How Pregnancy Changes Your Skin (and What to Do About It)

by The First Refresh

We tend to think of the teenage years as the time when our skin is most volatile, but many pregnant ladies will tell you that being pregnant changes the skin - sometimes permanently (or at least for a long time after the baby is born). Changing hormone levels are the main culprit, but changes in routine and lifestyle (such as lack of sleep or decreased physical activity) can also play a part. Here are some of the most common pregnancy-related skin issues you might face, and how to alter your pregnancy skincare routine to treat them.

Sensitivity to the Sun

The problem: The hormonal changes of pregnancy can mean you burn more easily while pregnant. Sunburn is never pleasant but combine this with the other physical discomforts of pregnancy and it’s something you really want to avoid. 

The solution: Always wear a high spectrum sunscreen on any exposed skin, and make it a habit to wear a moisturising cream, BB/CC cream, or foundation that contains sunscreen. Even if you’re not lounging on a beach, the sun exposure you get from daily life outdoors can lead to damage.

Darkened skin on the face (chloasma) 

The problem: Up to half of pregnant women develop chloasma (also called melasma) during pregnancy, which is darker patches on the face, particularly the cheeks, nose, lips and forehead. It’s caused by the stimulation of pigment-producing cells through hormone changes, and is often worse for people who live in places with intense sun. They often fade after giving birth, but not always.

The solution: Although it is different from sunburn, chloasma can only be treated to a certain extent. Prevention is always better than cure - use a good sunscreen and avoid sun exposure.

Pregnancy acne

The problem: Increases in the hormone progesterone can lead to excess sebum, which clogs the pores and can lead to pregnancy acne and breakouts. For some women, this extends way beyond pregnancy.

The solution: Some common methods of treating acne (such as retinol) are not safe for use when pregnant as there’s a chance they could cause birth defects. Opt for natural treatments such as tea tree oil-based products, or surface-level treatments like microdermabrasion, which slough off dead skin cells and improve texture. Just make sure to avoid the aluminium crystal type of microdermabrasion as it’s not known how safe this is for pregnant women. Talk to your beauty therapist when having a facial about your particular needs.

Sensitive skin

The problem: Skin on your face and body may become more sensitive during pregnancy, and lotions, fabrics and other accessories that never bothered you before may become uncomfortable to use or wear.

The solution: If you find you can’t use your regular face wash or cleansing mask during pregnancy, then stop and find an alternative. (Don’t throw it away though, as you may be able to use it again once you’ve given birth or passed the fourth trimester!) Opt for natural and fragrance-free skincare products without chemicals and preservatives, and simplify your pregnancy skincare routine so you’re not putting as many products on your skin. As well as feeling better for your skin, you can be more confident that you’re not passing on any nasties to your unborn baby. 

Excess hair

The problem: Many pregnant women feel that their hair is thicker and more lustrous while pregnant. That’s because hair typically doesn’t fall out as often while pregnant. Thicker hair on the head isn’t usually considered a negative thing, but excess hair on other parts of the body, including the face, may be unwelcome.

The solution: The bad news is, some common methods of hair removal aren’t safe or comfortable during pregnancy. The chemicals in bleach or depilatory cream can be harmful to your unborn baby, and waxing, while safe, may be especially uncomfortable at this time. Shaving is an option, but don’t try this on your face! The good news, however, is that this abundance of hair will most likely be temporary. A lot of women experience a great deal of hair loss about three months after giving birth; this can be distressing, but don’t be surprised because it’s common.


Skin tags 

The problem: Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy stimulate skin growth, and can lead to an increase in skin tags. These are flattish growths that sometimes resemble moles but are unpigmented. They usually appear in areas that get a lot of friction, such as the underarm area or beneath the breasts. 

The solution: Skin tags that appear during pregnancy will usually stick around afterwards. If you don’t like the way they look, or if they’re in an uncomfortable or unsightly place, a dermatologist can remove them. It’s preferable to wait until after you’ve given birth, though, for your own comfort.

Pregnancy and having a baby will inevitably lead to a lot of changes in your life and your appearance, and you may experience some or all of these skin conditions. Ensure that the treatments you choose are safe for use while pregnant or breastfeeding, or wait until after these temporary stages have passed.

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