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Skin School  >   Acne Basics

Your Skin, Postpartum: The Glow Is Gone, but the Acne Remains

It’s 4 a.m. and he’s crying … again. You drag yourself to the bathroom to splash some water on your face in an attempt to wake up. As you glance at the mirror, you notice it. No, we’re not talking about the crusty spit-up in your unwashed hair. We’re talking about a giant, emerging zit.

WTF?!?! As if taking care of a newborn isn’t enough to handle, now you have to deal with acne? Whether you haven’t seen a pimple since your teenage years or your pregnancy acne just cleared up, postpartum acne is a very normal thing. 

RELATED READ: What to Expect While You’re Expecting: Acne Version

Breakouts are frequently triggered by hormonal changes. That’s why we often experience the most acne during the times that our hormones are in flux, like puberty, our periods, pregnancy and immediately post-pregnancy. After giving birth, your progesterone and estrogen levels crash until you start menstruating again.

And because hormone levels (and the body’s reaction to their fluctuation) differ for each person, every woman’s postpartum skin experience is different. Some break out for a few weeks, some for a few months and others experience the clearest skin they’ve ever had in their adult lives.

So what’s a new mom to do about her new acne?

First, don’t freak out about a few pimples. To put it in perspective - your body just did an absolutely amazing thing and it is beautiful just the way it is, including your skin. Plus, anyone you see right now is totally focused on your adorable baby - not examining the condition of your skin!

Second, try not to forgo your skincare routine. Yes, you are sleep-, time- and shower-deprived. And you probably don’t have a free moment for masks and facials. But it’s important to make time for the basics - cleansing and moisturizing - to keep your pores clear and your skin’s pH levels balanced. Choose multitasking products - like a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen - to save time.

Third, there are a variety of oral and topical solutions that you could use to treat your acne. However, if you are nursing, you should always consult with your dermatologist, doctor and/or your child’s pediatrician before trying something new. Since there hasn’t been extensive research on the effects of acne treatments during breastfeeding, there may be concerns about trace amounts getting into your breast milk and putting your baby at risk. 

Here’s a quick guide to the skincare products that are generally considered to be safe (or not safe) for nursing mothers:


Topical retinoids such as Retin-A (tretinoin), tazarotene, and adapalene should not be used while pregnant or breastfeeding. 

Avoid If Possible

In low percentages, non-prescription retinoids like retinol are unlikely to cause a problem while breastfeeding, but there are safer options. 

Avoid If Possible

Again, in small amounts, benzoyl peroxide is generally considered safe while pregnant or nursing because so little is absorbed through the skin. But your dermatologist or pediatrician may still recommend that you avoid using this ingredient while breastfeeding.

Generally OK To Use

Over-the-counter topical products that contain azelaic acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid or sulfur are safer options than retinoids or benzoyl peroxide.

Safe For Pregnant And Nursing Moms

There are always natural acne treatments that can help as well. Mighty Patch, which is drug and chemical free, is safe for pregnant and nursing women. Find out why from dermatologist Dr. Jenny Liu here!

Again, don’t forget to check in with your dermatologist or doctor before trying any new treatments! Every case is different and he/she may have other suggestions for you as well.


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