By: James Kincinski-Mccoy
Pregnancy is a time of both beauty and adjustment, as fluctuating hormones can change everything you once knew about your skin and body. That said, it’s important to honor yourself during this time by getting in touch with and knowing your unique needs. Below, are some of the most common skin concerns women encounter during this time of transition—from pregnancy and beyond—and tips from woman’s skincare brand Amareta founders, Claire Zhao and Jen White, to help you manage.
Androgens, a type of male hormones that arise during pregnancy, play a major role in causing pregnancy breakouts. They stimulate proliferation of the sebaceous glands in skin and increase production of sebum. That said, bacteria can multiply due to an increase of sebum production. In combination with dead skin cells, this increase in production leads to inflammation and eruptions of acne. And, unfortunately, pregnancy acne symptoms come and go, but they may also last the entire pregnancy.
Skincare Tips for Pregnancy Acne:
1. Avoid over-washing, as cleansing excessively will further increase production of sebum.
2. Avoid harsh acne treatment ingredients such as:
- Retin-A (tretinoin). Retinoids, also known as tretinoins, are a type of Vitamin A that experts recommend pregnant women stay away from. Studies have shown that high doses of Vitamin A is linked to harmful effects to an unborn. Oral retinoids, such as isotretinoin (a prescription acne treatment), has even been known to cause birth defects.
- Hydroxy Acids. Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) and Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) are ingredients to treat acne, and salicylic acid is the most common BHA you will find in skincare products. High dosages of such acids in their oral form is known to cause birth defects and pregnancy complications. Because oral salicylic acid is not safe during pregnancy, and small amounts of the drug can be absorbed into your body through your skin, we recommend avoiding excessive use of products that contain BHAs.
Instead, use natural antiseptic power to soothe sensitive and irritated skin. Tea tree oil, chamomile flower extract, and evening primrose oil are great ingredients to look for in skincare products for calming acne.
Hyperpigmentation is a common skin issue that occurs in 90% of women. Additionally, 50% of women develop pregnancy-induced melasma. This is due to the increase in the amount of melanin caused by hormonal changes. To clarify, melanin is the substance that your body produces that gives color to the skin, hair, and eyes—the same substance that causes the linea nigra. Development of hyperpigmentation and melasma can also be related to genetics, and triggered by sun exposure.
Skincare Tips for Hyperpigmentation:
1. Use sun protection. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can intensify pigment changes. Use a broad-spectrum sunblock with SPF 30 or above, and reapply during the day.
2. Avoid products that contain synthetic fragrance, as synthetic fragrance often contains ingredients that cause allergic reactions and skin irritation; they may make melasma worse.
3. Look for skincare products that contain antioxidant-dense agents, such as lemon peel bioferment. They are known to have anti-tyrosinase and antioxidant activity, and are great for alleviating irregular pigmentation.
Many women may find that skin becomes drier than usual as the baby grows during the first trimester of pregnancy. There are some specific reasons for dry skin during pregnancy. First, hormonal changes. Sometimes hormonal changes may trigger excessive production of oil; other times hormones produced during pregnancies are linked to less production of oil, which results in dryness. Another potential reason for dry skin during pregnancy is insufficient body fluids. Blood increases in the body and the formation of amniotic fluid takes place during the fourth and fifth month of pregnancy. Liquids serve primarily the needs of the future child, and as a result, the mother’s skin may be missed.
Skincare Tips for Dryness:
1. Make hydration a priority, and look for products that contain:
- Shea Butter. The non-saponifiable matter and Vitamin F in shea butter restore elasticity to the skin.
- Meadowfoam Seed Oil. Closely resembling human sebum, meadowfoam seed oil effectively locks in moisture and can deliver nutrients deep into the epidermis.
Increased hormone levels in the first trimester can make your skin more sensitive to substances that would not normally affect you. In the second trimester of pregnancy, severe skin itching can be linked to intrahepatic cholestasis (ICP). Due to increased hormones, ICP is a condition in which the normal flow of bile is affected, causing accumulation of bile salts in your skin, rendering it itchy.
Skincare Tips for Itchy Skin:
1. Identify what product could be causing irritation. Avoid perfume and products that contain synthetic fragrance, as allergens in fragrance can cause irritation.
2. Avoid hot baths and showers, as they may make skin dry further.
3. Your skin may become more prickly than usual when exposed to sunlight, so be sure and dab yourself liberally with non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen lotion.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about eight out of 10 women get stretch marks during pregnancy—trust us, you are not alone! However, stretch marks are often misunderstood. In fact, stretch marks form in the dermis, or middle layer of skin, and they have little to do with skin actually “stretching”. Some scientists believe that they appear due to changes in hormones, and the development of stretch marks is much associated with genetics. The good news is that stretch marks are likely to fade over time.
Skincare Tips for Stretch Marks:
1. Start no later than the second trimester. Use light, gliding, continuous motions to massage each quadrant of the abdomen and breast areas for about fifteen minutes each day. Doing this massage technique when you wake up and before you go to bed is definitely a good habit to get into.
2. Look for lotions and oils that contain shea butter, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil (perfect for breasts), and Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a great liquid for stretch marks due to its known healing potential. For better absorption, choose natural Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol), instead of the synthetic alternative (dl-alpha tocopherol).
3. Avoid retinoid. This product can stimulate the growth of collagen, leading to plumper, healthier skin, but you should avoid retinoid during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Use products that contain hyaluronic acid as a safe alternative.
The female body is simply amazing. It’s strong enough to support you through pregnancy, while nourishing the growing life you carry. As your body is hard at work nurturing a beautiful new baby, it can be easy to forget to nurture yourself. Embrace these changes, nurture yourself with natural power. And, remember that nature is powerful and you are a part of that powerful cycle of life.