A Dermatologist Explains What You Should Know About Postpartum Acne

There's a long list of things that happen to your body during and after pregnancy, some of which are unexpected and not widely discussed. Postpartum acne, for instance, is a common conundrum that tends to pop up, and it can be frustrating for many adults who don't often experience breakouts outside of pregnancy to understand how to treat it and which products are safe to use.

The reason behind postpartum acne, in short, has to do with hormones — specifically estrogen and progesterone.

"During pregnancy, the estrogen hormone rapidly increases, which gives most women what we like to call 'the pregnancy glow,'" dermatologist Lian Mack, MD, told POPSUGAR. "This is due to the increase of blood flow in the skin. During the postpartum period, estrogen drops at a dramatic rate. This sudden drop in estrogen combined with the surge of progesterone may result in postpartum acne for some."

This is why some women who experience this can often go from having clear and glowing skin while pregnant to breaking out shortly after. But to be clear, postpartum acne isn't a condition that people deal with only after pregnancy.

"Many women experience acne during pregnancy, not just postpartum," Mack said. "Usually women that experience acne during pregnancy see the condition clear up tremendously after giving birth. Others may still have visible acne after giving birth, and in this case, it is deemed postpartum acne."

To get the lowdown on how to treat this particular acne, keep reading.

What's the Safest Way to Treat Postpartum Acne?
Getty | Guido Mieth

What's the Safest Way to Treat Postpartum Acne?

Typically, how you go about treating your acne depends on its level of severity, so it's always best to consult a dermatologist before starting treatment. Still, Dr. Mack recommends people dealing with these kinds of breakouts use products like topical antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide.

"Both antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide help to decrease the amount of bacteria on the skin," she said. For mothers who aren't breastfeeding, she also recommends oral contraceptives that contain both estrogen and progesterone or "a topical retinoid to help reduce clogged pores and drive cellular turnover."

Glycolic acid is another one of Dr. Mack's favorites. "Glycolic acid not only helps with breakouts but helps with unwanted hyperpigmentation that may occur during pregnancy and persists throughout the postpartum period," she said.

In terms of what ingredients to avoid, she doesn't recommend patients use vitamin A derivatives like Retin-A, since studies have shown that it can be passed into breast milk.