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Between a growing belly, aching breasts, and restless legs, there’s no denying that pregnancy is a time of great change for the body. While some symptoms are nothing short of amazing, like those adorable little baby kicks and your soon-to-be mama glow, there are some that are not-so-amazing — like pregnancy acne. 

Fortunately, when breakouts strike, pimples, zits, and blackheads are often no match for salicylic acid — but is this coveted skincare ingredient A-OK to use when pregnant? We’ll tell you.

What Exactly Causes Pregnancy Acne?

It doesn’t matter if you’re in your first or third trimester: acne can happen at any time during pregnancy. But expecting mothers who develop it will usually start to notice blemishes around six weeks into their pregnancy. Some women might not even know that they’re carrying at this point, so the unexpected appearance of acne could be one of the first clues that you may have a bun in the oven. 

While many things could cause less than favorable skin, the main culprit primarily responsible for pregnancy acne is the increased hormone levels in the first trimester. 

It’s no secret that women go through a number of extreme hormonal changes during pregnancy. A hormone called progesterone, in particular, contributes to acne development. 

This all-important hormone plays a key role in helping to create an ideal environment for a developing fetus, but high levels of it also stimulate oil glands in the skin, making them produce more oil (aka sebum). Although sebum can leave your skin soft and dewy, it can clog your pores when produced in excess, leading to acne breakouts.

What Is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is a popular skincare ingredient available in many various concentrations and topical forms, including toners, lotions, peels, creams, serums, and spot treatments. Some dermatologists use it as a treatment for blemishes, but salicylic acid’s anti-comedogenic (non pore-clogging) and keratolytic (moisturizing and exfoliating) properties make it particularly appealing for treating other skin concerns as well. 

Simply put, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps to support proper cell turnover and prevent pores from becoming clogged, which makes it helpful for oily skin types. It penetrates into the pores to dissolve bacteria and dead skin cell buildup, which ultimately encourages the top layer of skin (aka the epidermis) to shed and reveal a healthy, uncongested complexion. 

Is Salicylic Acid Safe To Use When Expecting?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) categorizes over-the-counter (OTC) topical skincare and beauty products with a salicylic acid concentration of two percent or less as safe during pregnancy. 

In other words, when expecting, it may be okay to use salicylic acid in low concentrations, but you’ll likely need to take some precautions. It’s also a good idea to consult with your OBGYN before using any new product — such as salicylic acid — just to be sure.

Any Pregnancy-Safe Tips To Help Maintain Clear Skin?

Salicylic acid may be the gold standard for kicking acne to the curb, but what if you want to steer clear of beta hydroxy acids while pregnant? Or what about the many other skin complaints pregnant women often face, like stretch marks and melasma? 

Not to worry — here are a few pregnancy-safe tips to support a healthy and happy complexion:

Tip #1: Cleanse Your Skin Daily

To keep pesky pimples at bay, cleaning your skin daily is important. Why? Because cleansing facilitates the removal of dirt, oil, bacteria, pollutants, and other unwanted acne-causing debris, that’s why

Many different ingredients can help exfoliate and cleanse the skin — for instance, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, azelaic acid, and benzoyl peroxide — but if you’re looking for a gentle skin care product that’s safe to use during pregnancy, we recommend 8 Sheep Organics’ Turmeric & Tea Tree Facial Cleanser.

Made with organic ingredients like tea tree oil and niacinamide, this oh-so-luscious formula gently cleanses dirt and bacteria to leave the skin feeling clean, fresh, and hydrated. After cleansing, balance oil production and tighten pores with our Calming Acne Toner — trust us, your skin will thank us later!

Tip #2: Slather on the SPF 

The mask of pregnancy — technically called melasma — appears when a major rise in progesterone and estrogen levels stimulates excess melanin production, aka hyperpigmentation. 

While this common pregnancy symptom can sometimes be inevitable (thanks to hormones), wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher may help prevent your melasma from worsening. 

Pro Tip: To give your skin the support it needs, we recommend 8 Sheep Organics’ Hydrating Facial Moisturizer. This nourishing formula was specially formulated for sensitive, acne-prone skin and is completely free of any harsh ingredients like retinol or other retinoids like tretinoin, hydroquinone, parabens, and phthalates. 

Tip #3: Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Whether you’re dealing with pimples or stretch marks, keeping your skin adequately moisturized is key in combating scars. Drink plenty of H2O to hydrate your body from the inside out, and consider using our Helichrysum Belly Balm to moisturize and soothe itchy, stretching skin. 

For pimples, zits, and other pesky spots that just won’t quit, we recommend our hydrating Acne Spot Treatment. Made with natural, pregnancy-safe ingredients, this gentle treatment works quickly to clear up pregnancy acne and soothes flakiness and dryness. 

Conclusion

So, can you use salicylic acid when pregnant?

The answer: Yes — salicylic acid may be safe to use during pregnancy as long as it’s in low concentrations (as always, we recommend checking in with your ob-gyn first). Anything over two percent could be potentially dangerous for your developing baby, so skipping these products and reaching for something a little more pregnancy-friendly is typically a good idea. 

That said, every pregnancy is different. Always consult with your healthcare provider about your unique circumstances — especially if you have concerns or questions about using a new product (such as salicylic acid) while pregnant. 

Sources:

Skin Conditions During Pregnancy | ACOG

Chloasma--the mask of pregnancy | PubMed

Pregnancy acne: What's the best treatment? | Mayo Clinic

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