Skincare Woes During Pregnancy and How to Manage them Safely

Besides aches and pains, pregnant women also have to deal with exasperating skin problems.

Some of the common skincare woes during pregnancy are:

  • Acne and Blemishes – During pregnancy, sweat glands become more active and the oil secretions increase. This results in more pimples, breakouts and acne – reminiscent of teenage days and can be annoying to say the least! 
  • Darkening of skin and Hyperpigmentation – Another unwelcome side-effect of pregnancy is darkening of the skin especially on the tummy, the armpits, nipples and the genitalia. This is due to increase in melanin deposits on the skin. Pre-existing moles may darken as well. A dark blemish can also appear on your face called melasma or the “pregnancy mask”. 
  • Dry Skin – As the growing baby inside your womb demands more nourishment, your skin feels drier. This along with hormonal changes and the stretching of skin all lead to the body feeling dry and parched.
  • Stretch marks– As the skin stretches to accommodate the growing foetus, purplish wavy lines appear most commonly on the tummy, breasts, thighs and groin. In the third trimester, the stretching and distension of the tummy causes the skin to split. After delivery, the stretch lines become paler and lighter but the striae (split lines) remain as permanent scars. 
  • Spider veins – The increased vascularity and increased volume of blood in the body leads to redness of the palms, the appearance of varicose veins on the legs and in the vagina. It also causes “spider nevi” or appearance of web of blood vessels on the face and chest. In fact, the attractive pregnancy glow is also a result of an increased volume of blood which cause the cheeks to appear redder and more flushed than before.
  • Women with pre-existing skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea, may also experience a change in their symptoms resulting in either a temporary relief or a worsening of condition.

Most of these conditions fortunately improve on their own post-delivery.

What exacerbates the problem is that pregnant women might not be able to use their usual skin care products, as seemingly innocent topical products get absorbed through the skin and not only expose the woman but her unborn baby to harmful effects. 

Some of the ingredients best avoided during pregnancy are:

  • Retinoids – Commonly found in anti-ageing products as they fight acne, reduce fine lines, aid exfoliation of skin and boost collagen production. However, high doses of retinoids such as Tretinoin (Retin-A) have been linked to birth irregularities and are advised against during pregnancy.
  • Hydroquinone – is a prescription product to lighten skin or reduce skin pigmentation. But since the body can absorb huge amounts of Hydroquinone, it is best avoided during pregnancy.
  • Phthalates – are chemicals that are found in cosmetics, beauty and personal products. Since phthalates such as diethylphthalate (DEP) are known to be endocrine-disrupting, various studies have shown that phthalate exposure can lead to serious reproductive and developmental dysfunction.
  • Formaldehyde – Though the use of formaldehyde has been discontinued as it has been flagged as a carcinogen and for its negative impact on fertility, certain formaldehyde-releasing chemicals can still be found in cosmetics with a similar potentially dangerous effect.
  • Oxybenzone and its derivatives – commonly found in sunscreens as ultraviolet filter. Though effective in blocking harmful UV rays, these chemicals are also endocrine disruptors and can cause permanent damage to the expectant mum and her unborn Oxybenzone exposure has been linked to several birth irregularities and even neurological conditions in adulthood.

Safer Alternatives to Take Care of Your Skin During Pregnancy

  • Glycolic acid and similar ones such as azelaic acid can safely and effectively deal with acne and help to reduce fine lines as well as reduce skin pigmentation during pregnancy.
  • Topical benzoyl peroxide and topical salicylic acid are anti inflammatory, preventing breakouts and are considered safe when used in low doses.
  • Topical antioxidants, such as vitamin C, Vitamin E & Green tea are safe alternatives to protect the skin from damage and also to boost collagen.
  • Moisturizers with natural ingredients such as coconut oil, cocoa butter, peptides, or ones with hyaluronic acid (HA) can improve hydration. Other tips to mitigate dryness and itchiness are to use a mild, moisturizing bath soap, avoid over-scrubbing and regularly moisturizE the “stretch marks” zone.
  • To prevent sun burn and pigmentation, it is best to avoid stepping out in the hot sun and if you have to, use a broad-spectrum sun block. Using a moisturiser with a sun block with SPF factor of at least 15 to 20 is helpful. Choose mineral-based sunscreens with ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, that protect the skin by preventing absorption of harmful UV rays.
  • Consult your doctor for worsening eczema, psoriasis or acne that cannot be controlled at home. You may be prescribed oral medications, topical creams or mild steroids to control the condition.

Since the jury is out on the effects of a lot of ingredients found in skin care products, it is best to limit your routine to the basics during pregnancy – cleanse, moisturize and use sun block. Finally, good sleep, healthy food and an exercise regimen can not only keep you healthy but also protect your pregnancy glow and give you great looking skin.

If you have any concerns or questions regarding pregnancy or skin health during pregnancy, post questions for our expert panelists to answer here