter, but its strength can dry your skin or cause redness, stinging and burning. It’s usually a good idea to start with a formula that contains 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide, then increase the concentration if you need to. Only a small amount of benzoyl peroxide gets through your skin and into your breast milk, so it’s safe for breastfeeding moms–just don’t apply it to any area of your skin that your baby’s skin could come into direct contact with, the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) warns. You may want to choose a different acne remedy if you’re pregnant because there haven’t been many studies to determine the safety of benzoyl peroxide for fetal development.
Salicylic acid helps treat acne by slowing the rate at which your skin sheds dead cells, reducing the likelihood that they’ll end up clogging your pores and causing blemishes. Low concentrations of salicylic acid–between 0.5 and 2 percent–are generally safe, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women, according to OTIS. Like benzoyl peroxide, there’s a risk for skin irritation, such as redness and itching, when you use salicylic acid–always start with the minimum recommended application and increase use if necessary.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids
Alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid and lactic acid, make regular appearances on the ingredients lists of anti-aging products, but they also have acne-fighting power. Alpha hydroxy acids clear away dead skin cells and soothe inflammation, stimulating the production of new skin cells so that blemishes vanish more quickly. Because such small amounts of them are absorbed by your body, alpha hydroxy acid-based acne treatments are safe for most pregnant and breastfeeding women, but it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor if you aren’t sure. Some women may develop red, itchy skin when they use alpha hydroxy acids.
Sulfur-based acne remedies have fallen out of vogue, but you can still find sulfur–usually combined with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide–in some acne treatments. Sulfur soaks up extra oil from your skin and sloughs away dead skin cells to prevent pores from clogging. Some sulfur-based acne treatments come with a strong odor, and using sulfur on your skin may have a drying effect.