Pregnancy Skin Care
From the Facial Glow to the Belly Below::
Skin care solutions for pregnancy and beyond
Hormones. We thought we had put those raging things behind us after we made it through our teenage years, but pregnancy presents Round II—a temporary period that yields some good and some not-so-good changes to the female body.
During this period, women tend to focus on the fetal health of their baby, as well as their own gynecological and obstetric health. Despite weighing in at eight pounds (on average), and covering approximately 22 square feet (it’s your largest organ), the skin and its care are often just an afterthought for women. More importantly, it can be a very telling biological indicator of the physical state of your body, and is often the first clue for women that something different is going on.
Skin is affected tremendously by pregnancy because during this time a woman’s blood volume increases throughout her body. This leads to an increased blood supply to the underlying vascular regions as well as the superficial layers of the skin, giving women the proverbial pregnancy “glow,” but the glow doesn’t come just from the increased blood supply. Oily skin is a complaint shared among many pregnant women, and it is exacerbated by the increase in a woman’s hormones.
Joanne Gogue (pronounced go-gwee), a certified master aesthetician at the Beauty and Body Lounge in Mission Hills, is not only an expert in skincare, she also rode the roller coaster of hormonal changes five years ago during her pregnancy with her daughter Sophia.
“For most women, whatever they’re prone to is what they’ll see more of,” says Gogue. “Whether it’s acne, eczema or skin sensitivities, pregnancy can exacerbate the conditions and temporarily increase the problem.”
Some of the more common problems her clients encounter include:
Acne: Some women are already self-conscious about their expanding girth, and a blast-from-the-past outbreak of acne can make them even more so. While there are many topical and over-the-counter (OTC) products available “Prescription drugs are rated by safety levels, with some being considered safe during pregnancy, while others are always to be avoided. Just because something is OTC doesn’t mean it’s safe for you during this time either, so always consult with a physician before trying a new product.”
One of the most common problems that Gogue sees in her clients is that many tend to over-scrub their faces in their efforts to rid themselves of acne, or they resort to harsh cleansing products that can lead to scarring.
“It’s really important that women avoid heavy scrubs if they have acne,” Gogue says. “Instead they should gently wash their face with nothing stronger than a wash cloth and a fragrance-free product recommended by their dermatologist.”
Eczema: “This condition is very prone to hormonal changes because it is triggered at the nerve endings,” says Gogue. “Symptoms can really flare during a pregnancy, but can be soothed by holding a very cold compress to the affected area. This constricts the blood vessels below and reduces the flow of blood to the problem area.”
Hyperpigmentation: Whether it is dark splotches on the face, or the sometimes not-so-subtle linea nigra down the middle of the belly, the dark pigmentations are brought about by increased levels of estrogen and progesterone. Both hormones play a role in stimulating the skin’s melanin cells to produce more pigment, which can lead to dark facial splotches. This condition is often temporary, and clears up a few months postpartum.
“When it comes to excessive pigmentation, there’s good news and bad news,” says Gogue. “The bad news is that it is much safer to wait to treat these conditions until after the gestational and breastfeeding stages are completed. The good news is that this condition usually does clear up on its own. The best thing pregnant women can do is to religiously avoid the sun and to cover up with a sunblock [not sunscreen] when they must be outside.”
Belly Itch: It is no surprise that this is the most common skin complaint among pregnant women. Abdominal skin thins as it stretches, which can trigger an incessant itch (this can also happen to the breasts, as the skin is stretching there also as the breasts enlarge).
“When I was pregnant, I got a lot of relief when I started using a calcium-magnesium supplement,” says Gogue. “Magnesium can help the skin’s elasticity, but always check with your physician before taking even an OTC supplement. I also encourage my clients to rub extra virgin olive oil on their belly and breasts at night, and a light, Vitamin C-based body cream on those areas during the daytime.”
The cyclical nature of gestation ensures that as one skincare problem eases, another stands ready to take its place. While you may feel that your body isn’t quite yours during this time, understanding that each physical change is part of an exciting and complex biological process can help you cope, especially when you see the fruits of your literal labor emerge at the end of nine months.
From the facial glow to the belly below, skin care for pregnant women isn’t just about beauty—it’s a smart way to take care of your body’s largest organ as you watch your baby’s world expand below your eyes.
Mary Hay Davis is a professional writer and the mother of two teenage boys. She remembers well her last trimesters, where moms enter the ‘belly-button-as-a-weapon’ stage of pregnancy.
Before starting any type of skin care regimen or vitamin supplement, it’s imperative to check with your healthcare provider first.
“Many women feel that because something is over-the-counter, it’s safe,” says skin care expert Joanne Gogue. “That is far from the case, as most OTC products do not require FDA approval.”
Even seemingly benign practices like a massage or an aromatherapy session should be approached with caution. Some essential oils have hormonal-like properties (such as fennel and licorice), while others have been connected with stimulating menstrual flow.
“There has been some correlation between essential oils such as lavender and licorice with an increased risk for miscarriage, and so it is prudent to always err on the side of caution and avoid essential oils during this time,” says Gogue.