As your body ramps up hormone production during the first trimester, you might have to deal with pregnancy acne.
Using a pregnancy-safe face wash is the first step in fighting blemishes. But it may not be enough.
Even though some types of acne medication are off-limits for now, you still have options.
You’ll see the best safe acne treatments for pregnancy in the reviews below.
How can you get rid of acne during pregnancy?
Many women want to know if it’s okay to use acne products while pregnant. If you’ve used them in the past, we recommend speaking with your doctor about whether you can continue.
In fact, it’s smart to speak to your OB/GYN about any course of acne treatment you intend to start.
In general terms, pregnancy-safe skin care involves avoiding ingredients that could harm your developing baby or you. These include:
- Retinoids like retinol, used for acne treatment and removing fine lines and wrinkles
- Hydroquinone for getting rid of hyperpigmentation
- Irritants, allergens, and chemicals that could negatively impact the body’s systems
The last group includes parabens, phthalates, and artificial colors and fragrances.
You don’t need any of those ingredients to clear up acne and enjoy a healthy complexion (1).
Instead, try these proven acne treatments while you’re expecting.
First, simply washing your face twice a day cuts down on oil.
Next, cleansers with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide keep pores unclog, kill bacteria that cause acne, and remove dead skin (2).
Over-the-counter products with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide are safe during pregnancy as they contain a low concentration for topical use only. If you have any doubts, however, consult with your doctor.
If your skin is extra-sensitive, try an acne treatment with glycolic acid, azelaic acid, or sulfur because these may be less drying and irritating (3).
Even light therapy is proven to work for clearing the complexion and promoting healing. Moreover, it’s non-invasive and painless.
Best Safe Acne Treatment for Pregnancy in 2020
Now, let’s go through the best acne treatments by category.
Salicylic acid is related to aspirin and was originally derived from willow bark. (If you react badly to aspirin, we recommend avoiding salicylic acid.) It’s excellent for unclogging pores because it penetrates the oil and reduces inflammation. It can help get rid of pimples and blackheads.
There are face cleansers, treatment pads, spot treatments, and moisturizers with salicylic acid. If you’ve never used it before, go slow. Choose just one of the above and try it once a day.
If your skin reacts well, you may be able to use it twice a day without redness or dehydrating the skin. No matter which one you choose, always moisturize and use sunscreen when you go outdoors. That’s because all of these chemical exfoliants make the skin more sensitive to sunburn.
Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Face Pads with Salicylic Acid
Neutrogena makes some of the best over-the-counter acne treatments available. These pre-saturated treatment pads are an easy way to boost your skincare routine.
They contain salicylic acid with patented Micro-Clear Technology. It reaches deep into pores to stop breakouts at the source.
Use the pad at bedtime, and by the time you wake up, pimples will have shrunk and become less noticeable (if they haven’t disappeared altogether).
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control Triple-Action Toner
Here’s another simple way to enhance your skincare regimen to clear up pregnancy acne. It’s a toner with salicylic acid, cucumber, and green tea.
The formula erases redness and soothes irritated skin. Apply it up to three times per day after washing your face.
Paula’s Choice BOOST 10% Azelaic Acid Booster
Pregnant women love Paula’s Choice because it’s a brand that never uses artificial fragrances or parabens. Furthermore, they explain the purpose of each ingredient so that there’s never any doubt about what you’re putting on your skin.
This booster blends azelaic and salicylic acid to exfoliate and open pores. It fades acne scars and dark spots, too.
Apply it like a serum after you wash your face and before you moisturize. Otherwise, you can add a couple of drops to your favorite moisturizer.
Neutralyze Exfoliating Pads – Maximum Strength Acne Treatment Pads with 2% Salicylic Acid + 1% Mandelic Acid
These pads are suitable for dry, combination, or oily skin. They don’t contain perfumes, sulfates, or parabens.
Use the acne wipes on trouble spots like the oily T-zone with blackheads. They treat cystic acne and other types of blemishes, including whiteheads and even keratosis pilaris.
You should see an improvement within 24 hours. If you’re not pleased, they offer a full refund.
