Pregnancy is an exciting time but often comes with skin care challenges. The changes in hormones can affect your skin in different ways – from stretch marks to pigment changes - and there’s so much conflicting advice about how to deal with these issues. So we got our dermatological nurse, Susan, to give us the lowdown on pregnancy skin care.
Skin hyperpigmentation is common during pregnancy and often is due to hormonal changes. Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone can stimulate pigment-making cells called melanocytes and the result can be darkening patches of skin. Sun exposure causes melanocytes to produce pigmentation, so wearing a healthy daily sunscreen is a key component of good skin care during pregnancy.
Women who suffer from acne pre-pregnancy may find their acne improves significantly during pregnancy. This is due to hormonal changes.
But conversely some women with no previous history of acne may experience acne during pregnancy. It's most common during the first and second trimesters. An increase in hormones called androgens can cause the glands in your skin to grow and produce more sebum, an oily, waxy substance. This oil can clog pores and lead to bacteria, inflammation, and breakouts.
Acne is so common in pregnancy that one out of every two pregnant women can expect to develop it You have a higher risk, though, if you have a history of acne or have acne flares at the start of your menstrual cycle.
Managing acne during pregnancy can be tricky and it’s essential that you avoid all medical acne treatments that carry a high risk of causing fetal abnormalities. Over-the-counter anti-acne ranges usually contain high levels of benzyl peroxide and while this may initially improve the acne, it causes severe irritation and dryness, and rebound acne is common.
Stretch marks (striae gravidarum) are long, narrow streaks, stripes, or lines that develop on the skin. They occur when the skin is suddenly stretched and are extremely common. In fact, over 50% of pregnant women will develop stretch marks during or after birth. These can occur on the growing baby bump, thighs, flank, bum and breasts.
Before stretch marks begin to show, the skin can appear thin and pink and it can also be itchy or feel irritated.
Because stretch marks are a kind of scarring, they are not easy to remove. They may gradually fade, but this can take years. Initially, stretch marks are dark pink or purple and over time they fade to a slivery colour. Medical procedures and prescription medicines aren’t guaranteed to cure stretch marks, and they can be expensive. And unfortunately there are no magic oils or creams that prevent stretch marks, despite the most persuasive advertising!
The key to minimising the appearance of stretch marks is to frequently moisturise and gently massage the skin around the baby bump, thighs, bum and breasts. Massage is important as it helps soften the knotty tissue that forms in stretch marks.
Mild itching is common in pregnancy because of the increased blood supply to the skin. This is usually nothing to worry about, but if the itching becomes severe, consult your doctor immediately.
Top tips for pregnancy skin:
- Avoid very hot water when bathing or showering as this can dry the skin.
- Keep skin well moisturised.
- Apply moisturiser immediately to towel-dry skin and massage in well, especially in areas that may be prone to stretch marks.
- Wear sunscreen every single day. This will help prevent you from developing pregnancy-induced pigmentation.
- Gently massage new stretch marks to reduce redness and irritation.
Recommended skincare regime during pregnancy:
- Cleanse twice a day with a gentle water soluble cleanser. Avoid soaps as these can dry out the skin. And avoid any products containing SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) as these can compromise the skin’s barrier function. Try Light Milk Cleanser, a gentle natural antibacterial face wash for sensitive skin.
- For oily/acne prone skin, apply Berry Tonic directly after cleansing, twice a day, to control oil production and stimulate healthy skin function.
- Apply sunscreen every single day. This will help prevent you from developing pregnancy-induced pigmentation. Oasis Sun SPF 30 is lovely to wear on the face, dries matte and is never greasy.
- For oily/acne-prone skin, try Oasis Beauty Knock Out, a daily moisturiser with built in sunscreen and natural antibacterial action to combat breakouts.If your skin is feeling dry, try Oasis Beauty Power Punch – full of natural hydration with a punchy sunscreen.
- To stop that itch put on some Oasis Sun Organic Aloe Vera and Cucumber Gel – it’s cooling, soothing action provides instant relief to itchy skin.
- In the evening, after cleansing, Beauty Sleep will deeply hydrate and restore your skin health as you sleep. If your skin is irritated use Rhino Repair as a night cream.
Read more on the Oasis Blog. Find out how to choose the right moisturiser for your skin type.
Got a skin care issue you'd like to discuss? Book your free online consultation with our dermatology nurse, Susan and get some expert advice for your particular skin concerns.