For some women who have experienced problem skin all their lives, pregnancy seems to be a miracle cure (hooray!). For others, who have always been perfectly flawless, pregnancy can cause a facial eruption...
What is it?
Acne refers to (sometimes pretty nasty) spots and blemishes that occur on the face and also sometimes the neck, chest and back. Some unfortunate people even get zits on their bottom. Ouch.
It's pretty common in pregnancy (add it to the list of irritating symptoms, then!) and it's caused by your hormones stimulating the sebaceous glands in your skin. These tiny glands become larger and produce more of the oily substance sebum. The combination of the extra oil, and the increased likelihood of your larger pores becoming blocked, makes you more prone to bacterial infection. The consequence of this is inflamed skin, punctuated by bumps and spots.
Many women will develop acne during the first trimester, but it can come on at any point. It might also come and go throughout and symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Acne is annoying, and it's unsightly, but it's not dangerous and, if you have developed it for the first time ever during pregnancy (or if you have been free of it for many years and pregnancy has caused it to return), then it's highly likely that once you have had your baby, your skin will settle down and return to normal.
Unfortunately, acne is not really preventable, but there are ways to be kind to your skin to make sure the symptoms are minimised. If your acne is particularly bad, there might be some ways your GP can help, but as with all ailments during pregnancy, it should only be treated under medical supervision – don't go swanning off for over the counter medicines (more below).
What can I do?
If anyone tells you you should be eating more healthily, because that'll get rid of your acne, the first thing you should do is stick your tongue out at them – it is not your diet causing your acne at all. That's a complete myth. Do keep eating well, though, because although bad diet doesn't cause acne, a good diet is good for your skin overall, not to mention the rest of you (and your baby!).
You have no control over the real culprit – you can't switch your hormones off! So concentrate instead on doing the best for your skin during its hour of need.
Wash your skin morning and evening with a mild facial wash, and don't scrub at it, because that could just irritate your skin further. It might be time to ditch your usual face cream, and opt for an oil-free moisturiser, too. Anything that says it is noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic is specially developed to not cause acne.
If you wear make-up, you should also find oil-free products that won't make your acne worse – and do always thoroughly (but gently) cleanse before going to bed.
Talking of bed, keep your pillow covers and sheets fresh and clean, because this will help minimise bacterial infiltration. Wash your towels frequently, too, and keep your hair clean and, if possible, off your face.
Whatever you do, don't squeeze your spots. It can be so tempting, when you have a great big oozy whitehead – but squeezing spots and pimples will not only inflame your skin further, it could also lead to permanent scarring.
There are some medications available for acne, but when you are pregnant you should not take anything unless you have been advised to by your doctor. Some oral medications can actually cause birth defects. Absolutely do not take anything that contains isotretinoin, tetracycline, doxycycline, or minocycline.
If your acne is severe, visit your GP who might be able to prescribe you with a topical cream that could help, or even refer you to a dermatologist. Although you can buy creams in pharmacies, when pregnant you should always check with a medical professional first.
Remember, in all hope, soon after your baby appears, your zits will disappear – and be a long distant memory!
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