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How to Treat Acne Safely whilst Breastfeeding

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

Weaning from breastfeeding is a seriously under researched area of women’s health. There is little to no existing research available about the experience of weaning and the effect that it has on a mother’s mental and physical health – and yet, mothers all over the world experience symptoms including:


·      Insomnia

·      Anxiety

·      Low mood

·      Hot flushes

·      Nausea

·      ‘Brain fog’

·      Acne


The latter is the subject of this particular article. Interestingly, many mothers also experience pregnancy acne or breastfeeding acne too - oh the joys!

I recently begun a slow and gentle, parent-led approach to weaning with my son. After introducing breastfeeding boundaries to reduce the number of feeds that he has in a day, I noticed changes in my skin, as well as my mood. Having suffered with acne throughout my teens and twenties, I am familiar with a whole host of different treatment options. But which ones were safe to use for as long as I was still nursing?


There are many nursing-safe skincare ingredients that are recommended for calming acne. Some of my favourites are: 


Tea Tree Oil


 A 2017 study found that tea tree oil face wash and gel significantly improved mild to moderate acne in a study of 18 participants over 12 weeks (1). Whilst tea tree oil should not be applied directly to the breast or nipple area, it is considered safe to use during lactation (2).


Aloe Vera


This has been found to be highly effective at improving even severe acne in several studies (3,4). Renowned for its calming and soothing properties, it is generally suitable for most skin types and is available in many different cosmetic products as well as in gel form – or direct from the leaves of the plant.


Benzoyl Peroxide


A common topical treatment for acne, benzoyl peroxide is found in many products as a treatment. It takes around 4 weeks to start working and is considered safe for use during pregnancy and breastfeeding (5).


Salicylic Acid


Commonly found in many topical acne treatments or is generally considered safe for use whilst breastfeeding although no clinical trials have been published to date (6). Consequently some dermatologists do not recommend it’s use whilst breastfeeding. Again, products containing salicylic acid should not be used on breasts where it may be ingested by your baby. 


Safe Acne Medication


In addition the acne medication, erythromycin is considered safe for use during lactation by the AAP (7), although the NHS recommends that parents look out for signs that your baby is unsettled after nursing whilst taking it (8). 


The following acne treatments to steer clear of whilst breastfeeding or pregnant:


Retinol or Vitamin A


Any skin products containing Vitamin A or Retinol (Tretinoin) are not generally  recommended for use during pregnancy or lactation because the risk of their use is unknown.


Other Acne Medication


The following acne medications are considered moderately safe during lactation according to the AAP:

·       Adapalene (Differin)

·       Azelaic acid (Azelex)

·       Clindamycin (Cleocin)

·       Metronidazole (MetroGel)


However, Isotretinoin (Accutane)

is not safe for use while pregnant or lactating (8).

Weaning Help


If you need help or support stopping breastfeeding on your own term at any point, follow the link below to download my 10 Step Guide to Weaning. It is designed to be gradual and gentle and is rooted in psychological theory:


With love,















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