Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities opened with these lines: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
There are no better choice of words to express the bittersweet moments of pregnancy. During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through many hormonal, physiological and skin changes. For example, a woman’s body produces more estrogen in one pregnancy that she would produce during the rest of her entire life. So, you should prepare yourself in advance.
Since the subject of this article is pregnancy skin care, we will discuss hormonal and physiological changes in the context of pregnancy skin care. Firstly, let’s look at common maternity skincare problems and their solutions.
9 Common Pregnancy Skin Care Problems and Their Solutions
Every mother has encountered one or more of these problems during their pregnancy. So, these skin problems are not out of the ordinary. However, if you’re going through pregnancy for the first time, the drastic changes can throw you off balance and induce panic. To prevent panic and unwelcomed surprises, we’ve organized solutions corresponding to common problems.
1. Simple Pregnancy Skin Care Routine to Manage Melasma or Chloasma
Your skin has three layers, namely hypodermis, dermis, and epidermis. The middle layer, known as the dermis, contains all the functional components of your skin. The pigment that gives your skin its complexion also resides in the dermis. During pregnancy, hormonal fluctuation causes a spike in melanin production in some parts of your skin. As a result, these parts look darker than other areas.
To prevent the appearance of these dark spots, you must cover your skin with a sunscreen that is at least SPF 15. Reapply sunscreen on your skin if you’re outdoors for more than 2 hours. Also wear a cap or hat to protect your face from direct sunlight.
2. Bask in the Glow of Pregnancy, But Do So Carefully
A woman’s skin appears to glow during pregnancy. The reason for this glow is increased blood circulation. In fact, there’s nearly 50 percent more blood circulating in a pregnant woman’s body compared to a woman who is not pregnant. Another reason for this glow is increased sebum production.
Sebum is an oily substance, which your skin produces within the sebaceous glands. Sebum helps your skin retain moisture and makes your skin smooth and pliable. During pregnancy, sebum production in your body increases. This makes your skin look glossy, giving it a glowing appearance.
The blood circulation has no undesirable impact on your skin. However, if excess oil accumulates on your skin’s surface, your skin becomes prone to acne breakouts. To prevent this, use an oil free cleanser to wash your face and keep the excess oil away.
3. Acne and Pimple Breakouts
Acne is one of the most common skin problems that women experience during pregnancy. If you’re prone to acne, the breakouts become more frequent during pregnancy. Even if your skin has been clear for most of your life, you are likely to get acne when pregnant. The increase in occurrence of acne is due to excessive oil production by your oil glands.
Pregnancy skin care for acne breakout prevention involves the following steps:
Wash your face with a mild cleanser in the morning and at night. Washing it more often than this makes your skin dry.
Use natural astringent to shrink your pores and remove excess oil from your skin.
Apply an oil free moisturizer on your skin. If your moisture is oil-based, make sure the oil is non-comedogenic because these oils do not clog the pores.
These steps should help minimize pregnancy acne.
4. Solutions to Deal with Enlarged Veins
Since the volume of blood circulating in the system rises during pregnancy, blood vessels must expand to accommodate the increase. Sometimes, these blood vessels fail to hold their pipe-like cylindrical shape. Bends and kinks appear along the veins, giving it a gnarly appearance. These veins, called varicose veins, look blue and bulky and are not pleasing to the eye.
To avoid developing varicose veins, you should:
Not stand for long periods of time.
Walk regularly to improve blood circulation.
Place your feet on a stool while sitting.
Use support stockings.
Get enough vitamin C in your diet.
Recline with your legs higher than your head for a couple of hours.
Maintain a healthy weight.
5. Say Never to Spider Nevi
Spider nevi occur as a result of increase in blood flow. These lesions commonly appear on your face, neck, chest and arms. The lesions look like tentacles radiating from a central nexus, kind of like a spider. The central nexus is an area with high concentration of blood vessels. The tentacles are enlarged blood capillaries close to the skin’s surface. Spider nevi usually disappears after delivery. However, if you want to reduce or prevent the occurrence of this disorder, you must:
In some cases, spider nevi during pregnancy is a hereditary condition. If this runs in the family, there’s not much you can do about it. The good news is that the condition subsides after child birth.
