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Pregnancy: First Trimester Breakouts

By Amalah

Hello, Amalah!

My husband and I just found out we’re going to have our first baby. My first clues were constant sleepiness (even with work and classes, I’m sleeping about 13 hours a day) and teenage girl skin. My skin has never been fantastic, but it hasn’t been horrible for years. I use Neutrogena pore-refining cleanser. It exfoliates nicely, but it’s still very gentle. And I use Mario Badescu oil free moisturizer. These are the two products that have helped my skin be the least gross they can be for a long time now. I have been happy with them.

Until now.

I’m sure it will help you to know some things about my crazy skin before you can help me: My skin is super sensitive. It behaves well most of the time until something in my environment changes — weather, humidity, temperature, diet, schedule. Even sleeping one night in a hotel room will make it flare up. This is why I hesitate to switch to new skin care products until I’m sure I’m switching to something better than what I have. No matter how good a product it is, I will have horrible skin for the first week I use it.

As for oiliness, it’s not too bad. My T-zone can get greasy at times, but I don’t think that’s the real problem. Using products with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid destroys my skin; I get just as many zits, except they’re hard and beady, and gross, dry skin covers my face.

I drink tons of water, and my diet has improved dramatically in the last few days.

I already look really young for my age (and not in a good way). With acne, I’m going to look like a pregnant twelve-year-old. So, please help. I do not want to look like this for the next 7 1/2 months. Thank you!

— N.

How to Manage Pregnancy Breakouts

Among the many, many, MANY little quirks that crop up during pregnancy, skin changes are one of the most common and the most annoying. Luckily, the changes you’re describing are most likely going to stay confined to the first trimester. Breakouts are really common at first, as your whole body kind of goes kablooey with the pregnancy hormones. (Lemme know if I start getting too TECHNICAL about this, or anything.)

Right now my own face is…ew. It’s not very good. I have blackheads and enlarged pores and two red zits along my hairline. My cheeks are dull and dry and my t-zone is shiny. And the eye-bags! Good lord in heaven, the eye-bags. Two weeks ago everything was FINE. Gloriously fine. Then that second line on a stick showed up and everything went haywire.

But I remember this. And I remember that it is temporary. And hopefully your skin woes will be temporary as well. Sometime around week 13 or 14, pregnancy starts getting a lot more bearable. The queasiness dissipates, you look “pregnant” instead of “bloated,” your skin clears up and your nails grow and your hair gets lush and bouncy (the natural shedding of hair seems to slow down or even stop during pregnancy, so your hair often gets nice and thick and Breck-girl-tastic). Of course, a whole new set of woes will take the place of your pimples (like a CHILD kicking you in the KIDNEYS), but physically you WILL feel and look better.

So my advice is to sit tight. Don’t put your skin through the stress of trying to find new products. And do NOT go and add harsh acne solutions to your lineup during pregnancy (small amounts of topical salicylic acid are okay, prescription-strength acne medications are NOT).

Since this is your first pregnancy and therefore you must have all the time in the world to take care of yourself (HA HA HAAAAAA), you could try a weekly face mask — if you think your sensitive skin could handle it. Something natural or even homemade, I’d guess, like a mud mask or some yogurt and oatmeal. While every pregnancy and every pregnant woman is different, patience is the way to go here.

Before you know it, you’ll have that nice pregnancy glow about you. And hopefully you’ll have it for AT LEAST a couple weeks before you get the get-this-baby-out-of-me-already third-trimester glare of doom.

Don’t forget to visit Amalah’s Weekly Pregnancy Calendar.

Published February 20, 2008. Last updated March 27, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • jodifur

    February 20, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    I had horrible skin during pregnancy. The only thing that worked was montly facials. I had terrible skin my entire 9 months. Facials made a great difference.

  • hanskey

    February 20, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    I hate to say this, but my acne didn’t really clear up until well after I had given birth, and I started using Proactive (which has worked for me, but I know it doesn’t work for everybody). My skin just totally completely and utterly freaked out. I had huge zits, my skin was so dry in other places it was peeling. It did get better in my third trimester, but then birth and breastfeeding got me out of wack again. But I think I am a worst case scenario.
    On the bright side, my hair never looked better, and I had the most beautiful nails you’ve ever seen.

  • Megbc

    February 20, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    I know you said you don’t want to try any new products, but just throwing this out there for anyone who has sensitive skin and can’t tolerate salycilic acid or benzoyl peroxide: DHC Acne Spot treatment is really great, and uses sulfur, which is super gentle, instead of SA or BP.

  • Vida

    February 20, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    Thank you!
    I had feared there wasn’t much I could do, but I figured if there was something, you would know what it was.
    I will try the mask. I was going to today, but when I got it out discovered it had completely dried up. Boo. I will also try this DHC stuff. I didn’t realize there were other things out there for treating acne. This makes me happy.

  • SadieBug

    February 21, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Naomi’s skin sounds a lot like mine.
    Something that she wrote set off a bell with me, too: the “hard, beady” zits and dryness that results from using products w/ benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid likely mean that she’s allergic to these products. I had been using them to treat my acne (even had been given them by a dermatologist) and my skin was only getting worse so I finally saw an allergist. Turns out I am very allergic to BP & salicylic acid, and those “hard beady” zits and extreme dryness are actually acute dermatitis.

  • psumommy

    February 21, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Oh, THANK YOU Amalah for posting this! I could have asked nearly the same thing. I’m about 10 weeks along right now, and ever since conception, my skin has been NUTS. I’m assuming that I’m getting my comeuppance for not having acne as a teen (I know, go ahead and hate me, it wasn’t my fault!). Huge, painful zits that last for weeks and then are replaced by more huge, painful zits. Thanks, baby! lol

  • NicoleC

    March 2, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Hi ladies! Well, I’m 6 weeks pregnant and my acne is going nutty. I started out with these few couple of dots on my nose in the curve and thuoght nothing of it. I’ve had the flu so I’ve been getting sweats and chills for a week now.. but anyways, everytime I wake up it grows more and more away from my nose and is affecting the skin around it. It looks and feels dry and I don’t have any acne anywhere else. Just this one really terrible spot that’s getting bigger and bigger so it actually makes people stare harder wondering what’s up with my face. Ah, the joys of motherhood. Oh well, I’m going back on proactive and seeing if that works for my pregnant self and if not, ill go for a moisturizer and try that.. Good luck ladies!