What causes it?
During the first trimester, many women experience an increase in breakouts (especially if you were prone to acne before you became pregnant). With pregnancy comes a massive shift in hormones. It's sort of like nine months of PMS, says Amy Newburger, MD, a dermatologist in Westchester, NY. Your androgen levels (the hormones responsible for male maturation, and the ones that cause premenstrual breakouts) skyrocket during the first trimester, she notes, causing increased oil production, and thus pimples.
What to avoid
You can't treat pregnancy-related breakouts with conventional acne medications, because the main phases of fetal development take place during this time, says Dr. Steinberg. Alert your dermatologist that you're pregnant, and steer clear of any prescription acne medications, including vitamin A derivative lotions such as Accutane, Retin-A, Differin, Tazorac, and over-the-counter creams that contain retinol or antibiotics.
- During the first trimester, avoid over-the-counter topical cleansers, makeup, and moisturizers that contain chemical exfoliants such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and alpha and beta hydroxy acids. If you're still breaking out after the first trimester, the baby is more developed so topical over-the-counter medications won't pose a risk, says Dr. Steinberg. When your obstetrician thinks it's safe to prescribe antibiotics, it's okay to use these medications on your face, she notes.
- Clear your shelves of anything that doesn't have the words "noncomedogenic" or "nonacnegenic" on its label. Use oil-free moisturizers, sunblock, makeup, and cleansers.
Your best choices
The safest way to clear your pores is through mechanical exfoliants, since they exfoliate by physically (as opposed to chemically) clearing off pore-clogging dead skin cells. Try gentle scrubs that contain tiny particles to remove dead skin cells. You can visit a facialist every two weeks for facials, or ask your dermatologist about powerpeels and microderm abrasion.
Your game plan
- Use a gentle, nondrying cleanser on your face twice daily. Avoid moisturizing soaps, since they contain emollients that can clog pores in the meantime.
- Stay out of the sun, and apply an oil-free sunblock every day.
- Scrub with a mechanical exfoliant three times a week.
- Use a clarifying mask to gently coax the oil out of your pores once a week.
- Carry blotting papers on you at all times to soak up excess shine during the day.