Is Acne Medication Safe During Breastfeeding and Pregnancy?

acne during pregnancy


During and after pregnancy a woman has various different hormone fluctuations going on in her body which can cause side effects like acne. There are many different safe acne medications available for preventing and getting rid of these hormonal pimples during pregnancy and breastfeeding but women need to be aware of what they are putting into or onto their bodies as it may negatively effect their baby and themselves as well.


acne during pregnancy


Let’s take a look at the acne medicines that should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.



Accutane is a synthetic retinoid which is a form of Vitamin A that is taken orally to treat severe and cystic acne. This acne medication should never be taken by pregnant women as it has been known to cause birth defects even when taken in small amounts. Some of these birth defects include mental disabilities, facial abnormalities, and heart defects.


According to the CDC, a 22 year old woman had taken Accutane (also known as isotretinoin) for 8 days when she was 4-6 weeks pregnant but stopped taking it after learning she was pregnant. When the baby was born it had many different defects and died 28 days later.


Because this drug has very serious side effects it may not be best to not take this pimple medication during breastfeeding. There had been a case of a women who developed discharge from her nipple after 5 and a half months of using isotretinoin. After one month of stopping isotretinoin the discharge stopped but when the same dose was reintroduced the discharge came back within 10 days. This discharge is called “galactorrhea” and was most likely caused by the isotretinoin treatment.


iPledge Program

Before taking Isotretinoin, either male or female, you must register with the iPledge program to understand the risks of this drug as well as agree that no female patient can take it during pregnancy or if planning to become pregnant.


Topical Retinoids

Retinoids like Accutane come in topical form as well. Whatever we put in and on our body can effect our baby as it is very possible that these chemicals can pass through the bloodstream. There have been several cases stating that children who were exposed to topical retinoids experience similar defects to those who were exposed to oral retinoids so it is advised to avoid any kind of retinoid use.

topical retinoids pregnancy


Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a topical acne medication that helps relieve redness and get rid of dead skin cells. It can be taken orally or applied topically as it is found in many over the counter acne medicine creams but there is a risk of birth defects if taken when pregnant. It is a hazard for women who are breastfeeding as well as salicylic acid gets absorbed into the blood stream which can be passed to your baby.


What acne medications CAN we use?


Luckily acne during pregnancy and when breastfeeding is caused by hormones so it will eventually subside but in the meantime there are some acne medicines which are safer to use and come with less side effects. Everyone reacts to medications differently so always consult your doctor before using these over the counter pimple medicines.



Products containing sulfur are probably the best acne medicine on the market and safest way to treat hormonal pimples when pregnant and when breastfeeding. Sulfur has been used since ancient times to treat pimples, eczema, and psoriasis as it is a natural detoxifier and helps flush out waste from our kidneys. It comes in cream, ointment, soap, and supplement form and has different strengths. This nutrient is very commonly found in the best acne treatment pills that are sold over the counter. Speak with your doctor about which strength is right for you.

OTC Topical Treatments


Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Benzoyl Peroxide are over the counter topical pimple treatments that are likely safe when used in very small amounts and at a low strength. There are studies still being done to prove that these are safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding so make sure you speak with your doctor about any possible side effects.

Changing our diet can dramatically help our skin during these hormonal fluctuations so what vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are needed for pregnancy and breastfeeding?


A healthy diet should consist of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins but during pregnancy it is possible to be deficient in different nutrients which are lacking in the diet of the mother. Deficiency in some of these vitamins can be another reason why we break out.

healthy diet pregnancy

Many times important vitamins and minerals get destroyed during food refining processes so make sure the food you are eating is as close to it’s natural form as possible so you and your baby can get the correct amount of nutrients.

These nutrients are also found in over the counter acne vitamins as they are important for keeping our skin clear of blemishes. They help reduce inflammation, redness, and oily skin which are all symptoms of hormonal breakouts.


Nutrient Why it’s important for Pregnancy Foods it’s found in Recommended Dose
Vitamin A & Beta-Carotene (gives vegetables their pigment, converts into Vitamin A in the body) Helps bones and teeth grow Liver, eggs, carrots, spinach, green and yellow vegetables, broccoli, potatoes, pumpkin, yellow fruits, cantaloupe 770mcg
Vitamin D Helps body use calcium and phosphorus; promotes strong teeth and bones Fatty fish, sunshine, certain mushrooms 5mcg
Vitamin E Helps body form and use red blood cells and muscles Wheatgerm, nuts, spinach 15mg
Vitamin C Antioxidant that protects tissues from damage; helps absorb iron; boosts immune system Citrus fruits, bell peppers, green beans, strawberries, papaya, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes 80-85mg
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) Increases energy levels and regulates nervous system Whole grain, eggs, rice, pasta, berries, nuts, legumes, pork 1.4mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Improves energy, eyesight, healthy skin Meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs 1.4mg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Promotes healthy skin, nerves, and digestion High-protein foods, meats, fish, eggs, peanuts 18mg
Vitamin B6 (Pryidoxine) Helps form red blood cells; helps with morning sickness Chicken, fish, liver, pork, eggs, soybeans, carrots, cabbage, cantaloupe, peas, spinach, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, bananas, beans, broccoli, brown rice, oats, bran, peanuts, walnuts 1.9mg
Folic Acid/Folate Helps support the placenta, and prevents spina bifida (link) and other neural tube defects Oranges, strawberries, green leafy vegetables, spinach, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, beans, nuts 600mcg
Calcium Creates strong bones and teeth, helps prevent blood clots, helps muscles and nerves function Dairy, soy milk, dark green leafy vegetables, canned fish with bones 1,000-1,300 mg
Iron Helps in the production of hemoglobin; prevents anemia, low birth weight, and premature delivery beef, pork, dried beans, spinach, oatmeal 27 mg
Protein Aids in production of amino acids; repairs cells meal, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, legumes, nuts 71mg
Zinc Helps produce insulin and enzymes red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grain, dairy 11-12mg



Prenatal & Breastfeeding Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins contain nutrients that are needed for a healthy pregnancy including iron, calcium, and folate. Breastfed babies have different requirements as some of these nutrients that are important for pregnancy may actually be harmful to them within the first year.

Breast milk is an excellent source of Vitamin A so breastfeeding is a great way to prevent deficiency in this vitamin. It is also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for babies to receive Vitamin D supplementation if they do not get enough sunlight or if the mother is deficient in it. The recommended dose is 400 IU per day.


Hormonal acne breakouts are frustrating so using acne medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding can be a good idea to help treat and prevent new breakouts. Some come with more risks than others so it is important to know which types are safe for you and your baby.

by macros

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