Making Sure You’re Skin-tastic
During pregnancy, the focus of attention shifts as the uterus and ovaries become the obvious center of medical attention for the majority of women. Focusing on preserving and promoting overall good health for themselves and their babies, many pregnant women follow a healthy diet – incorporating frequent physical activity and scheduling routine physicals. With all the attention and care given to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body, it might be surprising that many pregnant women forget about one of their largest and most misunderstood organs – the skin.
Often underrated, your skin is one of your most powerful and protective organs. Blushing when you’re embarrassed or breaking out in goose bumps when you’re cold or scared, your skin is an emotional barometer that protects you from harmful environmental elements.
Cautioning that all of your skin requires attentive tender loving care, skin care professionals and health experts urge expectant women to establish a healthy skin care regimen. “A woman’s skin endures many hormonal and physical changes during pregnancy. It is extremely important that pregnant women consider their skin just as much as they would their diet and exercise routine,” says esthetician Laura Bowers.
Less Obvious Skin
“Women need to remember that the scalp is also skin that requires care and attention,” explains Krista Garvin, a licensed cosmetologist.
“Since pregnancy causes a large shift in hormones, many expectant women complain of dry itchy skin and scalps,” adds Dr. Sandra Johnson, a mother of two and dermatologist. She recommends using an anti-dandruff shampoo that is left on for five minutes before rinsing to ease scalp itch.
“A lot of women avoid chemical processing such as straightening, perms, or coloring, because the chemicals irritate their scalp, as well as for the sake of their child’s health,” says Garvin.
And Johnson says studies show that bleaching should be avoided during pregnancy.
Your Baby Face
Some women experience bouts of pregnancy acne and others have unusually dry or chapped patches of facial skin. Skin care experts agree that daily cleansing and exfoliating skin is the first line of defense against the changes pregnancy brings.
“It is very important to clean and exfoliate your skin daily regardless of your activity level or whether or not you wear make-up,” says Bowers, who rebuffs the notion that your face isn’t dirty unless you’ve been perspiring or wearing make-up.
Paying attention to your skin in conjunction with the advice of your dermatologist or esthetician can help you effectively modify your facial skin care routine to accommodate your pregnancy. “Having a healthy, fresh look also boosts an expectant mother’s morale, especially during the last trimester when some discomfort sets in,” Bowers says.
Protecting Sensitive Skin
Michele Bennett is a mother of two and independent consultant with Arbonne International. Expectant mothers with nut allergies or sensitive skin benefit from skin care products that feature all-natural ingredients and no fragrances or nut oils, she says.
“Mineral oil is toxic to our skin. It acts like a liquid plastic wrap on skin that traps toxins in and doesn’t allow good elements to penetrate,” says Bennett, who urges expectant women with dry or sensitive skin and acne to avoid mineral oils.
Bowers agrees that using hair and body washes that do not contain mineral oil offer rejuvenating skin care options for expectant mothers. Recommending that women read the labels of their favorite skin and hair care products, Bowers and Bennett caution that 96 percent of skin and body care products have mineral oil as one of the first few ingredients. “This is especially important because mineral oils aggravate pregnancy acne, psoriasis and rosacea,” says Bowers.
Dry or itchy skin is another bothersome problem for some mothers-to-be. “Using moisturizers for dry skin, calamine lotion for itching and drinking plenty of fluids will help,” says Johnson.
Some expectant mothers have also found adding humidifiers helpful in the fight against fry or itchy skin. “I kept all of our rooms well humidified, especially during colder seasons when the heat was on,” says new mom Marnie Siddall.
Stretching Changing Skin
Pregnancy hormones can have many unexpected effects on the texture and color of your skin. “I have fewer fine lines and wrinkles than before I got pregnant,” says Siddall.
Dr. Andrea Cambio, a dermatologist in New York City explains that smoother facial skin is due in part to increased water retention and weight gain, which can plump out the face. “These changes lead many women to experiencing the ‘glow’ of pregnancy due to the increased volume of circulating blood. Some women have actually realized they were pregnant because of an increase in dark spots seen on the face or other parts of the body,” says Cambio.
Women with olive or darker complexions may notice patches of darkened skin on their foreheads, noses and cheeks. In black women, these may look like white patches and are commonly referred to as the ‘mask of pregnancy.’
Covering up these spots can be challenging.
“Cosmetics that camouflage, such as yellow and white-based concealers worn under makeup, give the skin a more natural and even tone,” says Cambio. These darkened areas will start to fade after delivery, however. “No treatment is complete without the daily, year-round use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher to prevent the further darkening of the skin,” she adds.
It is hard for pregnant women to avoid stretch marks. Almost all mothers-to-be will develop the pink or reddish, slightly indented streaks that can show up your breasts, hips, thighs and abdomen caused by stretching of the skin or a large and/or fast increase in weight. Genetics, a more elastic skin tone or perhaps excellent nutrition and exercise may spare some mothers of these marks; however, most experts agree there is no proven method that eliminates stretch marks.
Although crèmes and lotions might not completely limit stretch marks, keeping weight gain steady and gradual may minimize them. “Stretch marks will gradually fade after delivery and take on a light silvery sheen,” says Cambio.
Although they are often a natural part of pregnancy, wrinkles, fine lines, stretch marks and acne are some of your skin’s most feared enemies. Knowing how expecting a baby can affect your skin and how you can combat a few typical pregnancy skin conditions will help ensure your skin shines with a healthy glow during and after your pregnancy.
Gina Roberts-Grey is a licensed clinical social worker and freelance writer who frequently covers parenting issues.