Pregnancy is a wonderful, beautiful, magical thing—that makes about a billion tiny facets of life really challenging for nine months. Like, of course, the fact that your clothes don’t fit, or that your chin is covered in zits, or that you haven’t slept well in almost a year are all worth it because you’re creating a freaking human being. But it’d also be super nice to not have to deal with something as outwardly annoying as acne, right?
Unfortunately, though, treating breakouts while pregnant isn’t as simple as it was a few months ago because almost all of the main anti-acne products on the market contain ingredients that have been deemed unsafe—or, at least, highly risky—for pregnancy, like retinoids, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, AHAs, and BHAs. This basically leaves you with an empty medicine cabinet.
But don’t freak! There are ways to treat acne while pregnant, as long as you know where to look—and have a dermatologist friend willing to very explicitly point it out for you.
Try Light Therapy
“Yes, there are definitely ways to safely deal with acne during pregnancy, though you need to be diligent and consistent in order for them to work,” says dermatologist Mona Gohara, queen of Yale School of Medicine. Unlike most acne treatments that are as easy as popping a pill or slapping on some zit cream, pregnancy-approved treatments require a bit more patience. Gohara’s weapon of choice? Light therapy.
“Light devices, which can come in the form of masks or handheld devices, emit a blue and red light that target the bacteria in your skin that causes inflammation,” says Gohara. “They act as topical antibiotics and are incredibly anti-inflammatory, which can be really beneficial for the inflamed hormonal acne that comes from pregnancy.”
This is one of those times were price really does matter, so if you want faster results akin to those you’d get in the derm’s office, we suggest investing in Tria’s Positively Clear Acne Clearing Blue Light ($169 at Tria), though you can also get cheaper results with Neutrogena’s Light Therapy Acne Mask ($34.99 at Neutrogena), although it only lasts for a month. Either way, though, you’ll need to use your device every single day—with each session taking up to 15 minutes—to notice results. So consistency is key here.
Get a Little Help from Your Derm
Of course, if your acne is truly bothering you, and the therapies aren’t working fast enough for you, Gohara notes that other prescription-level treatments may be available, though you’ll need to head to your derm to get them. “I’ll often prescribe topical azelaic acid to my pregnant patients, which is a type of antibotics, in conjunction with light therapy,” says Gohara, “but you’ll need to speak with your dermatologist to make sure it’s right for you.”
A Magical Pill? Nah
Yeah, yeah, yeah—none of this is as easy as giving you a magical pill and tonic that washes away your acne overnight, but the alternatives are definitely not worth the risk, especially when that risk involves your baby. So try out a light-therapy device at home, or head to your doctor to see which treatments are safest for you. Just remember: Acne (thankfully) isn’t forever.
A version of this article was originally published in March 2017.