Pregnancy & Acne: How To Achieve Clear Skin

Pregnancy & Acne

You’re pregnant. Congratulations! You feel great and can’t wait to meet your little one. But why is your face suddenly a mess?

According to WebMD, about 50% of pregnant women experience acne, especially during the first two trimesters. And it’s probably no surprise that hormones are the culprit!

Pregnancy hormones—in this case, progesterone–increases levels of acne-causing androgens. Androgens cause your oil glands to produce more sebum. This sebum blocks pores and mixes with the bacteria on your skin to cause inflammation and breakouts.

If you’re prone to breakouts at the start of your menstrual cycle, chances are you’ll have pregnancy acne, too.  Fortunately, many of your breakouts will start to calm down a few weeks after you take your baby home.

But what can you do in the meantime? 

So many things change when you’re pregnant and your acne treatment plan is one of them.  And while there are some ingredients to stay away from, there are plenty of ways to have clear, glowing skin while you’re waiting for baby!

Firstly, An Overview of the Culprits That Trigger Acne

Perhaps you didn’t realize this… acne is a genetic condition called retention hyperkeratosis.

Essentially, your acne-prone skin is perpetually clogging itself. And your unique cocktail blend of acne triggers and instigators aggravates and worsens an already faulty situation.

And the simple yet critical fact many skincare companies and dermatologists ignore, leaving you holding the bag with perpetually exploding skin is this… Acne can’t be cured. Because it’s a genetic condition, you’re ALWAYS going to be susceptible.

That means, even after you clear your skin, you have to keep treating it with a maintenance regimen and vigilantly keep your acne triggers at bay.

However, the good news is – that’s absolutely possible!

Here’s the thing…

Your primary acne triggers – including hormones, gut imbalance, stress and diet – are having a field day with your skin. Some triggers you know about, others you haven’t a clue they’re impacting you.

And a one-hit wonder potion or drug can’t possibly address multiple, direct attacks on your skin. They’re not designed that way.

Sorry to say, there’s more to the story…

Did you know that your skin adapts to ANY skin care regimen within 2 to 3 weeks?

Which also explains why the one-size-fits-all remedies, antibiotics and other prescriptions you take seem great for a while, then stop working. It’s not you, you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just that your skin has adjusted. It’s no longer challenged to react.

Do you know YOUR primary acne trigger? Still struggling with an unsure self-diagnosis?

We created a short quiz to help you Discover YOUR Complexion Triggers

Adding to the bad news…

Almost ALL acne products and prescription topicals available today have at least 1 of the 125+ ingredients known to clog pores.

Yikes, right? And here you are, paying all that money, doing your best to follow directions or what the doctor orders, and you’re actually sabotaging your skin. Yep, making it worse because inactive ingredients in these products are clogging – therefore, inflaming — the very skin pores you desperately wish to clear.

It’s like trying to rake leaves in a windstorm. You’re just never gonna get ahead.

That’s not all.

How about a side of constipation, diarrhea, depression or liver damage to go along with your dashed hopes? You guessed it, besides drying and irritating your skin, many acne-related products and medications can impact your health in nasty ways like these.

In fact, if you’re pregnant you must AVOID many of these products, simply because of the chemicals they contain.


But don’t worry. REAL answers and solutions are coming right up.

Nutrition & Acne

Nutrition & Acne

Importance of Nutrition & Internal Balancing for Acne Clearing

While acne cannot be cured, it can be cleared. Clearing acne is both an inside out job in addition to an outside in process. If one follows the inner and outer recommendations, and treat it as a “lifestyle,” it is highly probable that we will not suffer from any moderate or severe acne breakouts again in the future. An occasional breakout here or there is normal.

We teach our clients how to become independently acne-free.

The idea that healing the body internally will lead to clearer skin is by no means a new and novel idea. However, in the late 1970’s with the invention of Retin – A, Benzyl Peroxide and the up – surge of pharmaceutical-driven science in general, treating the body naturally to heal fell out of popularity. We became a “pop-a pill and apply-a-cream-for-acne” kind of nation, until recently.

We are on the brink of change. More and more people are frustrated with the lack of care, empathy and results from the traditional dermatological treatments. Dermatology is becoming a more antiquated approach to acne. What is on the horizon is a more “wholistic”, consultative and custom approach to clearing acne. That is what we, at Natural Acne Clinic, are here to do.

Here’s a cheat sheet on what’s safe to use—and what do avoid—when to comes to treating your skin during your pregnancy.

Food, Household Products and Skincare Products to AVOID Whilst Pregnant

My philosophy is based on the research and work of Dr. James Fulton. His research showed that Iodine or salt, NOT SUGAR, is what triggers acne.

