You are expecting! Congratulations! Pregnancy offers some great benefits including a ‘glow’, thicker hair and stronger nails. Healthy women who are pregnant, eating well and continuing to exercise during pregnancy may look even more beautiful with a baby on the way. However, there is a rougher side of pregnancy that people don’t like to think about – the not so lovely impacts it can have on a woman’s skin.
Distressing skin reactions can develop at any stage of your pregnancy and many of them impact almost everyone to some extent. As pregnancy progresses, chances are that your skin will at times look and feel worse than normal. These changes are typically triggered by fluctuating hormone levels, so most will go away shortly after you deliver your baby, making pregnancy skin woes a faded memory (alongside morning sickness and sciatica).
If you are lucky enough to have ‘pregnancy glow’ it likely makes your skin more clear, as well as luminous. This may seem counterintuitive, because the glow is caused by a combination of hormones, additional oils and a 40% increase in blood volume that delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the skin. Pregnancy weight gain also contributes to this look, because it fills out and tightens the skin, giving it a smoother appearance. (Source). That glow may fade, however, giving way to other skin issues, like those explained below.
Skin Conditions of Pregnancy
Sensitivity: You may have never had sensitive skin in your life until suddenly, pregnant, your normal skin care products and almost everything else you put on your skin makes it feel uncomfortable. Sensitivity can also lead to rashes. To take especially good care of your skin and treat it gently, switch to products that are scientifically formulated to be non-allergenic. Product lines like those offered by MDSUN will allow you to pamper yourself and care for your skin while this hypersensitivity persists. A gentle warning, though- you are unlikely to give up these soothing products after pregnancy.
Acne: There is nothing like extra oil and hormones to make your skin break out like you are a teenager again. The best thing to manage such outbreaks is to gently keep your face clean. However, be careful not to use products that will irritate your skin or dry it. Practice extreme caution regarding anti acne products because some are associated with the development of birth defects. This means that you need to stop using retinol, retinoids, and salicylic acid. Instead, rely on an alpha hydroxy based product to cleanse and smooth your face and resume use of those other products postpartum after ceasing breastfeeding your infant.
Dryness and itchiness: This condition may be caused by your baby’s growth depleting your fluid reserves or by hormones. Gentle moisturizers, oatmeal baths, and staying hydrated by increasing your water intake and sleeping with a humidifier can help. Once you control the dryness, much of the itchiness will go away. Keep in mind, however, that as you gain weight your skin will stretch, which may also cause itchiness.
Sun sensitivity: Pregnancy hormones can cause you to develop melasma, often triggered by sun exposure. This is also known as “the mask of pregnancy”, and is annoying, of no health risk and may recede on its own post pregnancy. The same reactions can darken your freckles and moles. The best way to avoid pigmentation issues is to avoid the sun even more than you normally would. Do your research and opt for the safest sunblocks you can find for yourself (and your baby), and wear clothing and hats that protect your skin. Note that some darkening may be unavoidable, as hormones may naturally change your pigmentation on different areas of your body during pregnancy.
Stretch Marks, Hair, Growths, and Veins
Stretch marks: Most women will experience these. They appear as pink or red streaks on the abdomen and may remain after pregnancy, with a scar-like appearance. The only way to prevent or minimize these markings on your tummy is to keep your skin supple and hydrated. Massaging creams and drinking plenty of fluids may help, as well as eating nutrient packed foods that boost collagen and elastin production. (Source). These marks can last well past your pregnancy may require the help of your skin health care provider to minimize them.
Spontaneous excess facial hair: This is called hirsutism and occurs in places that are more typical for men to grow hair such as the upper lip and chin. In most cases this hair growth will stop on its own within a few months of delivery. Talk to your doctor about the best and safest ways to control unwanted hair growth during pregnancy.
Skin tags and moles: Tags are harmless, tiny, flaps of skin that typically develop in the warm, moist folds of your skin. They are most common on eyelids, neck, underarms, under the breasts and in the groin. (Source). Like most other skin issues, these are caused by pregnancy hormones which trigger the outer layer of skin to grow. They are easily removed in an outpatient procedure and the eruption of these little nubs will generally stop after pregnancy. Moles can also increase in size during pregnancy and new ones can appear. In the case of moles, it is very important to pay attention to them and have yourself examined, as it is not uncommon for the first signs of skin cancer to appear during pregnancy.
Varicose and spider veins: While these are not the same thing, both can be minimized by ensuring that you get enough vitamin C, that you exercise sufficiently, avoid excessive weight gain, and that you are following any other instructions your doctor gives you. Varicose veins are blue, bulky, and often uncomfortable. They tend to appear on your legs due to increased blood pressure in the leg veins due to the expanding uterus. In exceptionally bad cases they can be surgically removed. Spider veins, on the other hand, are small, red, and branch out like a spider web expanding. They tend to appear on the legs, face, neck, chest and arms. Unlike varicose veins they do not hurt and they do tend to fade after you have your baby. If they don’t fade and still bother you, they can be treated by a specialist.