By the time you’re a few months into your pregnancy, you’ll know whether you’re one of the lucky few who have the legendary pregnancy glow or whether you’ll spend the next six months battling acne, like you did back in high school. If you’re plagued with pregnancy breakouts on your back and shoulders, they’ll most likely disappear a few months after your baby’s birth, but a few basic steps will help you avoid unsightly spots.
Acne on your back during pregnancy is caused by the same thing that causes acne on your face or body any time: a clogged hair follicle. But you may be more likely to get body acne during pregnancy because your body produces higher levels of hormones called androgens when you’re pregnant, which can stimulate pore-clogging overproduction from your oil glands.
Doctors have different opinions about the best way to treat acne during pregnancy, from diet to specific cleaning lotions to topical creams, so if you’ve got a bad case of back acne, ask your own family doctor what she recommends. She can also address other issues that might affect your pregnancy.
To prevent body acne, use a gentle cleanser on your back in the shower and switch to an oil-free lotion or body cream, recommends BabyCenter.com. If you’re using a super-moisturizing cream to soothe dry skin on your belly, don’t spread the excess onto your back where you’re breaking out. Keeping the area clean and dry will help heal your complexion and discourage further breakouts.
If you’ve got an active acne outbreak, stick with loose-fitting clothes made of natural fibers that won’t rub against your back, causing friction that can make acne worse. Ask a friend or your partner to help you apply a mud mask to your breakout area: Mud masks can help dry out pimples and are safe for pregnant women to use, says ob-gyn physician Allan Lichtman, clinical professor at the University of Southern California School of Medicine in Los Angeles, in “Fit Pregnancy” magazine. Follow up with an alpha-hydroxy acid lotion to speed up cell turnover to help acne heal more quickly.
Most prescription and over-the-counter acne treatments are not safe for use when you’re pregnant, according to Lichtman. Some, like isotretinoin, or Accutane, and tetracycline are known to negatively affect fetal development, according to the American Pregnancy Association, while other treatments, including tretinoin, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, haven’t undergone enough research for them to be safely recommended. Even natural acne treatments based on herbs or oils can be risky, since these ingredients aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, explains Lichtman.