Not getting that mom-to-be glow? From acne to melasma, here’s your guide to caring for your skin safely during pregnancy.
By Sydney Loney
One of the perks of pregnancy is supposed to be gorgeous, glowing skin. So, when you glance in the mirror and are confronted by blemishes or brown patches, it’s not surprising you feel frustrated. Here’s what you need to know about caring for your skin safely throughout your pregnancy.
Your hormones can wreak havoc on your skin during pregnancy and may be responsible for both an increase in acne and an increase in pigment, says dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett. “Some people find their acne gets better, and others find it gets worse,” she says. “It’s very individualized.” And, thanks to an increase in pigment, you may notice that your moles get darker, or that you begin to see signs of melasma, or “the mask of pregnancy.” Fortunately, there are things you can do to treat both.
Acne: If you’re more prone to breakouts, you may need to alter your skincare routine. Vigorous washing or scrubbing can make things worse, so wash with a gentle cleanser and warm water twice a day, then pat your skin dry. And, when it comes to treating your acne, talk to your doctor or dermatologist before applying any topical treatment creams–your favorite blemish banisher may not be a safe choice during pregnancy. Fortunately, there are still things you can do, says Kellett. “Mechanical peels, such as diamond peels, are safe and help get skin cells turning over to improve the overall look of your complexion.” She also recommends trying at-home microdermabrasion products to help even out your skin tone.
Melasma: Melasma, or pregnancy mask, is very common, says Kellett. It usually occurs as a darkening of the skin on the cheeks, upper lip or forehead and resembles a mask because the brown discoloration is often symmetrical, appearing on both sides of the face. To help prevent melasma, the best thing you can do is protect yourself from the sun, says Kellett. “Use a broad spectrum SPF of 30 or higher every day and, if you’re pregnant during the summer, wear a hat and protective clothing.”
Melasma usually fades on it’s own, but some people continue to experience it post-pregnancy. Bleaching creams, chemical peels and light treatments, such as lasers, can help lighten your skin, but are only safe after the birth of your baby, says Kellett.
If you’re unsure about the safety of a product, check with your doctor or dermatologist. Kellett says two of the main things to watch out for are hydroquinone and vitamin A. “Hydroquinone is a common ingredient in bleaching agents and skin-lightening products that we tell people to avoid, just to be safe,” says Kellett. Because some chemicals have been found to transfer through the skin and enter the blood stream, it’s best to be cautious during pregnancy. For that reason, products containing ingredients such as salicylic acid (often used in chemical peels) and retinoids should be avoided. Retinoids are a form of vitamin A often found in anti-aging products. Some studies have shown that high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy can be harmful to an unborn baby, so steer clear of products with tretinoin or retinol on the label.
“You might notice your skin is more sensitive when you’re pregnant,” says Kellett. “And things you may have tolerated before might be more irritating now.” Basically, she says, just be gentle with your skin. If you find it’s drier than usual, switch to a more emollient moisturizer. If your skin is oilier, look for a water-based moisturizer that is oil-free. Dabbing your face with blotting papers during the day also helps. Kellett also recommends being as vigilant as ever about checking your moles for any changes in size or color during pregnancy as there have been incidences of women developing melanoma while pregnant.