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Cystic Acne During Pregnancy (Causes, Home Remedies, and More)

Pregnancy is a beautiful and challenging journey, filled with numerous physical and hormonal changes. One such unexpected visitor that may accompany this journey is the dreaded cystic acne during pregnancy.

Cystic acne, a severe type of acne, can occur when hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy trigger excess oil production and inflammation. This blog post aims to guide you through the causes and effective home remedies to ease your struggle with this unwelcome intruder.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Biggest Take-Aways:

  • Pregnancy hormones can lead to increased oil production, causing pores to become clogged and resulting in pregnancy acne, particularly in the first trimester.

  • A range of home remedies and lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy diet, keeping hydrated, and using non-comedogenic skincare products, can help manage pregnancy acne.

  • Certain acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are safe to use during pregnancy, but it's always recommended to consult your healthcare provider before starting any new treatment.

  • Exposed Skin Care, with active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, offers an effective solution to managing pregnancy and postpartum acne, especially for those with sensitive skin.

Pregnant woman applying moisturizer on tummy

Understanding Cystic Acne During Pregnancy

What is Cystic Acne?

Cystic acne is one of the most severe types of acne that can affect the skin. Unlike a typical pimple or breakout, it is characterized by large, red, and painful bumps deep in the skin. This form of acne occurs when dead skin cells, sebum (the oil our skin naturally produces), and bacteria become trapped within the skin, leading to infection and inflammation.

Why Does Pregnancy Acne Occur?

Acne during pregnancy, particularly cystic acne, is usually attributed to hormonal changes. During the first and second trimesters, there is an increase in the production of hormones, particularly androgens like progesterone. These hormones cause the skin's oil glands to produce more sebum, which can clog pores and form cystic acne.

Many women experience these breakouts during pregnancy, even if they haven't had acne. It’s most common during the first and third trimester when hormone levels fluctuate the most. But don't worry! For most women, these breakouts return to normal postpartum, when hormone levels stabilize.

Can All Women Develop Pregnancy Acne?

Yes, any woman can develop pregnancy acne. However, if you had acne or cystic acne before your pregnancy, you might be more prone to breakouts during this period. Women with typically clear skin can experience a few breakouts or develop severe acne.

Home Remedies: Your First Line of Defense Against Pregnancy Acne

While it's always best to talk with your healthcare provider about any concerns, some home remedies can help manage cystic acne during pregnancy. Here are some that are considered safe and effective:

  • Proper Skincare Routine: A good skincare regimen is vital for managing pregnancy acne. Choose a gentle, non-comedogenic (doesn't clog pores) cleanser to keep your skin clean and remove excess oil. Follow with a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated and prevent the overproduction of sebum.

  • Glycolic Acid: This alpha hydroxy acid can help remove dead skin cells that clog pores and cause breakouts. It's typically found in face masks and cleansers and is considered safe to use during pregnancy.

Woman holding glycolic acid dropper

  • Benzoyl Peroxide: An antibacterial that can reduce inflammation and treat acne. It's available in various over-the-counter treatments and is considered safe during pregnancy in lower concentrations.

  • Salicylic Acid: This beta hydroxy acid can penetrate pores and dissolve the debris that causes acne. It's available in various spot treatments and cleansers and is generally safe for occasional use.

  • Dietary Changes: Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants, low in processed foods, and full of healthy fats can help manage acne. Some studies suggest that dairy and high-glycemic foods may aggravate acne, but more research is needed.

  • Hydration: Staying hydrated can help keep your skin healthy and may reduce the occurrence of breakouts.

What Not to Use

It's crucial to know what treatments to avoid during pregnancy. Certain substances, such as retinoids (including Retin-A and isotretinoin), can be harmful during pregnancy and should be avoided.

The Role of Hormones in Pregnancy Acne

Understanding the role of hormones in pregnancy acne can help you better manage this common skin condition. Hormones called androgens increase during pregnancy and are the main culprits behind pregnancy acne. They stimulate the sebaceous glands in your skin, leading to an overproduction of oil, a key factor in the development of acne.

During the first trimester, these hormones are still fluctuating, and this increased oil production can cause pores to become clogged, leading to the formation of acne, which can range from small bumps (whiteheads) to more painful, inflamed cysts (cystic acne). The skin during pregnancy becomes more sensitive due to hormone changes, making it more susceptible to inflammation and irritation.

