Glowing Expectations: Caring For Your Skin During Pregnancy
You’re pregnant? Congratulations! Having a new life growing inside of you can introduce you to some of the happiest times you can hope to experience in life. In addition, you may get to experience that much talked about pregnancy glow—beautiful, radiant skin!
So, what can you do if that glow quickly fades—or never shines through? How can you prevent or combat pregnancy acne, hyperpigmentation (“pregnancy mask”) or, dare I even whisper the dreaded words… stretch marks? Don’t fret. A few simple tips can help you keep your skin healthy and glowing throughout your pregnancy.
While no one can predict who will get pregnancy acne, women who have had previous problems with acne or are prone to pre-menstrual breakouts may be more likely develop acne during their pregnancies.
Like most of the other changes in your body during this time, pregnancy acne is due to an increase in hormones in your body. As these levels rise, oil production in pores increases, leading to oily skin. For some pregnant women, this extra natural moisture creates that “pregnancy glow.” For others, oilier-than-normal skin just causes breakouts or acne.
Being concerned with blemished skin is not superficial. Right now, with your body changing so much, having clear, healthy skin can boost your self-esteem and help you continue to feel great about yourself and your body—even as your waist waves goodbye and your toes disappear from view.
TIPS: To combat pregnancy acne, use all natural products with anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as chamomile, coriander and chicory. Products with cucumber and lemon also work as astringents to help purify the skin.
In combating excess oil, be careful not to dry out your skin with too much washing—look for sulfate-free cleansers. If you strip your skin, it will overcompensate by producing even more oil.
As a rule, pregnant women should avoid tetracycline, salicylic acid, Retin-A (tretinoin) and Accutane. Be sure to talk with your doctor about what prescription and over the counter products you can use safely to treat or prevent acne during your pregnancy.
Melasma, otherwise known as hyperpigmentation, occurs when certain areas of the skin (usually the forehead, cheeks and upper lip) become darker than the surrounding skin. This condition is associated with estrogen and progesterone. Because of the increased hormone production during pregnancy, hyperpigmentation can become a troubling or embarrassing problem for some women (including those who take hormone medications, such as birth control pills).
These dark spots typically subside after a woman gives birth or stops taking hormonal medications; however, the best way to prevent melasma is to limit sun exposure—since UV light makes skin pigment darker.
TIPS: Wear a stylish, wide-brimmed hat to protect your face from sun exposure. Apply a full-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to your face at least 20 minutes before going into the sun to allow for effective product penetration. Approximately one teaspoon of sunscreen is the correct amount to cover your face. As an alternative, try one of the fabulous new powdered sunscreens for instant, full-spectrum coverage. Remember to reapply sunscreen at least every 2-3 hours.
Do not use the bleaching cream hydroquinone while pregnant. Instead, look for products that contain Paper Mulberry, a natural skin lightener.
These practices should help keep hyperpigmentation to a minimum during your pregnancy. For those who develop a few dark spots that still do not fade after pregnancy, consider chemical peels, microdermabrasion or prescription skincare treatments.
I’ve saved the best—worst!—for last…
The mere mention of these nasty marks makes pregnant women—or any woman for that matter—wince. There’s no predictor for whether you will get stretch marks from pregnancy, though there may be a genetic factor in your predisposition to getting them. So, ask your mom if she has them… and be sure to apologize for your role in causing them!
Think of stretch marks the same way you think of wrinkles. For both, good skin care is the best prevention. Maintaining the moisture balance in your skin helps improve its elasticity to cope with the “nine-month stretch.”
TIPS: Look for skin products rich in Omega 3, 6 and 9. Highly moisturizing and healing for the skin, omega oils are clinically proven to absorb into the skin and improve the elasticity and integrity of cells. During pregnancy, development of your baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system constantly depletes your omega levels so boosting those levels is vital.
If you choose to use the classic standby—cocoa butter—be sure to purchase a pure formulation from a health food store because many drugstore options are laden with unbeneficial mineral oil, petrolatum (or petroleum jelly) and parabens.
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so be sure to take care of it—it has a “growing” role to play in the coming months. I wish you a happy, safe pregnancy and hope that your glowing expectations are met with healthy, radiant skin.
Additional posts by Wendy Williams, L.E.
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