Is It Safe to Use Acne Medication During Pregnancy?

Only if you use the right kinds. Here's how to know what's safe and not safe for your unborn baby.

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on June 10, 2012
1 min read

Q: My face has been breaking out like crazy since I got pregnant six months ago. What can I use to treat it?

A: Breakouts during pregnancy aren't at all uncommon -- they're due to your elevated hormone levels. But while nonpregnant women can use a range of prescription drugs for acne, those who are expecting need to be more careful. Specifically, pregnant women should avoid these four types of prescription acne products:

Accutane (generically called isotretinoin), which can cause birth defects, as well as increase the risk of miscarriage and infant death;

Hormonal therapies (flutamide, spironolactone), which can lead to birth defects;

Topical retinoids (adapalene, tazarotene, and tretinoin), which pass into the bloodstream and so on to the fetus; and

Oral tetracyclines (doxycycline, minocycline, tetracycline), which affect bone growth and tooth color in the fetus.

If you want to use over-the-counter acne products, be sure to talk to your doctor first. Products containing benzoyl peroxide appear to be safe for pregnant women. But products containing salicylic acids are not, as they can lead to birth defects. Doctors also recommend not using products with alpha-hydroxy acids, as they are absorbed into the bloodstream and the effects on fetuses are unknown.