Pregnancy is a transformative journey for both the parent and the baby. It’s a time of unparalleled joy and expectations, but it also comes with its set of challenges, particularly for the skin. Skincare during pregnancy is not just about beauty; it’s about ensuring the well-being of both the parent and the growing life inside. Allow these dos and don’ts to serve as a compass, to help guide you through safe skincare practices during this critical phase of life.
Understanding Pregnancy-Related Skin Changes
Pregnancy triggers a cascade of hormonal fluctuations and increased blood flow, leading to various skin changes. These changes are natural and a testament to the miraculous process happening within. It’s crucial to embrace and care for your changing skin, understanding that the priority is a healthy pregnancy, not flawless skin. According to Healthline, these are the most common skin changes people who can become pregnant may begin to notice throughout their term.
Melasma. A form of hyperpigmentation from excessive production of melanin that will appear on the face, arms, shoulders, or legs. It appears as brown/tan patches and will usually fade over time during postpartum.
Linea nigra. A regionalized form of hyperpigmentation like melasma, but rather than patches or spots, it looks like a dark line across the stomach from the sternum to the pubic area.
Stretch marks. Scarred skin tissue, due to rapid growth, will typically have a lighter hue than your natural skin tone. Smaller marks are known to fade after delivery; however, large scars may persist.
Acne. Pregnant people may experience acne both during and after pregnancy. People with existing hormonal or cystic acne may experience worsened conditions and are highly recommended to consult their doctor before continuing to use their regular products.
Existing skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea are very likely to be exacerbated during pregnancy and postpartum periods.
Identifying safe ingredients is crucial for a healthy pregnancy. Keep in mind that not everything labeled organic may be good for you, and not all your preferred pharmaceutical products may be safe for pregnant women despite being effective. Not every ingredient on this list is best for your individual needs, so always consult with your doctor before using new products. Below is a list of recommended ingredients by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joyce Kim.
Gentle Cleansing. Opt for gentle cleansers to avoid stripping away natural essential oils or causing microtears in the skin. Look for cocoa butter or coconut oil-based moisturizers and salt scrubs.
Mineral Sunscreen. Protect your skin from sun damage and hyperpigmentation by applying daily sunscreen. Search for mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. A small amount of chemical sunscreens will be absorbed into your system, small enough to still be considered safe, but mineral sunscreen is still recommended over chemical sunscreens.
Hydration. Regularly hydrate so your skin maintains its elasticity, a crucial factor to help reduce stretch marks.
Antioxidants and vitamin C. Incorporate skincare products rich in antioxidants and vitamins to promote overall brighter skin health and appearance. Good for treating hyperpigmentation.
Benzoyl Peroxide. Recommended for wash-off treatments for microbial cleansing instead of leave-on treatment. Look for products that only use 10 percent or less of this ingredient.
Insect Repellent. Avoid for the first trimester; otherwise, it is safe to use brands that contain only 20-30 percent DEET, the active bug-
Sodium Sulfacetamide. It is best used as a wash treatment for inflammation and redness. It will help treat acne, rosacea, and some eczema.
Topical Antibiotics. Safe for treating hormonal acne.
Below is a list of ingredients that are considered dangerous for a pregnant person to ingest or use topically while their child is still in utero. Many of these products are perfectly safe to use if you are not pregnant or breastfeeding. For example, Accutane is highly effective for cystic acne but can be lethal to a fetus. If you are currently using these products with these ingredients and are planning to become pregnant, you should talk with your doctor about switching to safer alternatives.
Retinoids. Steer clear of retinoids due to their potential harm during pregnancy. Consumption of retinoids has been linked to fetal development in the heart and brain.
Isotretinoin, known as oral Accutane, is very effective for cystic acne but is not accessible for people who are pregnant or planning to be pregnant because of a high rate of fetal deformation or first-trimester failure. Topical application has not found a strong correlation with fetal defects but is highly advised against, and usage should be consulted with a doctor.
Salicylic Acid. Avoid high concentrations of salicylic acid taken orally or in chemical peel applications, but it can be used in less than 5 percent via the topical wash method.
Excessive Sun Exposure. Be mindful of sun exposure and tanning beds, as they kill essential folates in the skin, leading to a risk of dehydration, dry damaged skin, and skin cancer.
Minoxidil. Commonly known as Rogaine for hair loss treatment. Causes kidney and heart problems for fetuses in utero.
Botox. Cosmetic botox is a hard no-no because it puts the fetus at risk for botulinum toxin infection. For those who use Botox medically for headaches, migraines, or temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), speak with a neurologist before continuing treatments during pregnancy.
Hydroquinone. Often used in skin bleaching products, over 30 percent of this component can be absorbed through the skin, get into the endocrine system, and transferred into the fetus.
Spironolactone. It is a male hormone receptor blocker that would affect the hormone supplement and hormonal development of a male fetus.
During pregnancy, consulting a healthcare provider, and a dermatologist, is essential. Some conditions, like pregnancy-specific dermatoses, may require specialized care. In certain medical conditions, like the need for medical botox, a doctor’s consultation is crucial for the well-being of both the parent and the baby.
All too often, women find themselves feeling critiqued at every moment. Being pregnant takes a lot of energy, and you will not look your best every day. No pregnant person will! Embrace the changes, prioritize safe skincare practices, and always seek professional guidance for a personalized skincare regimen during this critical time. A healthy and radiant pregnancy glow is a testament to both your inner strength and the love you already have for your unborn child.