How Postpartum Acne Affected One Mom’s Mental Health
July 27, 2021
Growing up, I was one of those kids who was hit hard by puberty. Some time between my 12th and 13th birthdays, I grew about half a foot and my once pristine skin broke out into fits of hormonal acne; it was incredibly difficult to manage, despite my best efforts.
My mom used to console me by saying my skin would get better in a few years and that acne was just a “teenage thing.” Thankfully, my acne did clear up as I got older—and by the time I was in my 20s, I had the skin I once only dreamed of.
Naively, I thought the days of breakouts were behind me; there’s no such thing as second puberty, right? But then I had a baby, and learned that postpartum acne is a thing.
I was lucky enough to have an easy first pregnancy and a relatively uncomplicated birth. As a result, I had a smooth recovery (save for a couple of digestive problems).
But shortly after I gave birth, I noticed that my skin was starting to break out—and badly! First, the acne appeared along my jawline, then it spread up across my cheeks. As soon as one pimple faded away, two new ones appeared. I felt like I was 13 again.
Initially, I dismissed it, thinking it was just my hormones going back to normal and that this phase would soon pass (I had some mild pregnancy acne as well). But as time went by, my skin showed no signs of improvement. In fact, it got worse.
Of course, adjusting to life with a newborn had its own challenges; I was barely getting any sleep at night, and that just added fuel to the fire. Every article I read about postpartum acne named two culprits: changing hormones and stress, and I was definitely experiencing both.
Still, knowing why something is happening doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to handle. All I could think about was “fixing” my face, stat. I decided to completely change my skincare routine, believing that would do the trick. Spoiler alert: It did not—and neither did the dozens of products I subsequently ordered late at night while breastfeeding] my baby.
When you’re a woman recovering from birth, dealing with baby blues and navigating the new normal, seeing your skin break out like you’re a teenager again can make you feel terrible. There were times I didn’t want to leave the house (not even to take a stroll with my baby), because I didn’t want to go outside without makeup—and wearing makeup meant more acne, so I just stayed inside.
I was ashamed of my skin problems, so I acted like everything was fine and never shared what I was going through with anyone, which made me feel 10 times worse. When friends and family came over to visit, I imagined they were scrutinizing the state of my skin. No one ever mentioned anything, though—not even my husband. That is, until one day, when he sat me down to tell me he’d found a great dermatologist online, and that maybe I should consider giving them a call. “Not because your skin bothers me, but because I can tell that it’s really bothering you,” he said.
Clearly my strategy of pretending like everything was fine was not as convincing as I had hoped. Once I finally saw a dermatologist and began implementing the recommended skincare routine (alongside eating less dairy), my skin finally began to clear up. It was a slow and steady process, but by the time my little one was crawling, the worst of my postpartum acne was behind me.
When most women prepare for their postpartum recovery, they do so in a practical sense, by stocking up on maxi pads, buying peri bottles and making sure they have enough comfy underwear. I had spent the last trimester of my pregnancy focusing on labor prep, so much that I had dreams about giving birth every night. But postpartum acne? That never crossed my mind.
My point is: No matter how hard we try to ready ourselves for the postpartum period, our bodies (and minds) can still surprise us. Sometimes these surprises are unpleasant and bring old insecurities to the surface. But I learned that this may also give you the opportunity to confront self-esteem issues you’ve been carrying for a while—even if it’s hard. You just have to show yourself some kindness, have patience and be brave enough to ask for help.
About the author:
Ivana Davies is a teacher-turned-stay-at-home mom and blogger. When she’s not busy with her son and daughter, she creates content for Find Your Mom Tribe, a community for new and experienced moms to come together to gain parenting hacks, pregnancy and postpartum tips and learn about baby products. You can catch up with Davies on Facebook and Pinterest.