What Causes Pregnancy Acne and How Can You Treat It?

GoodRx /  Maryann Mikhail, MD

Pregnant women holding her stomach with both hands may be experiencing acne during pregnancy

Key takeaways:

  • Acne during pregnancy is common because of changes in your hormone levels and in your immune system.
  • Most women who get pregnancy breakouts have a history of acne.
  • You can safely treat pregnancy breakouts with the help of your dermatologist. They can help you find a pregnancy acne treatment and skin care regimen that works best for you.

From morning sickness to heartburn, women can experience many uncomfortable symptoms while pregnant. While troublesome, these symptoms are typical during pregnancy. But, some women also have a more surprising and visible symptom: acne. 

Here, we’ll discuss what causes pregnancy acne and how you can treat it in a way that’s safe for you and your growing baby.

When does pregnancy acne start?

Acne can happen at any time during pregnancy. But most women who develop it will start to notice blemishes around 6 weeks into their pregnancy. Some women might not even know that they are pregnant at this point. So, the sudden appearance of acne could be one of the earliest hints that you may be pregnant. 

Typically, pregnancy acne will improve during the first trimester. But more serious facial and body breakouts will show up in the third trimester, which usually happens when maternal androgen hormone levels start to peak.

Why does acne appear during pregnancy?

Two key factors are responsible for pregnancy acne: changes in your hormone levels and in your immune system during pregnancy.

During pregnancy, women go through extreme hormone changes. A hormone called progesterone is responsible for helping create an ideal environment for an unborn baby. Androgen (male hormones) levels also rise during pregnancy and play a role in getting your body ready to deliver. 

These hormone changes can also cause the glands in your skin to secrete (produce) more oil. This oil is called sebum. The excess sebum can clog your pores and lead to a buildup of bacteria — two primary causes of acne. Also, changes in your immune system that happen during pregnancy might cause more breakouts.

Does getting acne during pregnancy mean you’ll have a boy or a girl?

There’s an old wives’ tale about pregnancy acne and what it means for the sex of your baby. According to the tale, if you have pregnancy acne, you’re more likely to be pregnant with a baby girl. This is because the baby girl’s hormones combined with your own are more likely to cause acne during pregnancy. 

But there seems to be little truth to this tale. Your hormones — not the baby’s — decide what types of pregnancy symptoms you may experience, including acne.

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