Everything you need to know about your skin during pregnancy, from the changes you might notice to the best products to use and how to deal with pregnancy acne
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.
What to Expect From Your Skin During Pregnancy
“These changes are due to a sudden and dramatic rise in oestrogen and progesterone levels,”says Dr Sophie Shotter, an aesthetics specialist.
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 specialises 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 the skin negatively too.”
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.”
Stretch Marks During Pregnancy
One of the biggest changes that can affect women’s skin during pregnancy is stretch marks. 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. “Stretch marks 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 stretch marks, but those carrying a big baby or twins are more likely to develop the marks. It’s important to remember that stretch marks 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 stretch marks 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 stretch marks,” 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 the 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 stretch marks more likely.
There are so many creams on the market which claim to help prevent stretch marks 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 faces, where patches become noticeably darker. This is known as chloasma or 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.
Half of all pregnant women experience acne, thanks to high hormone levels leading to increased sebum and blocked pores.
When Does Pregnancy Acne Start?
According to SkinPharm, for most people, pregnancy acne begins about six weeks into pregnancy, though research has shown that more than 40% of pregnant people will deal with severe acne at some point in their pregnancy.
Dr Natalia Spierings: How to Deal With Pregnancy Acne
Obviously, it is no fun to have acne at any point in your life and I would always advocate treating it asap to avoid scarring. But pregnancy is the one time that I would suggest – if your acne is not nodular or cystic or painful – to try not to stress about it.
The most effective treatments for acne can’t be used safely during pregnancy or breastfeeding and I generally advise against taking any new oral or topical treatments during the first trimester especially. I may be over cautious but when it comes to pregnancy, It’s better to be safe than a risk taker.
Dr Natalia Spierings Top Ten Tips
- Don’t stress out about it (try not to).
- Focus on keeping your skincare super simple and non-irritating, so try a basic cleanser that doesn’t make your skin tight or dry feeling, a very basic bland moisturiser and a SPF (I like mineral but it comes down to personal preference).
- Don’t get facials – it can just irritate acne and make everything worse.
- Don’t go crazy using tons of random over the counter spot treatments – it will just make things worse.
- Don’t pick the skin.
- Don’t use toothpaste to ‘dry out’ your spots.
- If you do need or want to treat your acne, wait until after your first trimester and if all is well, see a dermatologist if possible at least once to get a good plan together with a targeted pregnancy-safe treatment.
- You can wear makeup to cover up any spots during this time period.
- Do know and be reassured by the fact that acne often gets better later in pregnancy if you are getting it at the start.
- Do know and be reassured that once the baby has arrived and you have finished breastfeeding, there are safe, effective treatments to get your skin back to how it was (or close to it!) and acne free.
The Best Products for Your Skin During Pregnancy and After
For Pregnancy Acne
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%, £9.90
This product is great for pregnant mothers as azelaic acid is considered to be safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This hardworking ingredient helps kill that pesky acne-causing bacteria and decrease keratin production, preventing the protein from building up and plugging pores. Azelaic acid is also an effective skin brightener meaning it can help diminish discoloration or acne scars.
Kit & Kin Stretch Mark Oil, £11.99
Kit & Kin’s Stretch Mark Oil was developed by dermatologists and is certified natural by the Soil Association, meaning it’s free from any harsh chemicals or synthetic fragrances. It features a blend of 15 naturally nourishing oils including sunflower, jojoba, strawberry and mandarin to help keep the skin supple and stretch mark free.
For Supplements During Pregnancy
Simone Thomas Wellness SkinQuencher, £35
Skin health is often dictated by what’s going on inside the body. The SkinQuencher by Simone Thomas Wellness is safe to take during pregnancy and contains marine collagen, plus vitamin C which is proven to support the effects of collagen on the skin and improve your skin’s elasticity and texture.
For New Mums
Frank Body Original Coffee Scrub, £13.95
‘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. Frank Body’s Coffee Scrub is designed to refresh tired skin and give you some top-to-toe TLC. The caffeine is a welcome boost too!
Mama Mio Mini Mio Nappy Saviours Bundle, £18
Petit Jovial Bath Oil, £23
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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