Ideally, the time to research safe medication during pregnancy for acne is before you are pregnant. Of course, planning isn’t always exact, but it can help you avoid using harmful medications.
Even after a prescription ends, some medications will stay in the body for a while longer. This is important to know since the greatest risk to a baby is during the first month or two when his or her organs are still forming.
Many women are uncertain what acne treatments are pregnancy safe. This page provides an overview of acne safe medication during pregnancy, but it is not meant to replace your doctor. Please discuss all medications with your doctor before using them.
If you aren’t comfortable with the idea of acne medication during pregnancy, and need more information, I have provided a page on
common questions about acne and pregnancy.
Erythromycin: Both skin creams and oral prescriptives containing erythromycin may be safe medication during pregnancy. Oral erythromycin is an antibiotic for severe acne, which still may not be very effective against acne since bacteria build resistance to antibiotics over time.
Clindamycin (Cleocin): Clindamycin is also an acne treatment in both topical and oral prescriptive forms. It is an antibiotic related to erythromycin that is unlikely to present risk to the fetus. Therefore, it is also considered a fairly safe medication during pregnancy.
Azelaic Acid (Azelex, Finacea, Finevin): Azelaic acid is a topical cream for moderate acne with antibacterial effects. The risk of harm to the fetus is remote, but there have been no human studies to provide much information.
Oral contraceptive pills: Some women use the birth control pill to control acne, and later get pregnant. Despite general belief that their baby will be affected, women using oral contraceptives haven't shown to be at a higher risk for birth defects. (Source: iVillage The Website for Women)
Retinoids are commonly used to treat typical forms of acne, come from vitamin A, and are quite effective. However, when it comes to safe medicine for pregnancy, retinoids should generally be avoided.
Tretinoin (Avita, Retin-A, Renova): Tretinoin is an ingredient in creams. It is related to isotretinoin (Accutane), and there is unease that tretinoin could have similar effects on the fetus. It is possible that it can be absorbed into the skin and into the bloodstream. Pregnant women should avoid this drug.
Adapalene (Differin Gel): Adapalene is a synthetic retinoid in a topical gel form and has anti-inflammatory effect. It is unlikely that large amounts of this drug could be absorbed into the bloodstream. However, there are few studies to find adequate evidence that it is pregnancy safe. Therefore, it should be avoided during pregnancy.
These are highly dangerous and unsafe during pregnancy.
Isotretinoin (Accutane side effects): Isotretinoin is an oral retinoid used to treat cystic acne. It is banned during pregnancy because causes malformations to the fetus. Besides a slew of fetal defects, this drug increases the chance of miscarriage and infant death.
For anyone on isotretinoin who is pregnant or planning to have a baby, it is recommended to stop taking the drug immediately, and ideally at least one month before attempting to get pregnant, by the Organization of Teratology Information Services (OTIS).
As a general rule of thumb, oral antibiotics are generally not safe medication during pregnancy, with the exception of oral erythromycin.
Tetracycline (Sumycin, Achromycin V): Tetracycline is an oral antibiotic for acne. It is inconvenient to take and has many side effects, yet it is the most frequently prescribed antibiotic for acne.
It has been shown to inhibit bone growth and discolor teeth in the fetus. Pregnant women and women breastfeeding should avoid this antibiotic.
Doxycycline and Minocycline: Doxycycline and Minocycline are second-generation tetracyclines. They are also frequently prescribed for acne, but are more convenient to use.
They are presumed to similarly affect the fetus like tetracycline and should also be avoided by pregnant women and through breastfeeding.
There are other forms of prescriptive acne treatment that are not safe during pregnancy.
Sodium Sulfacetamide: Sodium sulfacetamide is a topical anti-infective medication used to treat acne and seborrheic skin conditions. Studies show that this medication taken orally can affect the fetus.
It is unlikely that the topical form does not harm the fetus, although its risk in pregnancy is unknown. (Source: Illinois Teratogen Information Services)
Still need more information? Check out common questions about acne and pregnancy for other advice or non-medicated solutions.