You have been the queen of changes for almost a year now. No one could touch your ability to grow, shift, glow, melt, eat, and emotionalize. But you thought you were done when you hit the delivery room, with the exception of 'shifting' back to your old pre-pregnancy self.
By now you've realized that the changes are far from over. Even weeks after the birth, your raging hormones are continuing to wreak havoc on your skin. So what can you do about it?
The hormones that have been elevated for the past nine months to help keep your pregnancy going drop off suddenly after birth. Estrogen levels simply drop, but progesterone levels downright plummet immediately following delivery, dipping down to close to menopausal levels. Not only does that affect your hair, your emotional well-being and menstruation, but it continues to cause ongoing problems with your skin, too.
After childbirth, it may take up to a year or more to completely level your hormones back to normal. Longer if you're breastfeeding. Add in the stress of the pregnancy, delivery, and lack of sleep that comes along with a newborn, and you've now got a raging eruption on your face.
Hormonal acne is just that - hormonal. It's triggered by chemistry changes in your body, which is why people often start breaking out during puberty, around the time of your menstrual cycle, and around pregnancy.
Your complexion can take a very long time to come back to normal after you've delivered. Increased sebum production and clogged pores from hormonal swings can lead to some very confused skin, and your new lifestyle can really take a toll, leading to postpartum acne. It's pretty much a no-brainer if you really think about it. You have new stress, are sleep deprived, and have next to zero time (or energy) for proper skin care. It's no wonder you're now breaking out! Even worse, if you were acne prone during your teen years or first trimester, your acne will most likely be worse during your postpartum weeks and months.
Battling Acne Topically While Breastfeeding
The time period of being careful about what you put in and on your body - what you consume and what medications you use - isn't yet over if you've opted to breastfeed. While there are exceptions, a good rule of thumb is to avoid oral medications while breastfeeding unless recommended and deemed safe by your doctor. Many oral medications can be passed through breast milk.
Most topical acne products are safe to use while you're breastfeeding because they are found in minimal amounts in the bloodstream and are hardly ever found in breast milk. Opting for a benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, or glycolic acid product can help if you do break out, and they're safe for nursing mothers. These products will gently exfoliate, ridding your skin of dead skin cells and clearing current blemishes.
Using a high quality skincare regimen designed to balance your skin and fight inflammation at the source will go a long way towards battling the post-pregnancy breakout. Topical probiotics combined with anti-acne ingredients can help to calm irritated acneic skin and clarify congested pores, helping to prevent new blemishes while strengthening the skin barrier.
When your skin is dry, it tries to make up for the lack of moisture by boosting oil production. It's likely you may need to change your moisturizer up, opting for something with a little more effect. Avoid harsh chemicals or artificial dyes, as they can be harmful to your new little one.
Check your makeup, opting for cosmetics that are oil-free and non-comedogenic.
Other Ways to Control Postpartum Acne
It seems that you just don't have the time or the energy to do much of anything for yourself right now. It's really no wonder, what with all the nursing, cleaning, changing, snuggling, and playing you've been doing. But taking care of you is not only important for your body, your little one depends on you to be strong and healthy, too.
A healthy postpartum diet is key to helping get your hormones back in balance and battling unsightly post-pregnancy acne. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables can help your skin by providing antioxidants to fight off the free radicals that trigger inflammation.
Foods high on the glycemic index like bread, pasta, white rice, and other processed sugary foods will increase your blood sugar, which leads to an increase in hormones.
When to See Your Doctor
With everything that's going on with your body, it's difficult to know which changes are a normal part of the process, and which are more problematic. If you're questioning, these are a few reasons you may want to call your dermatologist:
- You have acne in weird places, like bumps on your inner thighs. This may turn out to be something other than acne altogether. Sometimes staph infections can mimic the look of acne.
- Your acne is really inflamed, severe, or painful.
- You've been trying to treat your acne on your own, but it just won't go away.
Of course, if you ever have any questions about changes with your skin or your body while you're nursing, it never hurts to contact your doctor for recommendations.