Acne and Breastfeeding- Causes, self-care and treatment!

Breastfeeding is an ideal way to provide proper nourishment to your baby. Post pregnancy acne or acne while breastfeeding is a common problem and completely normal. It is mostly related with hormonal changes. But for moms who aim to have a perfect flawless complexion it is quite a disturbing situation. It is important to know what causes acne during lactation period.  Which medications are safe during breastfeeding and which should be avoided? Read the full post to know more about it.

Causes of acne while breastfeeding

The causes can be divided in to two major categories:

  • Local causes
  • Systemic causes

Local causes

Acnes are more common in the areas that have profuse sebaceous glands (such as on face, neck and chest).  These glands are attached with the hair follicles and secrets sebum, an oily substance that lubricates skin and hair follicle.

 When these glands are stimulated due to hormonal changes (or any other cause) and produce excessive sebum. This sebum mixes with dead cells and clogs the skin pores. They together form a soft clog; create an environment where bacteria can thrive easily. When this soft plug leaks in to neighbouring tissues, it causes redness, swelling and pus. This raised area of inflammation is commonly called a pimple or acne.

Systemic causes

  • Hormonal imbalance (more common during puberty, pregnancy and lactation period)
  • A few conditions of endocrinal system such as polycystic ovarian disease and Cushing syndrome can lead to breakout of acne.

Other causes

  • Dehydration- when our body is not sufficiently hydrated, the skin is the first site that is affected. In this condition skin loses its moisture and get prone to accumulation of toxins in the body. Many new moms forget that they need to stay properly hydrated while breastfeeding and suffer from acne and other skin problems.
  • Unhealthy eating habits (spicy and fried food)-According to a scientific study high glycaemic index food and dairy product can influence hormonal and inflammatory factors thus may increase severity and prevalence of acne. Another study suggest spicy food (usually contain tomato and pepper) has acidic lycopene. It is a substance that can be an irritant and may trigger acne breakout.
  • Stress and sleep deprivation– stress causes an inflammatory response in the body and our adrenal gland produces increase androgen or male hormone. Higher androgen levels can lead to more acne. And having a new baby with loads of responsibilities may put extra pressure on new moms. This stress may a significant contributing factor of acne while breastfeeding.

In case of post pregnancy acne, most dominating cause is usually hormone related but stress, sleep deprivation and dehydration may be a contributing factor.



The first and best thing to treat acne (while breastfeeding) is to start a strict self-care routine at home. It will helpful in preventing scarring and further breakout.

  • -Drink at least 8-10 glass of water daily to keep your body hydrated.
  • Wash your face 3-4 time every day with mild oil free face wash and Luke warm water but avoid excessive scrubbing.
  • Try to follow a healthy life style. Eat healthy food that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grain. Avoid eating fried and spicy food. Also limit the intake of dairy products.
  • Avoid pricking or squeezing acne. This habit can cause scarring.
  • Exercise regularly (according to your body condition and after proper medical advice). But you need to take special care to keep your skin protected while exercising if you suffer from acne rosacea.
  • Use non-greasy cosmetics or cream. Do not leave make-up on overnight.
  • Avoid touching your face with hands. It may increases infection.
  • Shampoo your hair daily, if your scalp is oily.
  • Pay attention on any digestive issue (constipation) because skin problems are usually associated with improper digestion.

If the cause of acne is systemic disease like PCOD or Cushing syndrome, then taking a proper treatment by qualified doctor is very important.

 Women who are breastfeeding should take extra care before taking any medication. The best thing is to take proper medical advice before starting any new medication.

According to department of health (government of Australia) “breastfeeding offers you and your baby many benefits. Unfortunately, mothers are often discouraged from taking medication when breastfeeding as they are concerned that the medication will transfer through their breast milk and harm their baby”.

To be on a safe side, it is advised that (:1)

  • Using an alternative method of taking drugs (for example in case of acne prefer topical application on oral drugs)
  • Using the lowest appropriate dose of required medicine to manage your symptoms.
  • Taking your medication immediately after feed or before your baby’s longest sleep period to minimize the amount of medication in your milk.
  • Choose alternative medication whenever possible.
  • Expressing and discarding milk if you are only taking medication for a few days.

In case of acne according to National centre of Biotechnology information,  the treatment guidelines are:

First line of treatment

 Topical medication is used as a first line of treatment. These include,

  • Topical application of Antibiotics in the form of gel, cream or lotion-erythromycin, clindamycin, metronidazole and dapsone, are safe during lactation period and they help in fighting with bacterial infection.
  • Benzoyl peroxide is a safe way to kill bacteria on the skin. It acts as a keratolytic agent and helps to prevent clogged pores. It works great and can be used safely in nursing mothers.
  • Salicylic acid can penetrate in to pore to dissolve dead skin cell build up and encourages the shedding of the top layer of skin which protects the pore from being congested. .

Second line of treatment

 Oral antibiotics

 Oral macrolides (erythromycin and azithromycin), cephalexin or zinc compounds areas considered as a safe option while breastfeeding.

Blue and red light therapies

 These therapies are very effective for controlling inflammation that occurs with acne. But a professional dermatologist consultation is compulsory for proper treatment.

Drugs that should be avoided

Antibiotics consist of tetracycline, co-trim oxazole and fluoroquinolones should be avoided.

Alternative treatment

 Alternative treatment is a great option for treating acne while breastfeeding. Although there is lack of enough scientific evidence about safety of herbs taken during breastfeeding but homeopathic treatment can be used as an alternative treatment option.

Homeopathic remedies work on the principle of “individualization” that means any remedy can work great in any case, when prescribed according to symptoms similarities and may provide an ideal cure. But always take a professional advice before taking any medication. But following remedies can provide a significant relief in case of acne.

  • Hepar Sulph- when pimples are painful and yellowish discharge comes from pimple. Patient is oversensitive and chilly.
  • Belladonna- a great anti- inflammatory remedy when all signs of inflammation present. Patient is restless s and hypersensitiveness to external stimuli marked.
  • Nux Vomica- when digestive issues are predominant and history of overdose of allopathic medicine are present.
  • Sulphur- suitable for chronic cases, when skin is rough and dry.
  • Calcarea Sulph- for severe cystic acne.
  • Silicea- when tendancy to non- healing is present.

Moms, if you are suffering from acne during breastfeeding. Do not panic.  Eat healthy, sleep well and follow these guidelines to enjoy the most beautiful phase of your life with perfect complexion.

Did you liked the post? Please share your thoughts, in comment box.

One Comment

  • Neha Jain

    I have really acne prone screen thankfully my breastfeeding time was easy I don’t feel any acne problem of the time but it’s really important to take care of your skin when you have acne. I always try to keep my skin clear to avoid acnes thanks for sharing this helpful post details.

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