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Pregnancy Acne That Just Won’t Quit…Even Three Years Later

By Amalah

Hello Amy!

I know you are a wee bit busy with preparing to give birth, and all… but I had a question. For your sake I’ll try to keep it brief.

I’ve always had so-so skin. Not amazing, but not terrible. That is, until I got pregnant with my second child 3 years ago, I started breaking out constantly. My skin didn’t act up that terribly while I was pregnant with my first, who happened to be a girl. So, I tried to reassure myself that maybe since I was having a boy this time, my skin was behaving differently. Unfortunately though, after I had my son my skin didn’t clear up. So, here I am now. It’s been 3 years and nothing seems to work. I’ve tried everything from Proactiv to Cetaphil, to Murad and so on. Nothing has helped my skin clear up.

After reading about your love for Philosophy I decided to try the “Makeup Optional Kit For Congested Skin.” I love the way it makes my skin feel, but it’s been about a months now, and alas! It hasn’t helped clear it up! I had tried not to get my hopes up when I bought it, but I must admit somewhere deep inside I had hoped that it would at least help. When I bought the kit it came with samples of the Microdelivery Peel, which makes my skin feel heavenly, but hasn’t made any difference either.

Amy… please oh please do you have any advice for me? It’s amazing how problem skin can affect one’s self image…

Thank so you so much, and congratulations on your adorable Noah and Sweet Bebe #2!


How to Manage Problem Skin

One question for you. Wait, no. Two questions:

1) Have you been to a dermatologist yet?

2) Have you been to the gynecologist recently?

Adult acne that hits during pregnancy and doesn’t resolve after childbirth is pretty much on par with the monthly breakouts many women get right before their periods. It’s hormonal, triggered by something going on elsewhere in your body, which is going to make it hard for any product to really get at the root and real cause of the problem. And anyone who has used as many different products as you — and it really sounds like you’ve exhausted the over-the-counter skincare offerings — should cry uncle and see a dermatologist already. Get your acne type profiled and identified (inflammatory? cystic? comedogenic?) and start trying the prescription-strength treatments, IF that’s what your doctor deems necessary.

I mention the gynecologist because…well, there is also prescription birth control, which can really help with hormone-related breakouts. I used to get full-on ZITS and those awful, painful blind pimples when I wasn’t on the Pill. I got lucky with pregnancy, as it cleared up my skin for the most part (well, as long as you ignore the wretchedly pizza-faced first trimester) and then I stumbled into the Philosophy regimen and laaaaaa angels singing clouds parting and all that jazz. If you’re already on the Pill, you can ignore this wild guess, UNLESS you’ve maybe been on the same one for the last three years and could stand to maybe switch to one that has ponied up the money for studies and the right to put “IT CLEARS UP YOUR SKIN!” on its brochure.

One thing I won’t do here, however, is recommend any products. Because…man, you’ve tried a lot and nothing has worked and I sure as hell can’t think of anything that would point to being something super-uniquely DIFFERENT that will SURELY WORK. At this point I cannot even imagine your frustration level at wasting money on skincare products, so…yeah. Time to see a real live professional. Clearly there’s something going on, deeper than just congested pores, if certain products can make your skin “feel” awesome and great…but still not treat the underlying breakout problem at all.

Before You See a Doctor, Do This

When you go see said real live professional, try to go armed with as much information and knowledge as you can. Think about the different regimens you’ve tried — have you ever seen ANY improvement with ANY of them? If you saw SOME improvement with, say, Proactiv, that might be enough information for the doctor to deduce that a prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide cream might be what you need. Some dermatologists tend to be severely overextended, and patients coming in with acne-related complaints sometimes get the short end of the stick since…you know…there’s people out there with Highly Suspicious Moles. If you can, try to find a doctor who advertises or is known for specializing in acne and complexion-related complaints. Someone who won’t just throw an Accutane script at you or recommend Cetaphil even though you’ve already tried Cetaphil and poof! Visit over, pony up on your co-pay, please.

Spend some time at, which really is the most informative site I’ve ever come across when it comes to learning about what acne IS and what CAUSES it and how to figure out what treatment will work for YOU. The forums are also a really great place for information and first-hand experiences with pretty much every regimen known to man. The site now has its own skincare line (which I’ve yet to hear anything about, positive or negative), but still remains mostly unbiased when it comes to recommendations for other face washes and moisturizers. (And for the love of God, don’t even THINK about skipping the moisturizer if you do end up with something prescription-strength — you’ll go from Pizza Face to Flaky Week-Old Croissant Face in no time.)

Don’t forget to visit Amalah’s must-read weekly Pregnancy Calendar.


