Most adult women haven't dealt with acne since they were teenagers, and they may have gladly closed the door on that phase. However, many breastfeeding moms may be surprised to see the return of that problematic acne when they stop nursing their babies. While not all mothers experience acne when they stop nursing, the hormonal changes that take place when breastfeeding ends can cause problems for others.
Breastfeeding brings on a number of hormonal changes, including lowering estrogen and progesterone levels, according to Dr. Mary Davenport, obstetrician-gynecologist in California, writing for the California Association of Natural Family Planning. When a woman stops nursing, those hormones return to their previous levels, and can take her body awhile to adjust. In particular, the increase in progesterone levels after a woman stops nursing can lead to increased oil production, which can cause problems with acne. The length of time will vary for each woman, but anywhere from two to four weeks is common.
Increase in Stress
Breastfeeding releases the "feel good" hormone oxytocin. Not only does this hormone improve bonding between mother and baby, but it can also reduce stress in the mother. When women stop nursing, they no longer receive the beneficial oxytocin, and they may experience more stress. Caring for a small child may also cause stress, which is no longer mitigated by the release of oxytocin. Stress can trigger the rise in cortisol, which can cause breakouts, according to skin specialist Sonya Dakar, creator and founder of the Sonya Dakar Skin Clinic.
Preventing Acne from Nursing Changes
One way that women may be able to prevent acne breakouts related to nursing is to slow down the weaning process. The La Leche League says that abrupt weaning can also lead to other problems such as depression, and the group recommends slow weaning to help women and babies adjust to the change. Weaning can take place over several months or even a year, and it can involve shortening nursing sessions slowly before dropping them completely one by one. The slower weaning process may give a woman's body time to adjust to hormonal changes without causing breakouts.
Self-Care for Treating Acne
Women who experience acne after stopping nursing can use a number of self-care techniques for treating the acne. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a mild cleanser twice a day and a light moisturizer. The AAD recommends avoiding harsh or gritty cleansers, which may only irritate the skin further. Boston Women's Wellness also recommends that women receive professional deep-cleaning treatments every four to six weeks until skin clears. Eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep can also help to clear up acne.
- La Leche League International: Weaning as a Natural Process
- Sonya Dakar: Prevent Breakouts From Stress
- Reuters: Breast-Feeding Triggers Pulse of Feel-Good Hormone
- American Academy of Dermatology: Hormonal Factors Key to Understanding Acne in Women
- CANFP: Miscarriages While Breastfeeding
- Boston Women's Wellness: Acne in Your 30s
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images