6. Pregnancy Skin Care Tips for Stretch Marks
All women who go through pregnancy have stretch marks. A stretch mark is a scar resulting from a tear in the dermis, the middle layer of your skin. During pregnancy, women gain weight and the size of their breasts and abdomen increase considerably. This causes the skin in the region to overstretch.
As a result of the tension from the stretching, the dermis ruptures. But, this is not an open wound because the more elastic epidermis, or top layer, stays intact. When these internal tears heal, the scars they leave behind form stretch marks. Fresh stretch marks are reddish in color and old ones are silvery white in color.
Sadly, there is no way to completely eliminate stretch marks during pregnancy. But, you can reduce the appearance of stretch marks by:
Massaging your abdomen and breasts with non-comedogenic oil.
Massaging and moisturizing your skin makes it pliable and more resistant to breakage. After delivering the child, you can go for a tummy tuck to remove stretch marks from your abdominal region. It can be harder to remove the stretch marks on your breasts.
If they don’t seem to be fading for you, you can go for a breast lift to improve the appearance of your breasts by smoothening the stretch marks. Alternatively, you can try stretch mark removal creams, such as Dermefface FX7, to improve the appearance of your stretch marks.
7. Itchy Belly Skin During Maternity Skin Care
When your abdominal region expands to accommodate the developing fetus, the skin over your belly becomes tightly stretched. As a result, the skin’s capacity to hold moisture decreases. Have you observed that thick clothes take longer to dry than thin clothes do? The same is true for your skin also.
The thin skin over your abdomen loses moisture fast and becomes dry and itchy. To prevent this, moisturize your belly regularly and use an anti-itch lotion to, such as calamine, to reduce your discomfort.
8. Don’t Sweat Over Skin Tags
Skin tags are tiny growths that occur on your breasts, abdomen, genital area, and under arms. Doctors believe that skin tags are a result of the hormonal changes that happen in your body during pregnancy. Although they are visually unappealing, skin tags are benign. However, if you prick, poke, twist, turn, irritate or inflame them, it may become septic and cause problems.
Instead, consult a dermatologist after your delivery. He can help remove the skin tags by freezing them with liquid nitrogen and shattering them. Until then, you must take care not to irritate the skin tags. They’re best left to their own devices.
9. Hyperpigmentation of Moles and Freckles
Moles and freckles are parts of your skin where the melanocytes, cells which produce the pigment melanin, are hyperactive. During pregnancy, hormonal changes cause these melanocytes to produce even more melanin. As a result, your moles and freckles become darker, more defined, and more pronounced.
Usually, this hyperpigmentation is harmless and your skin reverts to its normal appearance after delivery. But, if the size or shape of the freckles and moles change, you must bring it to your doctor’s notice.
Safety of Pregnancy Skincare Products
Pregnant women suffer from skin problems, such as acne, dark spots, and unwanted hair growth. At the same time, they’re afraid to use cosmetic products available in the market because they’re afraid of harming the baby. The misinformation present online regarding the ingredients in skincare products make matters worse.
So, here’s a list of common compounds found in skincare products, along with a brief explanation of the safety of their use during pregnancy:
Topical Retinoids: Retinoids are a group of compounds that effect the body in the same manner as vitamin A does. Dermatologists have used retinoids for many years to treat a variety of skin conditions, such as acne and psoriasis. However, four medical cases recorded birth defects in children as a result of topical tretinoin use. Although four is a small number, doctors are still waiting for large scale clinical trials to clear retinoid usage for pregnancy skin care.
Antibacterial Topical Creams: Acne breakouts that get septic require application of topical antibiotic creams to prevent infection. Clinical studies have given doctors the go ahead to use topical antibiotics for treating acne breakouts.
Benzoyl Peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial agent used to treat acne. It reduces acne causing bacteria by forcing infected skin to peel off from your skin. Since only five percent of benzoyl peroxide is absorbed into the skin, this is unlikely to cause a systemic impact. Therefore, this is safe for use during pregnancy.
Salicylic Acid: A lot of cosmetic products for acne treatment use salicylic acid. Although the extent of absorption varies from product to product, the values are well within safe levels. Researchers have not found any evidence linking salicylic acid to malformation in babies.
