Updated July 24, 2020
Pregnancy brings about one of the most beautiful parts of life, but it can also take a hard toll on the body of a woman. With everything changing, many women often overlook one of the most common areas: their skin. Dramatic changes in hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone, are to blame for both the good and the bad hair and skin changes during pregnancy.
To help you counteract the not-so-glowing changes, our dermatology services will help you to safely treat the skin, hair and nail changes that you may be facing as you wait for your sweet new baby. We also provide personalized recommendations to keep your skin healthy and happy as your body changes. Here is our pregnancy skincare guide with things you need to know about your skin during pregnancy.
Expect Your Skin to Change During Pregnancy
First, it’s important to understand that your skin will change during pregnancy. Embrace the fact that your skin may look different for a few months, but take comfort in the fact that many women report their skin going back to its pre-pregnancy condition relatively quickly after giving birth. Pregnancy skin conditions vary for each woman, so your experiences could be totally different than someone else’s. Common pregnancy-related skin conditions include acne, redness and spottiness, and dryness. Be open with your doctor and dermatologist about your skincare changes and concerns and follow their personalized advice.
One of the most common changes during pregnancy is hair growth. Thanks to prenatal vitamins and hormones that slow down hair loss, many women find themselves with a head full of extra, fuller, thicker hair that is also shiny, strong, and healthy. The downside to extra hair growth is that you may find hair growing in places you don’t want it to. Women have often complained of hair growing on their face, neck, abdomen, and other areas of the body. Thankfully, shaving and waxing are both safe during pregnancy to help you keep unwanted body hair at bay. Hair growth will also slow down after giving birth or may even shed, which is good for the unwanted hair, but unfortunately it may also affect your new more voluminous hair do.
Hormonal changes can often be blamed for breakouts, particularly during menstrual cycles and likewise during pregnancy. The increase in hormones can cause oilier skin and lead to acne. Acne during pregnancy can be one of the most frustrating changes as it can affect more than appearance, but also self-esteem and self-image.
Pregnancy can also limit treatment options, making it even more difficult. Many acne medications contain ingredients that can be harmful to expectant mothers and their babies. Even topical solutions can seep into the skin and bloodstream and put the baby at risk.
However, with the help of a board-certified dermatologist, you can find ways to safely treat acne when you’re pregnant. As soon as you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about your current medications to evaluate if you need to stop taking them during pregnancy. Medications including isotretinoin, tazarotene, and spironolactone have been linked to serious birth defects and should be stopped immediately. A number of other acne medications can also be risky, so be sure to run all medicines past a doctor before taking them while pregnant.
Glowing Skin and Rosy Cheeks
For those lucky women who don’t find themselves fighting acne like they did as a teenager, their complexion is brightened with beautiful glowing skin. During pregnancy, the body can produce up to 50 percent more blood, increasing circulation. Increased blood flow will also increase oil production, which causes that pregnancy glow and cheery rosy cheeks. To help keep that glow from turning into a breakout, buy a gentle oil-free cleanser formulated for oily skin.
Stretch marks are another of the most common pregnancy side effects. While nearly 90 percent of pregnant women will get stretch marks, the amount and size of stretch marks will vary by woman. Stretch marks can appear on various areas of the body and can range in color from red, brown or purple. While some women believe exercising and cocoa butter can make all the difference, these types of remedies have not been medically proven to help.
A qualified dermatologist can talk with you about ways they can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
As baby and belly grow, the skin stretches and tightens, causing itchiness. Although it’s normal for itchiness to be uncomfortable, if it becomes severe or accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or red, raised patches on the skin, make sure to consult with your doctor.
Pregnancy also causes melanin to increase in the skin and lead to dark spots on the face called chloasma. These often blotchy patches typically appear on the forehead, cheeks and upper lip and can affect up to 75 percent of women. While there isn’t much that can be done to treat them, wearing sunscreen and limiting your time spent in the sun can help minimize the risk.
Spider and Varicose Veins
Increased blood volume, blood flow, and pressure on your veins from a growing belly can also cause your blood vessels to grow, leading to the appearance of spider veins or varicose veins. Spider veins, the tiny red veins that branch outward, can appear on the face, neck, chest, and arms and will typically fade away after giving birth. Varicose veins most commonly appear on the legs and appear swollen and blue as blood flow is decreased from the pressure of the uterus.
Dark Line Down Your Belly
Around 75 percent of women develop a dark line that runs from their belly button down to their pubic bone. Like other skin changes during pregnancy, the dark line will likely fade away after birth.
You May Need to Change Your Skincare Routine
As discussed above, some acne medications can be harmful to expectant mothers and their babies. Many skincare products also seem safe and healthy, but they may contain ingredients that aren’t good for your health while pregnant or the health of the baby.
Products to Avoid
In general, move away from products that contain lots of harsh chemicals and look for more natural or gentle alternatives. You don’t automatically need to switch all of your products or stop using them, but take a look at the ingredients to make sure everything is safe.
Avoid products that contain retinols, vitamin A, or salicylic acid, which have been linked to birth defects. Keep using normal products such as moisturizer and a gentle cleanser if the ingredients are safe. Pregnant women should also still wear a daily sunscreen, especially because many women experience more sensitive skin to the sun during pregnancy.
Check Spa Treatments
Many beauty routines and spa treatments aren’t completely safe for pregnant women. This includes things like spray tans—even at-home versions—that could potentially expose your body to large amounts of chemicals. Procedures like Botox can also cause paralysis in babies. That doesn’t mean you automatically need to cancel your spa treatments during pregnancy, but check to make sure the procedures are safe for pregnancy. A facial with sensitive ingredients can be a great stress reliever during pregnancy if it’s safe for the baby.
Follow Healthy Habits
General healthy lifestyle habits that contribute to good skincare are even more important during pregnancy. These include health habits like getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and eating a balanced diet with lots of fresh produce and healthy fats. Although it can be tempting to let these habits slip during pregnancy, they contribute to your overall health and the quality of your skin.
A full night’s sleep can leave skin looking refreshed and rested, and drinking plenty of water and limited caffeine hydrates the skin and keeps it plump and elastic. Staying active and exercising throughout pregnancy can also keep the skin looking and feeling healthy, but be sure to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard.
Contact a Trusted Dermatologist
Taking care of your body is important throughout pregnancy, but don’t forget to also take care of your skin. Remember that everyone’s skin is different and will likely change during pregnancy. Paying attention to your products and treatments and talking with your dermatologists can help create a healthy pregnancy skincare routine that is safe for you and your baby.