By Nicole Pelletiere

Pregnancy is a beautiful thing—but it usually comes along with some not-so-pretty side effects. Passing gas, hemorrhoids, and best of all, pregnancy acne. (What happened to that gorgeous glow everyone always talks about?) Here’s how to zap those zits safely and effectively.

First, know you’re not alone: “Pregnancy acne is extremely common, especially in the first trimester when hormone levels increase,” says Gene Rubenstein, M.D., director of the Dermatology and Laser Centre of Studio City, Calif., and clinical instructor of dermatology at UCLA.  The result? An increased production of sebum, or oil, which can lead to white heads, black heads, and deeper acne, he says.

When a big red zit pops up on your face, your first thought is usually how to get rid of it—stat. But during pregnancy, when your baby is exposed to everything you’re exposed to, it’s important to avoid potentially unsafe treatment options, including some face washes and creams. Here’s Rubenstein’s advice for keeping pimples at bay, and dealing safely with the ones that do pop up.

Steer clear of unsafe ingredients Tetracyclines, a group of antibiotics often used to treat acne and skin infections, may cause bone defects and defective tooth enamel formation; while some studies suggest that benzoyl peroxide, the active ingredient in many acne cleansers and creams, may not be safe for use during pregnancy. Avoid products containing these ingredients, and be sure to let your dermatologist know if you’re pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. Not sure about something? Ask your doc first.

Clean consistently Washing your face twice daily with a gentle cleanser and using an oil free lotion once a day will help prevent minor acne breakouts. We love Belli Pregnancy Anti-Blemish Facial Wash and Acne Control Spot Treatment, which are proven safe for moms-to-be. ($22 and $15,

Seek a prescription If you can’t clear up the pimples on your own, talk to your doctor about topical medications such as prescription erythromycin or azelaic acid. They’re effective at treating severe acne and are safe to use during pregnancy.

Be patient The good news is that acne tends to improve after the first trimester. After that, hormones are produced by the placenta instead of the ovaries—giving your acne a chance to clear up. Until then, hang in there!

A rush of pregnancy hormones can make your skin look worse than it did when you were a teenager. Here’s how to improve your complexion safely and effectively.

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