Glycolic Acid: Tests on animal subjects have shown to adversely impact reproduction in high doses. However, the amount of glycolic acid used in cosmetic products are low. Not only that, the absorption rate is also low. So, despite lack of evidence from tests conducted on humans, doctors consider the use of glycolic acid safe.
Skin-Lightening Agents: Hydroquinone is a common skin lightening agent. A single test conducted on a small sample size of pregnant women showed no adverse effects from using hydroquinone. However, high rate of systemic absorption, nearly 35 to 45 percent, casts doubts over the safety of using hydroquinone during pregnancy. Since the jury is still out, it’s better to avoid hydroquinone based skin lightening products.
Sunscreens: Pregnant women frequently use sunscreens to treat and prevent melasma. Tests on animals indicate that sunscreens cause toxicity. But, no reports of sunscreen causing adverse effects on the child have been documented so far. Moreover, the rate of absorption is low. Thus, sunscreens are deemed safe for use during pregnancy.
Self-Tanning Compounds: Self-tanning products have compounds, such as dihydroxyacetone, which combine with skin cells in the epidermis to produce a tanned appearance. Much of this compound doesn’t enter your system. For this reason, use of self-tanning compounds is generally safe for pregnancy skincare.
Topical Hair Removal and Bleaching Agents: Compounds present in hair removal and bleaching agents, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium hydroxide, quickly decompose into sodium, potassium, and calcium hydroxide ions. Your body already contains these ions in plentiful quantities. So, these compounds don’t cause any toxicity. Furthermore, these compounds do not penetrate deep into the system and only a small amount is systemically absorbed. Thus, moderate use of these products is safe.
In summary, most skin care products are safe for use during pregnancy, except products containing retinoids and hydroquinone. Although you can probably continue to use most of the skin care products you used before pregnancy, it is a smart idea to check with your doctor first, just to be safe and keep your growing baby safe, too.
You must also double check the ingredients to make sure none of the harmful ingredients are present in the products you use. Use the information above to find safe pregnancy skin care products. Don’t take celebrity pregnancy skin care product endorsements for granted. If you are still in doubt, consult your obstetrician or talk to an expert in pregnancy dermatology.
More Pregnancy Skin Care Tips
Cosmetic products are just one part of the equation. The other part consists of positive lifestyle habits. To get astonishing results, your skin care routine must include responsible use of skin care products and the following habits:
Exercise Regularly: Good doctors will tell you that pregnancy is no reason to stop exercising. In fact, they will insist that you exercise regularly during pregnancy. However, increase in progesterone levels make your joints and ligaments loose. So, your body becomes more prone to injury. That’s why ask your doctor to prescribe an exercise plan suitably modified for each trimester.
Rest Adequately: Your body carries out most of the growth and repair activities during your sleep. Since pregnancy is a time of intense biological activity, the importance of resting adequately cannot be overstated. So, make sure you get at least seven to eight hours of comfortable and uninterrupted sleep every day.
Eat Nutritiously: Food fuels all your biological functions. It also provided the necessary raw materials to carry out the growth and repair functions. So, you must include nourishing foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, lean meat, and healthy unsaturated fats, in your diet. Avoid eating unhealthy saturated and trans fats, added sugar, processed meat, and refined foods. Consult a nutritionist to form a meal plan that caters to your needs and the needs of the growing child.
Hydrate Frequently: Most of your body is water. Water is also the medium in which many biochemical reactions occur. Therefore, you must always have enough water in your system to keep your system running smoothly. The key to staying hydrated is to not rely on thirst. Instead, observe your throat, mouth, and lips. If they feel dry or parched, you need to increase your fluid intake.
Manage Stress: When your body is stressed, the stress hormone cortisol suppresses many functions of your body. This is extremely disadvantageous to the proper development of the baby. To lower your stress levels, learn stress management techniques, such as yoga, meditation, or controlled breathing. These techniques will also help you enjoy your pregnancy and motherhood.
Women of any age envy the glowing skin of a woman approaching motherhood. Her skin during this marvelous period is a remarkable thing to behold. So, your job during pregnancy is to gain maximum leverage from the “pregnancy glow.” To do this, you must learn to avoid common pitfalls and devote yourself to a systematic pregnancy skin care routine. At the end of it, you will not only the proud mother of a healthy baby but also enjoy fabulous skin throughout the pregnancy.