Acne After Childbirth: How To Deal With It

Your body changes during pregnancy and after. And with it, your skin does too! It is all because of those raging hormones. Read on for some great tips on how you can tackle acne after childbirth.

By Dr Rinky Kapoor

Acne After Childbirth: How To Deal With It
Acne after childbirth can be distressing for most new mothers

Bharani was horrified to see her face covered with acne three weeks after she gave birth to her daughter. Since she had been blessed with flawless skin from childhood, it was a major blow. Having to cope with her skin problems added to the stress of caring for her new baby.

Does this ring a bell for you? You’re not alone.

The birth of a child brings immense joy. But what is often not acknowledged is that the period is also very tough for the new mother. Apart from the strain of having to take care of a newborn infant, the mother has to cope with extreme hormonal fluctuations in her body, which affect her psychologically as well as physically. Acne is one of the physical manifestations of these hormonal fluctuations.

What is postpartum acne?

Postpartum acne, as this condition is called, can happen to anyone. You may have been suffering from acne all through your teens and even later. The root cause is hormones. As a child reaches puberty, hormones go haywire, and most teenagers battle acne and spots on their skin for years. On the other hand, you may, like Bharani, have been one of the lucky few to be blessed with flawless skin from childhood through teenage. Yet, being pregnant itself could cause acne because of the hormonal changes taking place in your body. Ironically, though you might have had bad skin earlier, during pregnancy your skin might clear up, leaving you glowing. Again, that’s due to hormonal changes. It all depends on the way your skin responds to the changes in hormone levels.

Regardless of what went before, a woman who has recently delivered a baby could break out in postpartum acne. Typically, it occurs over the face and neck, but it could also appear in other places, like the inner thighs, buttocks or even the scalp. Again, hormones are to blame. During pregnancy, a woman’s body produces plenty of the hormone oestrogen. Usually, this results in glowing skin. However, after the baby is born, the oestrogen level suddenly drops, and the body is left scrambling to achieve a balance of hormones. That’s one of the reasons for postpartum acne. Other causes are stress and dehydration, particularly among breastfeeding mothers.

Your post-pregnancy acne may last for a short time and disappear on its own. Or it may stick around much longer. Either way, the good news is, it can be treated.

Postpartum skin care

Here are some simple measures which will help:

  • If you have oily skin, use a face wash with salicylic or glycolic acid, or tea tree oil.
  • If you have dry skin, use a moisturising face wash. Use a toner.
  • Moisturise regularly with a light moisturising lotion.
  • Follow up with sunscreen if you are going out in the sun.
  • Scrub twice a week, using a honey and sugar scrub or one which contains walnut or orange peel.

Weight matters

The new mother’s diet and weight, as well as her mental well-being, play a role in the treatment of acne. Ensure that you lose the excess weight you gained during pregnancy. However, take it slow. Aim to shed the extra kilos within four to five months of delivery. Exercise for 15 minutes four to five times a week. If you can’t find the time to go to a gym, try skipping for 10 minutes.

Check what you eat

  • Eliminate foods with a high glycaemic index like white bread, pasta, white rice and other processed sugary foods.
  • Avoid fried stuff.
  • Limit dairy intake.

Also, your skin needs some extra nourishment after childbirth. See that you eat plenty of fruits, green vegetables and other veggies containing Vitamin C and beta carotene.

If you feel unduly stressed by caring for your new baby, ask your partner or a relative to help out, or hire professional help. Make sure you have time for yourself, when you can unwind and regularly do things that relax you.

Cosmetics could cause outbreaks of acne too. So, if you generally use make-up, do consult your dermatologist, and find out which products you can safely use after pregnancy.

Medical intervention

Medicines can relieve you of the irritation caused by acne. But the type of medication you take will depend on whether you are breastfeeding your baby or not.

For breastfeeding mothers: If you are breastfeeding your baby, it’s best to go in for products that can be applied directly on the skin, and not taken internally. You can try products containing salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid. These can help get mild breakouts under control. You can also use an anti-acne face wash available over the counter.

However, if your acne or pimples are pus-filled or painful, you need to consult a dermatologist.

For non-breastfeeding mothers: If you’re not breastfeeding your child, your doctor may put you on oral medication, including contraceptives, to balance the hormone levels in your body.

On the whole, the post-delivery period is a tough time for new mothers, both physically and emotionally. Cultivating a positive attitude towards life in general will help a lot in maintaining good health, including good skin health. And remember, if the acne problem persists, or worries you in any way, do consult your doctor. 

The author is a Consultant Dermatologist, Cosmetic Dermatologist and Dermato-Surgeon. 

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