Can I Use Benzoyl Peroxide During Pregnancy?

Medically reviewed by Zara Risoldi Cochrane, PharmD, MS, FASCP on October 10, 2016Written by University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group on October 10, 2016

Benzoyl peroxide for acne

High hormone levels in pregnancy may make acne more likely. Increased hormones cause your skin to produce more oil, and the oil can block your pores. This traps acne-causing bacteria and leads to breakouts. You may find it hard to enjoy your pregnancy “glow” when your face is breaking out.

Some women turn to benzoyl peroxide. It’s one of the most effective and widely used nonprescription medications for treating mild to moderate acne. It comes as a face wash, bar, lotion, cream, and gel.

Bacteria that cause acne can only live in an oxygen-free environment. Benzoyl peroxide uses oxygen to kill these bacteria. It also helps unclog pores by causing a mild peeling effect.

If you’re looking for acne treatments that are safe to use during pregnancy, you may be curious about benzoyl peroxide. Here’s what you need to know about its safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Is benzoyl peroxide safe to use during pregnancy?

Benzoyl peroxide is likely safe to use while you’re pregnant. This is because your body absorbs very little of the drug. No problems with use during pregnancy have been reported.

You should talk to your doctor before using benzoyl peroxide or any drug while pregnant, though. And if you become pregnant while using this drug, be sure to let your doctor know.

Is benzoyl peroxide safe to use while breastfeeding?

As usual, it may be best to talk to your doctor before using this or any drug while breastfeeding. However, benzoyl peroxide is likely safe to use while breastfeeding. As with pregnancy, the low risk is due to the small amount of the drug that is absorbed into your body through your skin. Just make sure that your child’s skin doesn’t come in contact with your treated skin.

Side effects of benzoyl peroxide

The side effects of a drug can also impact whether you would want to use the drug during pregnancy. While most of these effects won’t harm your developing child, you may find them uncomfortable.

Common side effects

The more common side effects of benzoyl peroxide affect your skin. If they don’t go away after a short time or if they bother you, call your doctor. These side effects can include:

  • dryness or peeling
  • a feeling of warmth
  • tingling
  • slight stinging

Serious side effects

Rarely, benzoyl peroxide can cause serious side effects. If you have any of these side effects, stop using this drug and call your doctor. If your symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Serious side effects can include:

  • burning, blistering, redness, or swelling of the treated area

Some people may also have an allergic reaction to benzoyl peroxide, with symptoms such as:

  • rash, hives, or itching anywhere on the body
  • feeling faint
  • throat tightness
  • trouble breathing
  • swelling of your eyes, face, lips, or tongue

Alternatives to using benzoyl peroxide

If you would like to avoid medication while pregnant, there are other ways to help reduce your acne. Here are some tips:

Do's

  1. Wash your skin gently. Don’t scrub.
  2. Drink lots of water to hydrate your skin. Avoid large amounts of caffeine.
  3. If you wear makeup, use oil-free products. These may be labeled “noncomedogenic” or “nonacnegenic.”
  4. Keep your hair off your face. Hair contains oils that can clog pores.

Don'ts

  1. Don’t pick at your acne. This can make it worse and lead to scarring.
  2. Don’t touch your face. Your hands can spread acne-causing bacteria to your skin.
  3. Don’t eat lots of processed foods or refined sugar. A healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is good for your skin, as well as the rest of your body.

For more suggestions, check out these natural acne remedies.

Talk with your doctor

Benzoyl peroxide is generally considered safe for pregnant women. If you have more questions about the safety of benzoyl peroxide or other acne medications during pregnancy, talk to your doctor. Your questions might include:

  • Do you recommend using benzoyl peroxide for acne during pregnancy?
  • Are there other acne medications that may be safer?
  • What are some nondrug ways I can treat my acne?

Your doctor can help you safely care for your skin so you can focus on more important things, like your pregnancy.

Q:

Does benzoyl peroxide interact with other drugs?

A:

Because very little benzoyl peroxide is absorbed into your body, it’s not likely to interact with other drugs you may be taking. However, you’re more likely to have skin irritation and dryness if you use another topical acne medication at the same time. If you notice this, switch to using only one of the medications at a time.

Healthline Medical TeamAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
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