Woman on bed experiencing pregnancy hormones

It's important to note that hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy are entirely normal and necessary for a healthy pregnancy. However, they can wreak havoc on your skin. Here are a few ways to help your skin stay healthy during this time:

  • Maintain a consistent skincare routine: Using skincare products that are suitable for your skin type can help manage acne. Non-comedogenic products are a good choice as they don't clog pores.
  • Gentle Exfoliation: Exfoliating helps remove the build-up of dead skin cells that can clog pores and cause acne. However, it's essential to be gentle and avoid products that may irritate the skin.

Acne Treatments for Pregnant Women

Pregnant women may need to alter their usual acne treatment regimen as not all treatments are safe for use during pregnancy. Some acne medications, including certain topical retinoids and oral treatments, should be avoided due to potential risks to the unborn baby.

However, several safe and effective treatment options for managing acne during pregnancy include peer-reviewed treatments from high-quality sources and leading dermatology groups like the Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.

Here are some ways to treat acne in pregnancy:

  • Benzoyl Peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide is an over-the-counter topical treatment that can effectively treat acne by killing bacteria underneath the skin.

  • Salicylic Acid: Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that can penetrate into the pore lining and exfoliate inside the pore and on the skin's surface, making it effective for reducing blemishes.

  • Glycolic Acid: This alpha hydroxy acid helps exfoliate the skin and is considered safe during pregnancy.

  • Sulfur: Sulfur helps to unclog pores and reduce inflammation.

Pregnant woman holding sulphur soap

Remember, while numerous treatment options are available, it's essential to talk with your doctor or a dermatologist before starting any new acne treatment during pregnancy.

Benefits of Exposed Skin Care for Pregnancy Acne

Exposed Skin Care features products with active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, both of which have been supported by numerous peer-reviewed studies for their effectiveness against acne. They work synergistically to combat the usually red, inflamed acne lesions many pregnant women experience due to hormone fluctuations.

Exposed Skin Care Basic Kit

Here are some potential benefits of using Exposed Skin Care products:

  • Effectively Combats Acne: These products treat pregnancy acne by clearing clogged pores, reducing inflammation, and targeting acne-causing bacteria.
  • Suitable for Sensitive Skin: Given the skin sensitivity during pregnancy, Exposed Skin Care products are designed to be gentle, reducing the chance of irritation.
  • Postpartum Use: The product line can also effectively treat postpartum acne, helping new mothers regain their skin confidence.

Remember, discussing any new skincare regimen with your healthcare provider is always recommended, ensuring its safety and suitability for your skin during pregnancy.


Pregnancy is a time of profound change, and for many women, it brings about unexpected skin issues like cystic acne. Hormonal fluctuations, particularly in the first trimester, can increase oil production, leading to clogged pores and breakouts. While this can be challenging to manage, a combination of home remedies, lifestyle modifications, and safe skincare treatments can significantly alleviate symptoms.

Incorporating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and employing a gentle skincare routine with non-comedogenic products can serve as the first line of defence against acne during pregnancy. Moreover, certain treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, are safe and effective during this critical period.

Products like Exposed Skin Care take the guesswork out of choosing the right treatments. With a line-up crafted to be gentle yet effective, these products can help manage not just pregnancy acne, but also postpartum breakouts, supporting women through this significant life stage and beyond.

Remember, every pregnancy is unique; what works for one may not work for all. Ultimately, while pregnancy acne can be a bothersome side effect of this beautiful journey, it's important to remember that it's temporary, and with the right care and treatments, it can be managed effectively.


Q: Can cystic acne during pregnancy harm my baby?

A: No, while cystic acne can be uncomfortable and cause emotional stress, it does not pose a threat to your baby.

Q: Is it normal to have more breakouts in the third trimester?

A: Many women experience a surge in hormone levels in the third trimester, which can lead to increased oil production and breakouts.

Q: Can I prevent cystic acne during pregnancy?

A: While you can't completely prevent cystic acne, maintaining a healthy skincare routine, staying hydrated, and eating a balanced diet can help manage symptoms.

Q: Will my acne go away after pregnancy?

A: In most cases, acne improves after pregnancy as hormone levels return to normal. However, it's important to continue with a good skin care regimen postpartum.

Q: Are over-the-counter treatments safe to use during pregnancy?

A: Some over-the-counter treatments like benzoyl peroxide and glycolic acid are generally considered safe during pregnancy. However, it's always best to ask your healthcare provider before starting any new treatments.