Skin changes and how to maintain a healthy glow during pregnancy

Although pregnancy can be an exciting journey into the wonderful unknown, because there is no book, piece of advice or information that can explain your very own personal experience. It can also be an anxious time because of health concerns, because your body is changing, and life will never again be the same!

Each pregnancy is unique and whilst you may be aware and prepared for the some of the side effects that being pregnant brings to your body, such as morning sickness, heartburn, increased urination, etc, you may also start seeing a number of visible changes in your skin you hadn’t expected.

Some (lucky) women ‘glow’ during their pregnancy, have full-bodied hair and strong nails. Some of us however draw the short straw and suffer with negative skin changes. The good news is that most of these changes are temporary and are simply due to the shifts in your hormones and blood flow. In most cases, they tend to disappear after pregnancy.

To help you navigate some of the effects pregnancy may have on your skin, I have put together this mini guide, which highlights what to avoid using on your skin when pregnant and how to treat unwanted changes while maintaining a healthy glow.

I also have a list of Obagi products that are safe to use when pregnant and/or breast feeding, and which specific products to avoid. Please contact me if you would like any advice or a copy of this list.

  1. Change of pigmentation on your skin

Whilst some women’s skin is flawless during pregnancy, others may experience uneven skin tone. The change of colour in some areas of your skin is pretty much the result of the hormonal changes your body is going through.

During pregnancy there is a dramatic increase in oestrogen and progesterone. The increase in oestrogen enables the foetus to develop and mature. The changes in progesterone cause a laxity or loosening of ligaments and joints throughout the body, preparing it for birth.

Darker skin patches might develop on your face, a condition known as melasma (or chloasma / pregnancy mask), which is thought to be triggered by the rise in oestrogen. Oestrogen stimulates the production of melanin which is responsible for skin pigmentation. Melasma appears mostly on the face, on sun-exposed areas like your cheeks, nose, upper lip and forehead.

Nearly 50-70 percent of women struggle with uneven skin tone during pregnancy. After childbirth, skin typically returns to its normal pigment over a period of several months. Some dark patches resulting from chloasma, however, might never go away. If this is the case, you may want to look for professional advice to get it resolved.

What can you do to maintain a healthy glow on your skin and minimise the appearance of pigmentation changes such as Melasma?

Protect yourself when exposed to the sun

During pregnancy your skin is even more sensitive to the sun. UV light can escalate the appearance of dark spots on the skin and make it difficult for them to fade with ease after having your baby. I would recommended that you use a chemical-free sunscreen with active mineral ingredients that sit on top of your skin, acting as a physical blocker. Look for ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the label rather than chemicals like oxybenzone, avobenzone or octinoxate and always make sure your sunscreen is of a high factor, SPF 30+.

Obagi Physical UV Block SPF 32 is the perfect sunscreen to use in pregnancy.

Apply vitamin C to brighten your complexion

Creating a skin care routine can be quite tricky during pregnancy, especially if you are not able to discern what ingredients contained in your products are toxic chemicals and which ones are gentle to your condition. One ingredient that is super safe and effective is the powerful antioxidant, vitamin C.Vitamin C is great for minimising the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, calming and brightening your skin, improving its texture and making its tone more even. All but one of Obagi’s Professional C products are safe during pregnancy (the broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen) and can be purchased here.

2. Development of oily skin and acne

Pregnancy can also make your skin get oilier so you may be more prone to breakouts, spots, and can even develop acne.

You can help calm the oiliness and clogged pores by:

  • Washing your skin really well every day with a gentle, pH balanced cleanser. This will enable you to maintain clear pores and to remove dirt and makeup which only adds to the problem. In addition, try not to pick blemishes and be careful about what touches your skin.
  • Using a nourishing daily moisturiser with anti-inflammatory properties. Look for products that are dermatologist-recommended and formulated to rebalance and hydrate skin without leaving a greasy residue. 
  • Gentle exfoliation. Try not to over-exfoliate as your skin is more sensitive and can scar more easily too. Instead, incorporate an intensive cleansing mask treatment to absorb excess oil in the skin.
  • Avoiding acne medication. Some acne treatments like Accutane, Retin-A as well as other topical retinoids can cause serious birth defects if taken orally during pregnancy, or absorbed through your skin from topical use.
  • Pregnant women can safely use alternatives containing either salicylic acid (no stronger than 2%) or benzoyl peroxide (benzoyl peroxide 5% is likely safe to use while you’re pregnant because your body absorbs very little of the drug). These ingredients, however, can cause skin reactions, including: dryness, peeling and irritation.

3. Broken capillaries

Another effect of hormonal changes can be the appearance of red-coloured spider veins on your face, particularly on your forehead and cheeks. Medically known as broken capillaries, this is one of the most common facial changes during early pregnancy. The changing hormones in your body have a softening effect on the blood vessels, which causes this condition.

Although, there is not a lot you can do about broken capillaries during pregnancy, you can get rid of them after having your baby with some aesthetics treatments such as laser or intense pulse light.

4. A rosy complexion

You may actually not suffer from any of the above conditions and instead, enjoy a beautiful rosy glow. The pregnancy ‘glow’ usually starts to appear in the second trimester and is caused by an increase in blood volume to support you and your growing baby. This volume increases the amount of blood vessels present on the face and in turn, increases oil secretion, giving the skin a dewy glow.

5. Stay away from chemicals and toxic ingredients

There are over 10 chemical ingredients you should steer clear of while pregnant, including parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, toluene, chemical sunscreens, dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and aluminum chloride. Prescription skin care such as retinoids and hydroquinone should also not be used when pregnant.

If you are pregnant or preparing your body for pregnancy and would like to find out more about what skincare would be most suitable to help you maintain your skin health and radiance, I’d love to hear from you. And remember, your first consultation is always free.