Everything you need to know about your skin during pregnancy, from the changes you might notice to the best products to use.
You now hate mushrooms and eggs, and the smell of Persil. You haven’t had a bad-hair day in months but your nails are peeling and you cry during any adverts that feature animals. Pregnancy is synonymous with surprising changes in all aspects of a mother’s life with everything from body shape and hair texture to mood, pregnancy cravings and immunity altering. Your skin during pregnancy is no exception.
“These changes are due to a sudden and dramatic rise in oestrogen and progesterone levels,”says Dr Sophie Shotter, an aesthetics specialist.
“A woman will produce more oestrogen during one pregnancy than during the rest of her life. Progesterone also rises significantly, with both hormones reaching their peak in the third trimester.”
The Pregnancy Glow
Immunity also changes – and this can affect your skin during pregnancy, for better and for worse. One of the loveliest side effects of pregnancy is the ‘glow’ many women are said to radiate when they’re expecting.
“The pregnancy glow is not a myth,” confirms Dr Daron Seukaran, Medical Director at sk:n clinics, which specialise in dermatology.
“When pregnant you get an increased supply of blood to the skin and this is what makes your skin look like it’s ‘glowing’.”
How hormone changes can affect your skin during pregnancy
However, Dr Seukaran explains that this isn’t the case for every woman, a point shared by other medical professionals.
“For many women, pregnancy is a time of glowing skin, rosy cheeks and lustrous hair,” says Dr Shotter. “But this isn’t universal, and hormone changes can affect skin negatively too.”
Half of all pregnant women experience acne, thanks to high hormone levels leading to increased sebum and blocked pores. It’s also worth remembering that your body is working incredibly hard, but you aren’t its priority any more.
“I see a lot of patients who notice they’ve aged more rapidly during pregnancy,” says Dr Shotter. “This is because your body will nourish the foetus ahead of itself, so the skin doesn’t receive its normal nutrient supply.”
Stretchmarks during pregnancy
One of the biggest changes that can affect women’s skin during pregnancy is stretchmarks. These present as long red lines (which ultimately fade to silver) across the stomach.
“Not all women will get stretchmarks during pregnancy, but the majority will,” explains Dr Seukeran. “Stretchmarks develop due to fracturing of collagen fibres in the skin often related to rapid growth such as a teenager or stretching of the abdomen during pregnancy. However, it’s dependent on the individual in terms of the number and severity of them.”
There’s no way of predicting whether you’ll develop stretchmarks, but those carrying a big baby or twins are more likely to develop the marks. It’s important to remember that stretchmarks are completely normal, natural and common and there’s no shame in having them.
Despite this, the demand for products to prevent or minimise the appearance of stretchmarks is high, with plenty of products on the market. However, some medical professionals are sceptical about any product which promises to remove the marks completely.
“There’s no strong statistical evidence that using various topical preparations can prevent the development of stretchmarks,” says Dr Suekeran. “Fortunately, stretchmarks fade and become less prominent with time. There are some treatments in terms of lasers which can reduce the redness of new stretchmarks and some treatments may reduce severity, but there’s almost no treatment which can remove them completely.”
How to protect your skin during pregnancy
As with most things related to healthy skin, the best thing to do is moisturise, moisturise and then maybe moisturise a little bit more for good measure. Dry skin can be itchy and is vulnerable to small cuts and nicks, and of course will have less elasticity making stretchmarks more likely.
There are so many creams on the market which claim to help prevent stretchmarks or make them disappear altogether. The best ones aren’t marketed as some kind of magical elixir; they’re ones which soothe, hydrate and often smell delicious.
Changes in skin pigmentation during pregnancy
Many women will notice changes in the pigmentation of their skin, particularly on their face, where patches become noticeably darker. This is known as chloasma or the “the mask of pregnancy”.
Make sure that you’re wearing a strong SPF as hyperpigmentation is more acute after sun exposure. Many women might experience a dark line – the linea abla – appearing from the belly button right down the abdomen. This is completely normal, as is a darkening of the nipples. Both will simply fade back over time.
The most important thing for expectant and new mothers to do is nourish themselves inside and out. This can be done by eating plenty and well, staying hydrated and giving your body some TLC with relaxing baths, plenty of moisturiser and of course, that thing that might evade you after the birth – sleep.
Also, remember that any changes to your skin are natural and normal – it’s just one of the cogs in this most extraordinary of life transitions.
Words by Martha Alexander
The Best Products for Your Skin During Pregnancy and After
Natural Birthing Company Bump Envy, £11
Natural Birthing Company’s Bump Envy Soothing Stretch Mark Oil was developed by midwives and is a completely natural blend of plan oils and butters, which help hydrate the skin. It’s also fragrance free – very helpful for the many women with sensitive noses during pregnancy.
For pregnancy health
Chuckling Goat Pregnancy Prebiotic, £52.95
Skin health is often dictated by what’s going on inside the body, specifically in the gut. The Pregnancy Prebiotic by Chuckling Goat helps keep expecting mother’s gut health flourishing to ensure better sleep and improved mood.
For new mums
Grounded Coffee body scrub, £15
‘Me time’ doesn’t really feature when you’re a new mum, so when you do get a moment to yourself you should be spoiled with lovely products to help revive your skin. Grounded Body Scrub’s grapefruit coffee scrub is designed to refresh tired skin and give you some top-to-toe pep. The caffeine is a welcome boost too!
Mustela Hydra Bébé body lotion, £7.96
Mustela is a fabulous go-to brand for babies. The Hydra Bébé Body lotion not only moisurises but strengthens the skin and leaves baby feeling silky smooth.
Petit Jovial Bath Oil, €27
Petit Jovial’s Nourishing Bath Oil is so gentle and mild, which is especially good for sensitive baby skin which might not be ready for soaps. But, it also smells completely divine and is still luxurious enough for a relaxing bath after your little one’s tucked up in bed.
Dr Lipp Original Nipple balm, £12
Dr Lipp’s Nipple Balm is, as the name suggests, for sore nipples. But it’s for so much more too – chapped lips, wayward eyebrows, scars and dry skin – that it has become something of a cult wonder product.
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