This is a guideline only — we suggest you cut back and moderate some food types that are high in iodine. The “Reduce or Eliminate” group has been proven problematic for most acne sufferers. We also know that some people have trigger foods such as citrus — but this is not across the board. It is best if you start noticing any cause and effect with the foods you eat.

Foods to AVOID (And Enjoy) During Pregnancy

Reduce or eliminate these foods:

Iodine — including Iodized salt, Garlic Salt. Replace with Sea Salt, Non-Iodized Salt, Celtic Salt

Cow’s Milk (including organic and non-fat), Yogurt, Ice Cream, Cream Cheese, Creamer, Half-n-Half. Replace with Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, Rice Milk, Hemp Milk, Oat Milk, Coconut Ice Cream, Non-dairy creamer – but NO SOY MILK.

Cow’s Milk Cheese (alone or in sandwiches, pizza, etc.) Replace with Goat Cheese, Sheep Cheese, Non-dairy cheese (Daiya or nut cheeses).

Whey or Soy Protein Shakes and Protein bars. Replace with Pea Protein, Egg White Powder, Hemp – (check label for iodides and biotin); Vega Sports Performance Protein & Perfect Fit are a few safe ones.

Soy – tofu, soy milk, tempe, edamame, vegan meat substitutes (Boca Burgers, etc)

Seafood – Cod, Scallops, Salmon, Sardines, Canned Tuna, Fish Sticks, Shellfish. Replace with Fresh Water Fish – lake trout, bass, catfish

Spirulina, Chlorella, Blue-Green Algae, Green Healthy Food Drink Powders

Kelp, Dulse, Miso Soup, Seaweed, Seaweed Supplements

Foods High in Androgens

Peanut ButterReplace with Almond Butter or other nut butters without Canola Oil

Peanut Oil, Corn Oil, Canola Oil – Replace with Olive Oil, Butter, Coconut Oil

Acne treatments to avoid whilst pregnant:

Accutane and other acne drugs top the “Avoid” list. If you are pregnant and taking skin meds, speak to your dermatologist. Some drugs commonly used to treat acne, like Accutane and Retin-A should never be used while you’re pregnant. Your doctor may also tell you to stop taking tetracycline and similar antibiotics.

AVOID Certain OTC Acne Products

Salicylic acid is found in many acne products and should be avoided during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The FDA rates it for pregnancy as a Category C, which technically means risk to the fetus cannot be ruled out, especially in concentrations higher than 2% (which are most of the acne products out there!)

Topical Vitamin A and vitamin A derivatives like retinol, retinyl acetate and retinyl palmitate should also be banned from your pregnancy kit.  While vitamin A is important for fetal development, too much (topical) Vitamin A for acne can cause birth defects and liver toxicity.

Get the Vitamin A you and your baby need by eating carrots, spinach, apricots and other foods rich in this essential vitamin. You can also supplement healthy amount of Vitamin A, typically found in a PreNatal, with an acne-safe PreNatal vitamin such as the Clove Hill PreNatal with added Folate. Unlike other brands, this is free of Biotin and B12 which are acne triggering supplements.

Switch your sunscreen. There are two ingredients found in most sunscreens that pregnant women should steer clear of.

The first is oxybenzone, an active ingredient found in many common chemical sunscreens that is a potential hormone disruptor and can also cause allergic reactions. The second is to steer clear of is retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A.

What kind of sunscreen should you use instead? Choose one like the Clove Hill SPF 40 which is all-natural zinc oxide based. Zinc oxide has the highest level of sun protectant and is mineral not chemical. The Clove Hill SPF comes in tinted and non-tinted and is water resistant and has no residual sunscreen smell that is left on the skin.

Safe for pregnancy Clear Skin Plan

Handle your skin with care. Your skin is more sensitive during pregnancy, so use an ultra-gentle cleanser twice a day. Make sure to wash and rinse thoroughly especially around your jawline and chin. That’s where hormonal acne tends to make its appearance.

Don’t scrub the pimples away! Scrubs can irritate delicate pregnancy skin and make your acne worse. Plus, they can strip your skin of natural moisture…which causes your oil glands to produce more oil. More oil leads to more breakouts. And that’s the last thing you need!

If you need to exfoliate, my favorite ingredient is Mandelic acid. It is a cousin to glycolic acid but so much more versatile. In addition to exfoliating, Mandelic is antibacterial, antimicrobial and it also helps to fade red, post-acne marks.

Use a moisturizer. Moisturizing is an important part of your pregnancy skin-care routine. The right moisturizer hydrates and balances your skin while calming down redness and protecting against breakouts.

A great option is Clove Hill Balancing Lotion. It’s natural, lightweight, oil free and safe to use during pregnancy. It also contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients that  help calm and nourish acne-prone skin.