Neutralyze Maximum Strength Face Wash For Acne-Prone Skin
Like many of the best face washes for pregnancy acne, this one is free of harmful ingredients. It has no drying sulfates, parabens that could harm the reproductive system or fragrances that could trigger allergies.
Like the exfoliating pads above, it blends salicylic acid with mandelic acid for rapid improvement in acne-prone skin.
You can also use it to treat acne scars, blackheads, and keratosis pilaris. It’s appropriate for dry, combination, or oily skin. Plus, it comes with a satisfaction guarantee.
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the best acne treatments because it kills the bacteria that cause pimples.
On the downside, it can dry out delicate skin, and it makes it more sensitive to sunlight. Also, it will bleach clothing and towels.
With that said, give benzoyl peroxide a try if your zits are driving you crazy. Start with a spot treatment like the one below.
Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Treatment
Neutrogena’s spot treatment will noticeably reduce the redness in size of a pimple in only two hours. Then, it continues to work until the blemish is gone.
It contains the maximum over-the-counter concentration of benzoyl peroxide: 10%.
After you wash, apply the gel in a thin layer on the spot up to three times per day.
Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Face Wash
This is a face cleanser with 10% benzoyl peroxide. It’s mild enough to use twice a day.
Although it has a creamy texture, it’s oil-free and rinses clean in seconds. It makes the skin feel refreshed.
Proactiv 3-Step Acne Treatment
Proactiv’s kit has about a bazillion positive reviews because it actually works. It relies on benzoyl peroxide to sweep away acne-causing bacteria.
There are three steps involved – Renewing Cleanser, Revitalizing Toner, and Repairing Treatment. As you might assume, you’ll use them in that order. (PS: When we reviewed these products, the kit came with a bonus Green Tea Moisturizer and a Skin Purifying Mask.)
The cleanser has 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, making it one of the mildest face washes available. If you’d like to try benzoyl peroxide, but you’re concerned about irritation, this is a safe introduction.
Next, the toner relies on glycolic acid, a moisturizing exfoliant. It smooths fine lines and erases acne scars over time.
Finally, the repair cream also has 2.5% benzoyl peroxide to keep the acne at bay.
Proactiv makes no secret of the fact that it will take a few days for your skin to adapt to this treatment. In the beginning, you may see some redness, dryness, and flaking. Stick with the program, and don’t forget the sunscreen.
Dr Song Benzoyl Peroxide Wash 10%
Those familiar with the Korean beauty skincare routine already know and love Dr Song’s face wash. It has medical-grade microparticles of benzoyl peroxide that penetrate deep into pores.
Use it on your face and body as it’s surprisingly moisturizing. It’s also anti-inflammatory.
A single 8-ounce bottle lasts for up to 2 months and has a convenient pump top. It’s covered by a 100-day money-back guarantee.
Humane Maximum-Strength Acne Wash
Humane’s acne wash is also a face and body treatment. That’s good news as we all know what it’s like to have painful zits on the chest, back, and other bizarre places.
The 10% benzoyl peroxide formula is made in the USA and comes with a satisfaction guarantee. It has no sulfates, parabens, alcohol, phthalates, formaldehyde, artificial fragrances, and GMOs. Happily, it’s also cruelty-free.
PanOxyl Antimicrobial Acne Foaming Wash, 4% Benzoyl Peroxide
If you’ve seen one benzoyl peroxide wash, you’ve seen them all, right? Not in this case.
This is a low-concentration cleanser that’s extra-moisturizing for dry and sensitive skin. (There is a 10% version, however. It’s just not as gentle.)
The formula here is pH-balanced with four humectants and three emollients. In other words, it’s not nearly as harsh as many other benzoyl peroxide face washes.
Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice effectiveness for hydration. It’s still a very potent acne treatment.
Tea tree oil
Let’s leave the laboratory behind and head out into nature. Tea tree oil is naturally anti-microbial and healing for acne-prone skin.
TreeActiv Cystic Acne Spot Treatment
Give tea tree oil a try by using small doses of it as a spot treatment. It only takes a tiny amount of this product to zap zits into submission.
