How to Treat Acne When Breastfeeding

Because acne breakouts are often linked to hormonal fluctuations, it is not uncommon for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to experience acne, even if their skin was previously clear. When treating acne while pregnant or breastfeeding, however, there are special precautions that women must take in order to ensure the safety of their new babies. Here is an outline of some commonly prescribed acne treatments to avoid, as well as safer alternatives to try until you’ve finished breastfeeding.

Acne Treatments to Avoid While Breastfeeding

There is a distinction between the acne medications that should be avoided during pregnancy and those that should be avoided while breastfeeding. Pregnant women should not use spironolactone, for example, although it does not appear to be a concern for lactating mothers (Internal Medicine News).

Acne treatments that breastfeeding women should avoid are:

  • Topical retinoids such as tretinoin, tazarotene, and adapalene. Although there is still more research to be done to determine the safety of these products while breastfeeding, there are lower-risk options.
  • Oral clindamycin may cause gastrointestinal side effects for the infant, although topical clindamycin is likely to be safe (Internal Medicine News).
  • Tetracyclines should only be used by breastfeeding mothers for less than three weeks.

What to Do Instead

When looking for the safest options while breastfeeding, try acne treatments like:

  • Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Although high doses of salicylic acid should not be used during pregnancy, both of these topical acne treatments are considered safe to use while breastfeeding. Benzoyl peroxide works by killing the bacteria that cause acne, while salicylic acid helps to unclog pores.
  • Topical azelaic acid. This treatment works similarly to benzoyl peroxide by killing acne bacteria. Azelaic acid is also commonly used to treat rosacea flare-ups, as it helps to reduce swelling and inflammation (Mayo Clinic).
  • Herbal remedies like tea tree oil, thyme, rosewater, and turmeric may help to reduce acne breakouts and pose no risk to breastfeeding women or infants.
  • Light therapy. Blue and red light therapy are becoming increasingly popular to treat acne. There are a number of at-home light masks that are now available for this purpose, and these are considered safe for breastfeeding women. You can also opt for professional light treatment at your dermatologist’s office.
  • Lifestyle changes. By making slight adjustments to your lifestyle habits, you can have a significant impact on your skin’s appearance and condition. Adopting stress-reducing habits like meditation, breathing exercises, or yoga may help to clear your skin, as stress has been linked with acne breakouts (JAMA Dermatology). Sugar and dairy may also contribute to acne, so limiting your intake of these foods may possibly help to clear your skin.

Many women find that using a combination of the above acne treatments while breastfeeding is the most effective solution. When you’re unsure if a particular acne treatment is safe to use while breastfeeding, talk with your dermatologist. He or she can recommend the best treatment or combination of treatments that will be safe for you and your baby.

Reassessing Your Skin Type after Breastfeeding

Once you’ve finished breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to reassess your skin type, as this could change once your hormones have stabilized. Visit to learn more about how you can find out which of the 16 Baumann Skin Types you are. You’ll also find a list of products that are good choices for your skin type to help you maintain clear, healthy skin. If you’re still struggling with acne after breastfeeding, check in with your dermatologist.

As always, feel free to visit our Facebook page and share your skincare questions with us!


Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through

July 10, 2017 Acne