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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  • Erin

    October 9, 2008 at 1:25 pm is another great resouce, both for reviews of products, general information on acne and cosmetic ingredients, and it has its own line of products, which have been a blessing for me, personally.
    Like Amy, the pill also helps my skin behave.
    One more thing, which would be super-cheap: Have you tried an aspirin mask? I’ve only done it a couple times, but it’s been a little amazing for me.
    You buy generic, uncoated aspirin, dissolve it in a very little bit of water, and smear it on your face. Some people put honey in it, but I haven’t. Let it dry, then wash it off. It’s supposed to work because aspirin’s made with from a similar chemical as salicylic acid. I’m kind of loving it as a once a week treatment.

  • Darcey

    October 9, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    I’m going the second the advice of going to see your dermatologist. I thought, for quite some time, that I had rosacea across my nose and cheeks. I mean, my skin was sensitive, my mom was just diagnosed with it, surely that’s what it was, right?
    Turns out, not so much. I have my dad’s skin across the nose (ahh, the family nose), and its actually a type of low-grade acne (that I don’t remember what it was called now) that’s causing all the redness.
    I was prescribed 2 lotions, one for morning and one for night, and have been using them fairly consistently for the last 2 weeks.I can’t even begin to tell you the difference in my skin. For serious! Blackheads that I never thought would disappear, despite all the Sephora-offered solutions out there. The sulfur cream for at night, well that stuff is a miracle!
    I even came into work today without a stitch of makeup, and it’s not even a true “sicky” day!

    • suri

      January 20, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      I have very sensitive skin and started getting adult acne after my youngest son. I have had laser done twice and it helped with old scars, but I continued to breakout. I tried numerous over the counter products including proactive. Proactive worked for a short period some what. I have been to the Dr an on numerous acne treatments and none helped. I was told about Citrus Clear products and they helped tremendously! I ran out once and didn’t get anymore and started breaking out again. Not only does it help with treating present acne but it helps preventing future breakouts. 

  • Jessica

    October 9, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I haven’t been pregnant yet, but I do have so-so skin myself, and the people recommended the Alpha Hydroxy line and I freaking love it. It’s been about a year, and my skin is as clear as ever, save for the few random zits I get, and I find that mom’s old advice (keep your hands off your face!!) are especially true.
    But, that’s my two cents… you can buy that stuff on and it is CHEAP which rocks. I had similar results with Philospohy, and while Proactiv worked for like 2 years one day it just stopped (I may have cried a lot).
    Good luck. It is amazing how much your self image will play into how clear your skin is or not. I mean, go to the gym with a huge freaking zit on my chin? NO WAY. Go to the gym with clear skin? Every freaking day. Well, I may lie a little…

  • Marya

    October 9, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Okay, I know you’ve tried practically every product under the sun, so feel free to ignore me. But! I also tried using some of the products in Philosophy’s Congested Skin kit, and although they were nice, they didn’t really make that much of a difference. But Philosophy’s Acne Kit, which is more heavy-duty, totally changed my skin for the better. And, like, my life.
    If you don’t want to spend $50 on the whole kit (and I wouldn’t, after you’ve already spent so much money on other products), then I really really recommend the “On A Clear Day H202” cream. It contains hydrogen peroxide and it kills the bacteria that cause acne. I use it once or twice a day with the “Hope in a Bottle” moisturizer and it’s great. The “On a Clear Day” face wash is nice too, but if you already have Purity I think the H2O2 cream is what will really make the most difference.

  • Jenny

    October 10, 2008 at 11:57 am

    I can’t emphasize enough how much a drip to the derm might help you. A couple of months on an antibotic might help you a lot. I often forget that acne is a bacteria. Sulfa drugs are ones that help a lot. Usually the goal is to get rid of the acne in a few months and then downgrade to a perscription topical cream.

  • kiki

    October 11, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    I’m a fellow adult acne sufferer and have tried many many things to clear up my ongoing problem. I even did accutane for a year, which has mostly controlled cysts, but I still have regular breakouts. I have been experimenting with vitamins, and have seen a brightening and allover health improvement with a good regimen of high quality supplements, including lots of A,B,C,D, and E. Your dermatologist will agree! Best- Kiki

  • marymuses

    October 13, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    I use the benzoyl peroxide gel from every night, and I use it the way he recommends, slathering on a TON and slowly rubbing it all in, and it has completely cleared up my skin. I had HORRIBLE acne one year ago and now rarely get any zits at all. I highly recommend the gel as opposed to prescription strength or the cream kind you can get at the local drugstore. It is cheaper and rubs in more smoothly. I only have to use it at night and then use Origins Plantidote line for my morning routine. My skin has never looked better.