It’s blended with bentonite clay, aloe, spearmint, witch hazel, and peppermint water. Therefore, it feels cooling to the skin and smells pleasant, too.
Within hours, it diminishes inflammation, redness, and swelling. And yes, it helps with both hormonal and cystic acne.
Puriderma Acne Spot Treatment
This brand combines tea tree oil with lavender, salicylic acid, and ginseng. It kills acne bacteria naturally and calms irritation.
Unlike benzoyl peroxide, it doesn’t feel like it’s burning the skin.
BELLA B Foaming Face Wash
This mild face wash contains pharmaceutical-grade tea tree oil. It’s extra pure and free from parabens and harsh ingredients.
It foams away oil, makeup, and grime to leave the skin soothed and soft. It also promotes healing with aloe, shea, green tea, and açai.
Sulfur stinks, but it destroys acne-causing bacteria. With the right blend of ingredients, you get the benefits without the terrible odor.
TreeActiv Acne Eliminating Face Cleanser
This is a scrub with sulfur, honey, Castile soap, activated charcoal, and pumice. It smells lovely because of the clary sage and peppermint water.
The smooth texture and moisturizing ingredients leave the skin soft and radiant. There’s just enough grit to cleanse blackheads, whiteheads, and dead skin. With regular use, it can help fade acne scars.
Belli Acne Control Spot Treatment
Belli caters to pregnant women, and their products are often recommended by OB/GYNs and dermatologists. They make an excellent cleanser that’s appropriate for expectant and nursing mothers. You can find it in our reviews of the best pregnancy-safe face washes.
As always, they stay on top of the latest research to keep mothers and babies safe. Plus, they never include artificial fragrances, dyes, phthalates, preservatives, parabens, or gluten.
The spot treatment uses natural ingredients like colloidal sulfur, chamomile, and tea tree oil to eliminate acne. You can apply it up to three times per day to remove pimples.
Check out the other natural treatments for acne below.
THAYERS Lavender Witch Hazel Facial Toner
You may already know that witch hazel is a fantastic toner. Unlike alcohol, it doesn’t dry out the skin. Yet, it still controls excess oil. It also tightens pores and calms inflammation and redness.
The addition of lavender and aloe takes this toner to a higher level. It cleanses, moisturizes, and balances pH.
If all you do is wash twice a day with a mild cleanser and use this toner, you will tip the scales in your favor.
Pregnancy does weird things to the body. If you find yourself unable to tolerate smells and your skin isn’t dealing well, switch to an ultra-mild face wash.
Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser
Vanicream leaves out all the harsh ingredients like fragrances, dyes, parabens, formaldehyde releasers, sulfates, betaine, gluten, etc. It doesn’t even have a masking fragrance or botanical extracts.
This is the mildest face wash you’ll ever try. Oddly, it’s still good for removing makeup and excess oil.
Mighty Patch Original – Hydrocolloid Acne Pimple Patch
We don’t understand how it works, but this little patch shrivels up pimples in just a few hours. It’s made of medical-grade hydrocolloid that sucks the pus out of whiteheads.
What’s also weird is that it doesn’t have any chemicals in it, and it doesn’t hurt to remove.
If you only have a pimple every now and then, this is a smart investment.
Can you use light therapy for acne while pregnant? Yes, you can. It’s painless, although it takes time to see results.
LightStim for Acne
LightStim has been in business for almost two decades. This little device is FDA-cleared for treating acne.
It has blue and red LEDs embedded in the head. Press it against the skin for three minutes a day to clear up breakouts.
Does it actually work? Thousands of reviewers say yes. It’s based on science developed by dermatologists and astronauts.
You don’t have to settle for acne during pregnancy. There are many safe treatments to try. They can eliminate pimples, reduce oiliness, and ward off outbreaks.
If we helped you find your new favorite acne treatment today, please let us know about it. We’re always happy to support mothers-to-be in living their best life.
1. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/acne-during-pregnancy-treatments-causes#1 accessed December 18, 2020
2. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/understanding-acne-treatment#1 accessed December 18, 2020
3. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/derm-treat/pregnancy is any acne treatment safe to use during pregnancy? accessed December 18, 2020