Topical acne treatments with benzoyl peroxide are safe to use during pregnancy, as are products that contain witch hazel or willow bark. Willow bark is the natural form of salicylic acid.

Don’t forget to launder your pillowcases, towels, hats and any other clothing or material that’s close to your skin. Regular washing can keep away dirt and oil that can aggravate your skin. And ditch the fabric softener, since it can trigger acne.

When it comes to pregnancy and your skin, the best defense is a good offense! Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives that are safe to use during pregnancy and are quite effective too. If you’re not sure about which acne treatments are right for your skin, speak to your obstetrician or a dermatologist.

Supplements to Take While Pregnant

These supplements have been found useful in aiding recovery from acne. Your esthetician may make recommendations based on the type of acne you have.

Zinc Monomethionine

The most bioavailable form of zinc that acts directly as anti-inflammatory. Many people with acne have low levels of zinc in their body, and supplementing with zinc has been shown to reduce severity of cysts and inflamed lesions. Take 40 mg zinc per day.

Vitamin A

Also known as the “Natural Accutane,” vitamin A is an antioxidant that aids in the shedding of skin cells. Vitamin A helps prevent acne by ensuring your pores stay clear and free of excess cells that clog the pores and cause a breakout. Also, the antioxidant properties act as an anti-inflammatory for the skin, reducing redness and swelling. Take 10,000 iu Vitamin A daily. We specifically recommend the Clove Hill Skin Clarity supplement which is safe to take while pregnant.

NOTE: Do not take Cod Liver Oil as it is high in iodine, the most common food trigger for acne.

Vitamin A in the natural Beta Carotene form can be taken when pregnant or breastfeeding. Other forms of Vitamin A cannot be taken while pregnant or breastfeeding. In other words, the Skin Clarity product is the only safe recommendation that we can make.


Probiotics are “good” bacteria that colonize the digestive tract and the skin. They can help people who have been on long-term antibiotics (both oral and topical). These good bacteria compete with the pathogenic bacteria and can help improve the incidence of breakouts.

Research has found that specific strains of beneficial bacteria work better for acne — Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Other probiotic strains also work well; in fact, it is helpful to vary the brand of probiotic from time to time. For effective treatment of acne, take 40 parts per billion daily and a minimum of 8 strands per formula. Our Clove Hill Clear Skin Probiotic-10 has all the good bacteria and is dairy-free so as to not trigger acne.

Omega-3 (from Fish or Flax Oil)

Omega-3 is an anti-inflammatory supplement that is highly beneficial for inflamed acne patients. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) is the most common omega-3 found in fish, seafood and flax seeds. Fish oil helps keep hormones in balance. 2,000 mg per day is essential for a significant anti-inflammatory effect. Most over the counter Omega-3’s are not a high enough dosage to be effective, the Clove Hill SkinOmega-3 and Clove Hill Flax Oil are pharmaceutical-grade and contain the proper dosage for guaranteed results.

NOTE: Take Omega-3 supplements with less DHA than EPA. DHA is the Omega-6 fatty acid and is known to trigger acne in moderate quantities.

Have a Wonderful (Acne-Free) Pregnancy!

You deserve to feel good about your face, and about your body as it changes. With just a few changes in your routine, you can keep acne under control during this time of transition. Meditate a few minutes every day to stay centered. Get regular exercise to ease your stress level, and for your overall health. Enjoy the healthy foods we’ve included here.

Talk to your obstetrician if you ever have questions about your diet or supplements that are safe for you. Pregnancy is an exciting time, and all these little steps will help you feel your best at each stage.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and acne-free pregnancy!

Ready to clear your acne once and for all? We can help.

From our experience treating thousands of clients, acne usually appears to be triggered by a combination of issues, rather than one. That’s why a typical one-size-fits-all approach rarely works when it comes to clearing and controlling acne over the long run.

If you have tried it all and still have acne, our comprehensive 16-week Online Acne Program is the answer. Our Online Acne Program has a 95% success rate helping thousands of clients get clear. We can help you too!

Get started on your journey to clear by booking an Online Acne Consult today.

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About the Founder: Jessica Gremley

Jessica has been a Medical Esthetician, Certified Acne Specialist and Healing Diets Coach since 2003. After struggling with acne for more than a decade, she became determined to find a way to clear acne without pharmaceuticals for herself and eventually, future clients. Today, she offers a complete acne regimen that combines proven non-comedogenic skincare products, natural supplements, lifestyle coaching, and support from trained acne specialists to achieve lifelong clear skin. She and her staff serve locally at Natural Acne Clinic in Wheat Ridge, Colorado and nationally via NAC’s Online Acne Program.

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