Got the Pregnancy Glow? While for some an increase in blood volume can make the skin look more flushed and healthy and an increase in oils can mean the skin looks dewier, for the majority of women the hormonal changes of pregnancy can lead to a host of skin issues you could do without. You can choose to wait it out as most resolve once you’ve had your baby – but with a busier Christmas social calendar approaching, here’s how you can improve things right now.
First things first; the basics of good skin health is the same during pregnancy as at any other time in your life. So, if you want the pregnancy glow you need to make sure you’re eating well, drinking plenty of water, exercising, having quality sleep and keeping stress to a minimum. But there is plenty more beyond that, so what are the particular skin issues associated with pregnancy and which natural remedies can help?
Skin breakouts – Many women experience breakouts or acne flare ups due to increased androgens and progesterone hormones which stimulate oil production in the skin. Conventional acne treatments like retinoids and tetracycline antibiotics are no-no’s when pregnant and some dermatologists also suggest avoiding the other go-to, salicylic acid, until breastfeeding is over.
So what are the alternatives?
- First and foremost, keep your skin clean – but avoid harsh cleansers, soap and hot water which strip your skin of its natural oils and force it to overcompensate and produce more.
- Exfoliate very gently. A muslin cloth is a good alternative to harsher scrubbing agents. Just be sure it is regularly washed to avoid breakout exacerbating bacteria.
- Counterintuitively, applying oil to the skin can be beneficial – jojoba, camellia and rosehip are the most suitable for oil prone skin.
- Other remedies can be found in your larder: Apply honey, a great natural antibacterial agent, to spot prone areas. Relax for 15 to 20 minutes and then rinse with warm water.
- Or try an apple cider vinegar toner made with one part to 3 parts water.
- Finally, keep your diet low in sugar and refined carbs, include plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and wholegrains and stay hydrated.
Increased Pigmentation – Pregnancy hormone changes can stimulate the production of melanin, leading to darker patches of skin on the face and body (known as melasma). In most cases this subsides after baby is born but, if this bothers you, what can you do in the meantime?
- Avoid skincare with harsh chemicals which trigger or aggravate the condition. Choose gentle, natural ingredients and don’t be tempted to use skin lighteners such as hydroquinone which are not considered safe during pregnancy as their high absorption rate may pose a risk to baby.
- Choose a natural remedy; apple cider vinegar, aloe vera gel, lemon juice or papaya can work as skin lightening agents when applied topically. They won’t work as quickly but as they are safe alternatives they’re worth a try.
- Crucially, sun exposure is a major factor and you should use a natural sunscreen using mineral blocking agents such as zinc oxide, rather than chemicals, to protect your skin from further darkening.
Alternatively, just accept it as another pregnancy badge of honour. It poses no harm, is not uncomfortable and will go away.
Skin sensitivity – You may find your skin is more easily sensitised during pregnancy and with it a heightened sense of smell mean some scents can trigger nausea. Previous skincare favourites may no longer be agreeable. Follow the acronym KISS – Keep it Simple Skincare.
- Don’t overload your skin with too many products, scent or synthetic chemicals. Your sensitive skin can be aggravated by chemical components in fragrance or essential oils.
- Patch test your skin before using scented products, or err on the side of caution and go unfragranced. Some baby skincare products are extra gentle to suit you better during pregnancy (as well as being a great way to try out ranges for when baby arrives!).
- In general, avoid skincare with synthetic chemicals which can cause reactions and opt for natural and organic ranges which have been specially formulated for pregnancy.
Itchy Skin – Not what you want to be dealing with when socialising! Itchiness can be caused by heat rash, stretching skin, overly dry skin and you’ve guessed it, those hormonal changes! I covered this in a separate post sharing some simple solutions, along with advice to know when it might need further investigation.
Dry skin – This frequent problem in pregnancy is compounded by cold, windy weather and central heating at this time of year.
- A humidifier can help or a cheaper and more green solution (if you don’t have other small children) is to simply place a bowl of water near your radiators – as long as you can avoid stepping in it.
- Avoid frequent bathing and especially overly hot water. Try to have short showers (the norm once you’ve had your baby!) and see if you can bear to have the water cool.
- Soothe, soften and protect with plant oil based skincare products to avoid ingredients which can have a drying effect on the skin (see eczema below) and you’ll be well on your way to a pregnancy glow.
- Add an aromatherapy oil like Nom Nom Relax Oil to your bath water to counteract drying and encourage that all important beauty sleep. After bathing, seal in moisture with a super nourishing pregnancy body butter like Nom Nom Stretch Butter.
- With dry, irritated skin you will get the best results by “oiling” it from the inside too – with healthy fats in your diet (see stretchmark advice below).
Eczema – oddly, eczema can either worsen or improve during pregnancy and sometimes even appear for the first time. The most successful approach addresses both food and environmental triggers to protect the delicate skin barrier and keep it soft and supple.
- Use high plant oil based skincare products which provide protective fats around the skin cells, helping to prevent water loss and reduce friction which can aggravate dry skin.
- Avoiding products and ingredients which can irritate the skin and exacerbate the condition, allowing allergens to penetrate. Soap and body wash products containing SLS/SLES are known skin irritants, and skincare containing alcohol which can be very drying.
- Say no to scents as fragrance ingredients can trigger reactions. Extend this precaution to cleaning products for clothes, towels and bedding too – try a double rinse wash cycle.
- Fish oils and probiotics can be helpful for your eczema and, amazingly, can also reduce the chances of your baby being susceptible to atopic eczema if taken during the third trimester!
Stretchmarks – Many factors play a part in any tendency to get stretch marks, including your genes, but if you wish to counteract them, it is possible to have some influence here. Keep your skin pliable and improve its ability to expand without damage by feeding your skin from both without and within.
- Topically applied oils, such as camellia, shea butter, evening primrose, baobab and almond all supply fatty acids and antioxidants, relieving dryness and helping to keep your skin supple. Find them in Nom Nom Stretch Butter
- Massage is also a wonderful way to boost circulation and stimulate collagen production and elasticity. Find some tips and techniques on all our product pages.
- Include essential fatty acids in the diet from oily fish, nuts and seeds and ensure adequate protein and vitamin C for collagen and elastin production, along with zinc, silica and vitamin E.
- You’re more likely to get stretch marks if you gain more weight than average or gain it too quickly, so don’t pay too much attention to the “eating for two” adage and look at the guidelines for healthy weight gain in pregnancy….not easy to follow in the lead up to Christmas!
Most importantly don’t worry. The majority of these skin problems with improve once you’ve had your baby and nothing will hinder that pregnancy glow more than stress.
Jayne Russell has over twenty years of experience as a pre’ and postnatal massage and nutritional therapist and is the founder of Nom Nom – award winning, certified organic pregnancy and baby skincare. Sign up for your free skincare guide “10 Steps to Super Healthy Baby Skin” at nomnomskincare.com