From environmental toxins to ingested substances, a pregnant woman exposes her unborn child to everything her body encounters--and topical medications are no exception. Benzoyl peroxide, an ingredient commonly used for fighting acne, is sometimes prescribed for combating hormone-induced breakouts that occur during pregnancy. Understanding the uses and safety considerations of benzoyl peroxide can help you determine whether or not to use this treatment while expecting.
As a skin treatment, benzoyl peroxide works by controlling the growth of P. acnes--a strain of bacteria responsible for acne breakouts. As Acne.com explains, benzoyl peroxide sterilizes and oxidizes the skin, preventing pores from clogging and lesions from forming. Because hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause acne or exacerbate existing outbreaks, expecting mothers may use benzoyl peroxide to maintain healthy, blemish-free skin. Although this medication can treat acne during pregnancy, it does not cure it. Benzoyl peroxide is only effective with consistent and long-term use.
Benzoyl peroxide is available in a variety of forms for pregnant women, including lotions, creams, gels, face masks, soaps, cleansers and washes, typically at concentrations of 2.5 percent, 5 percent or 10 percent. Although many benzoyl peroxide products are sold over-the-counter, prescription medications are also available and may contain higher concentrations of this ingredient. Pregnant women should consult a physician when deciding what type of product to purchase and how frequently to use it.
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the few acne medications considered safe for use during pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Other popular drugs--including tetracycline, tretinoin and isotretinoin--can pose risks to developing fetuses, including birth defects, inhibition of bone growth and an increased chance of miscarriage. Benzoyl peroxide offers the same acne-fighting benefits of other medications without jeopardizing the health of your unborn child.
Because hormone-induced acne during pregnancy is usually temporary, some women choose to forgo medicated acne treatments and wait for the condition to clear up on its own. In some cases, adjustments in diet or grooming habits can improve your complexion and make benzoyl peroxide-containing acne treatments unnecessary. According to the pregnancy resource WhatToExpect.com, consuming foods rich in vitamin A--such as fish, milk, eggs and carrots--can help you maintain healthy skin throughout pregnancy, and choosing oil-free or "noncomedogenic" cosmetic products helps minimize breakouts. Making lifestyle changes in lieu of medication can protect your child from exposure to this chemical, as well as any accompanying ingredients found in acne products.
Some benzoyl peroxide-based acne treatments contain additional ingredients that may be harmful to a developing fetus. These include salicylic acid, which the American Pregnancy Association advises expecting mothers to avoid. Before choosing a topical medication, read all ingredients and consult with a physician to ensure the product is not harmful. Additionally, even though dermatologists generally consider benzoyl peroxide safe during pregnancy, no controlled data exists examining its effect on unborn children. Drug Information Online recommends using this chemical only when the benefits are greater than potential risks.