Postpartum Acne

Postpartum acne causes pimples to develop after pregnancy. Zits may appear right after birth or several weeks later. They result from changing hormone levels after childbirth. Postpartum acne usually clears up as hormone levels get back to normal. If you’re breastfeeding, talk to your provider about safe treatments, including topical products.


What is postpartum acne?

Postpartum acne is acne that develops after pregnancy. Pimples may start to appear right after giving birth. Or they may develop weeks or months later.

Postpartum acne results from changes in hormone levels as your body adjusts to not being pregnant. The fluctuating hormones cause your body to produce oil, which clogs your pores along with dirt and dead skin cells. Pimples develop in the clogged pores.

Treatment for postpartum acne depends on whether you’re breastfeeding (chestfeeding) or not — and if you’re planning another pregnancy soon. Usually, topical treatments (creams, lotions or gels you apply to your skin) are safe and effective.


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Who might get postpartum acne?

Anyone can get acne after having a baby. You’re more likely to develop post-pregnancy pimples if you have a history of acne.

How common is postpartum acne?

Postpartum acne is common. Most people develop a pimple or two after childbirth as hormone levels change. Providers aren’t sure exactly how many people get severe acne after having a baby.

Around 50 million people in the U.S. have acne, the condition that causes pimples. It’s the most common skin condition in the United States.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes postpartum acne?

Postpartum acne is a type of hormonal acne that results from changing levels of hormones called estrogen and progesterone. While you were pregnant, these hormones helped you have a healthy pregnancy.

After pregnancy, your body doesn’t need as many of these hormones. As the levels of hormones change and drop, your body produces an oil called sebum. Post-pregnancy pimples develop like other types of zits. They form when your skin’s pores (tiny holes) get clogged with sebum, dirt, dead skin cells and sweat.

High levels of stress can also cause clogged pores. Adjusting to a different routine as you care for yourself after having a baby can trigger acne. This is especially true if you aren’t washing your face as regularly or getting as much sleep as you did before giving birth.


What are the symptoms of postpartum acne?

You may develop pimples right after giving birth. Or, your skin may be clear for several weeks before pimples appear. Acne might develop or worsen after you stop breastfeeding/chestfeeding or start menstruating again after having a baby.

Most often, pimples appear on your face. But they can develop anywhere on your body. The zits might be blackheads, whiteheads or red bumps that don’t seem to have a head. You may also develop blind pimples, which are pimples that form under the skin’s surface.

In severe cases, cysts or hard nodules can grow beneath the skin. These bumps result from cystic acne or nodular acne. They require treatment from a dermatologist (a provider who specializes in caring for the skin).

Diagnosis and Tests

How is postpartum acne diagnosed?

You can usually recognize signs of postpartum acne on your own. If you have several pimples or they go away and come back, see your provider for an evaluation.


Management and Treatment

How can I treat postpartum acne?

Talk to your provider before starting any treatment for postpartum acne, especially if you’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding. Some topical acne treatments (creams and gels you apply to the skin) are safe to use while nursing. But you should always check with your provider to be sure.

If you’re breastfeeding/chestfeeding, your provider may recommend benzoyl peroxide products or salicylic acid medication to clear up acne. But some products, such as retinoids, aren’t safe to use during pregnancy or while nursing. If you have pimples on your chest, avoid using acne-fighting creams or gels in that area. You should be careful with these products so your baby doesn’t come into contact with them.

If you aren’t nursing, you have a few more treatment options. Your provider may recommend other prescription skin care products. Or you may need antibiotics or other oral medications. These treatments vary depending on when or if you plan to get pregnant again.


How can I prevent postpartum acne?

You may not be able to prevent postpartum acne. But you can lower your risk by:

  • Keeping your skin clean: Use makeup and skin products that are “noncomedogenic,” which means they won’t clog your pores. Try to stick to a routine when cleaning your skin. Even though your sleep schedule is different with a new baby, try to wash your face every day.
  • Managing stress levels: Caring for a new baby can be emotional and sometimes challenging. You may feel overwhelmed at times, and increased stress levels can lead to breakouts. Use breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to ease stress.
  • Resisting the urge to pop a pimple: Picking at zits can make them worse. You can damage your skin and cause acne scars, which can be severe. Popping can also lead to an infected pimple.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have postpartum acne?

Most of the time, post-pregnancy acne is temporary. It usually gets better as hormone levels return to normal. Topical treatments are often effective at treating postpartum zits.

Sometimes, pimples linger or worsen after giving birth. It may take several weeks for your hormone levels to stabilize and your skin to clear up. If acne is severe or pimples aren’t going away, ask your provider about other treatments.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider about postpartum acne?

See your provider if you have:

  • Acne that’s severe or long-lasting, or if it goes away and comes back.
  • Hard or painful nodules or pimples deep under the skin.
  • Pimples on your chest or breasts if you’re breastfeeding.
  • Signs of an infected pimple, such as a fever, pain or inflammation.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Postpartum acne can be annoying, especially when you’re dealing with other physical changes after pregnancy. These zits result from changing hormone levels. They usually get better as hormones go back to pre-pregnancy levels. If postpartum pimples don’t clear up after a few weeks, talk to your provider. There are several safe treatments, even if you’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding. But you should always check with your provider before using them.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/02/2022.

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