I was counting on the radiant pregnancy glow… I was even prepared for the stretch marks, but it turns out that pregnancy changes much much more about your skin (and skincare) than I’d ever considered.
Thankfully, the day I found out I was pregnant, I was actually booked for a facial, so my pregnancy skincare education came quickly. I was getting cosy between the sheets and asked what we were doing with my skin that day… to which she replied “chemical peel”. It dawned on me that perhaps chemical peels weren’t that suitable for pregnant women… so before I’d even told my husband (!) I was sharing the news with my facialist.
My instinct was right, chemical peels were off the table for pregnancy, but that wasn’t to be all. First, though, what’s going on with your skin during pregnancy?
As your body drastically changes on the inside, it’s unsurprising that some of these changes show on the outside too (besides just your baby bump).
The cause for most of these is your hormones (aren’t they responsible for everything in life…) as well as your circulation and immune system taking a hit.
How does your skin change during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, it’s common to experience increased skin pigmentation (discolouration) aka ‘Pregnancy Mask’ Chloasma, spots or acne, and super sensitive, possibly dry and itchy skin. It’s even common for tiny blood vessels (capillaries) to break, as the extra blood circulating in your body puts pressure on them.
Stretch marks are common during pregnancy. Stretch marks usually appear on your stomach, upper thighs or breasts as your bump grows. The first sign might be itchiness in the area where skin becomes thin and pink, and then the colour may deepen into darker lines. Genetics seem to determine whether stretch marks form in the first place, and over time, your skin will shrink and the marks will fade into white-coloured scars.
Effects of pregnancy on your hair
Like your skin, pregnancy hormones can also effect your hair growth, possibly hair loss, and even a total change in your hair. Dry hair can turn oily, curls have been known to straighten, and you may find even your colour changes.
While some women are blessed with thick and lustrous hair during pregnancy, others will be disappointed with hair that turns limp and thin. If so, the best thing you can do to promote luscious, healthy locks is eat a nutritious diet (which is good for baby too). Whole-grains, nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and veggies and cold pressed oils are great for hair and skin.
Does “Pregnancy Glow” Exist?
Yes, absolutely! Your skin does actually retain more moisture during your pregnancy, plumping it up and smoothing out any fine lines and wrinkles.
This, combined with the extra blood circulation can give you a beautiful radiant glow. This can also make your skin feel warmer and possibly flushed.
How to take care of your skin during pregnancy?
Most skin concerns will clear up on their own when your baby is born, but skin damage and pigmentation is hard to reverse, so it’s also very important to take care of your skin during pregnancy. Pregnancy pigmentation, known as Chloasma or ‘Pregnancy Mask’ is caused by your body producing more melanin when the skin is exposed to the sun.
The best protection is to keep your face out of the sun entirely, think wide hats and sunglasses, but as that’s pretty impossible to maintain 24/7, the next best thing you can do is wear a broad spectrum sunscreen all day, every day. Keep a sun-hat or cap in your car for when you’re driving, as the glare through the driver’s side window can also leave you with pigmentation predominantly on just one side.
Honestly, with almost every skincare and make-up product being available with an SPF, there’s no excuse not to lather up – and ensure you reapply your sunscreen throughout the day.
Those spots that you’ve noticed are ‘popping up’ more often, you can blame hormones for them. Hormones encourage the production of sebum, which can cause pores to become blocked, resulting in greasy skin and spots. The best thing you can do is cleanse properly and often (try a silicone cleanser like Skin Sonic for effective and gentle cleansing), and wear minimal make-up. Talk to your doctor, and read the below, about any skincare to avoid.
There’s less you can do about your broken capillaries, but thankfully, these will fade within a few months after giving birth.
When it comes to stretch marks, research differs as to whether any topical creams or oils help at all, but can aid the dryness often associated with your skin stretching. It can be a lovely ritual to massage your bump each night anyway, and the oils certainly won’t hurt.
What Skincare can’t you use during Pregnancy?
I thought I’d save this for after the paragraph on your pregnancy glow, but there are a few pregnancy no-no’s when it comes to your skincare. As you’ll know from my experience above, you can’t have a chemical peel during pregnancy, and there’s a couple of other treatments to avoid.
Skincare with Retinol/Vitamin A
While most commonly used products are completely safe, there are a handful of ingredients experts say it’s best to avoid. Retinoids are a type of vitamin A that speeds up cell division, improving skin’s renewal and reducing the loss of collagen. Unfortunately, they’re also a skincare ingredient that experts recommend pregnant women stay away from, as some studies have shown that taking high doses of Vitamin A during pregnancy can be harmful to an unborn child. Don’t panic and worry about the ingredients in all of your skincare, retinol is an expensive ingredient – you’ll probably know if it’s in your skincare, especially if it’s a high potency.
Hydroxy Acids (AHA, BHA)
Hydroxy acids such as beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) are found in various skincare products to reduce the signs of ageing. Salicylic acid is the most common one, and has been studied in pregnancy. High doses of BHA should be avoided orally (including in Aspirin) as they have been known to cause birth defects. While topical BHA creams are much less absorbed by the body, experts recommend using too much of them for the same rationale. However, the small amounts of salicylic acid in an over-the-counter toner used twice a day, are thought to be absolutely fine.
If you do use BHA skincare, always use it with an SPF too, as it can cause sensitivity to sunlight.
The big one… Botox!
I actually rely on Botox injections into my masseter (jaw) muscles to prevent grinding my teeth overnight, so as well as ‘just’ for vanity reasons, giving up Botox while pregnant can be a real sacrifice (I won’t show you how cool I look in my night mouth-guard).
Despite little research to determine what (or any) effect Botox or Dysport could have on pregnant women, doctors and cosmetic surgeons overwhelmingly warn against the treatments. Likewise, it is unclear how cosmetic fillers impact unborn babies and nursing infants.
Why is there so little research? To find out the effects of cosmetic procedures such as muscle relaxers or fillers during pregnancy, doctors would have to actually perform the procedures on pregnant women – which isn’t a risk anyone is willing to take.
For now, you’ll have to suffice with good skincare, the occasional facial if you’re lucky, and lots and lots of sleep – which it doesn’t sound like many of us will be having with a new baby!
If you haven’t already (and you’re not already too disappointed) make sure to read foods to avoid when pregnant too.