There’s no doubt that growing a human might just be one of the most miraculous things you will ever do with your body - albeit, it may also spark a bit of anxiety in the process too. You see, there are so many conflicting bits of information thrown a woman’s way during pregnancy so before we begin, let’s preface this chat by saying that the best person to go to for all your medical advice while you’re pregnant is your doctor or OBGYN. They will always know what is best for you and your baby. This information is not meant to override their advice. However, there are many misconceptions around pregnancy and your skin that I want to chat about today including all the skin changes somebody might expect.
What Skin Changes To Expect When You’re Expecting
Firstly, yes the ‘pregnancy glow’ is real predominantly because pregnancy increases blood volume in the body - resulting in skin that looks flushed. However there are also many major hormonal fluctuations that happen during pregnancy and that can increase sebum production too. I.e. this is where you might notice a ‘glow’, because an increase in sebum production generally just makes your skin look a little healthier - unless it’s too much which sadly, may result in breakouts.
So what does this mean? Well it just means that while the ‘pregnancy glow’ is very common, for many women pregnancy can often change the skin so much and equal skin concerns that they’ve never had to deal with before, like hormonal breakouts which can be hard to keep under control.
So what are some common skin changes pregnancy, and even breastfeeding, are likely to bring? Let’s go through them now:
Hormonal acne: Pregnancy = hormonal changes that can encourage your oil glands to produce more sebum (oil) which can lead to clogged pores/breakouts.
Melasma: Is a form of hyperpigmentation that is triggered by hormonal changes and is very common during pregnancy - especially in darker skin types. It appears as blotchy spots of darker skin and is very hard to treat while pregnant/breastfeeding. Often it goes away on its own. If you are dealing with melasma it is very important to be diligent with your SPF use and to stay out of the sun. Heat and UV exposure are major triggers and can worsen it as well.
Dry skin: Again, hormonal changes can be to blame as they can often make skin lose elasticity and moisture. Very common on the body as well, where stretching skin can often feel itchy too.
Increased sensitivity: Very common due to hormonal fluctuations. If you experience increased sensitivity it’s important to keep things very gentle and simplify your skincare routine.
And finally, some less common (and also less talked about skin concerns) are skin tags, cherry angiomas and of course stretch marks on the body.
Skincare Ingredients To Use While Pregnant
The best ingredients to use during pregnancy are the ones best suited to your skin and your current concerns at the time - which may differ to the ones you might be used to when you’re not pregnant. However, in most instances the following ingredients are great for most skin types and concerns during this time.
Niacinamide: Great at calming the skin, regulating sebum production and keeping your skin barrier healthy.
Hyaluronic Acid: Best for skin that is experiencing dryness/increased dehydration.
Panthenol b5: Attracts and holds moisture to the skin.
Vitamin C: An antioxidant that fights free radical damage and brightens the skin. Great if you’re dealing with pigmentation.
Glycolic Acid: A chemical exfoliant that can help fight pigmentation (side note: avoid if it’s too strong for your skin or you’re extra sensitive during this time).
Lactic Acid: A gentle chemical exfoliant tolerated well by most skin types.
Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs): Another gentle form of chemical exfoliation tolerated by all skin types and very beneficial during pregnancy.
Skincare Ingredients To Avoid During Pregnancy
Honestly, navigating what you can/can’t use during pregnancy/breastfeeding is a minefield and there are many differing opinions. However, the following skincare ingredients are the ones that should generally be avoided.
Vitamin A: Evidence suggests prescription retinoids like accutane pose a risk of birth defects, so the blanket medical recommendation is to avoid vitamin a altogether during pregnancy (and post-birth while breastfeeding) - very important to remember!
Hydroquinone: this is a skin lightening agent that shouldn’t be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. It’s normally beneficial for treating skin concerns such as melasma.
Salicylic Acid: High doses of this ingredient in its oral form have been shown to cause pregnancy complications. Doctors tend to advise salicylic acid in strengths up to 2 per cent in skincare products is OK, but some may prefer to avoid it altogether. This may come down to personal preference and should be discussed with your doctor.
Finally, there’s very little evidence to support avoiding chemical sunscreens, fragrances and essential oils during pregnancy, but some people do. If you're concerned about any of these ingredients it’s best to discuss with your doctor.
The Most Common Pregnancy Skin Questions I Hear
From a clinical perspective, when clients are pregnant or breastfeeding they often think they can’t continue with a lot of their treatments during the nine months - which isn’t true. In fact, pregnancy is THE BEST time to get your skincare game in check. There are still plenty of things you can do - like needling and gentle chemical peels (both personal faves during my pregnancies). Plus, once the baby is born the chances of a client popping into clinic for a treatment during that postpartum period is very slim.
My Top Tips For Pregnancy/Breastfeeding Skin
Keep things gentle. That is my number one tip.
Number two is listen to your skin and seek professional guidance if you are struggling. Not only will it save you money in the long run, but it will help keep your skin in check during this time. Also, get yourself a niacinamide serum. I personally think every woman should be given a niacinamide serum at their 12 week scan. Like a mandatory gift.
A Simple Skincare Routine For Pregnancy Skin
If you are pregnant and struggling with your skin, naturally I will always recommend stripping things back to the basics and booking in a professional skincare consult with a dermal therapist or a dermatologist if you are really concerned to assess your skin, and pop you onto a skincare routine that is best for you. However a great gentle routine most skin types will be able to tolerate is as follows:
AM: Properly Clean, Much Brighter Skin, Very Useful Face Cream, SPF.
PM: Double cleanse (Fancy Face first, followed by Properly Clean), niacinamide serum (or a serum designed to target your concerns), Very Useful Face Cream and/or Face Hero.
Most importantly though, relax and try and enjoy the ride - even the uncomfortable bits (if you can).
Dealing with pregnancy/breastfeeding skin? Omg congrats. Also: Always reach out to a doctor, dermatologist, or skincare professional as they can provide you with personalised advice for your skin.