Pregnancy hormones may be partly responsible for luxurious tresses, long, healthy nails and a radiant glow. It’s not all rosy for expectant moms, however — particularly when they experience bothersome skin conditions.
“There are many variables during pregnancy,” says Michael Shapiro, MD, FAAD, founder and medical director of Vanguard Dermatology in New York City. “For example, due to elevated hormones, acne can flare up, or pre-existing acne may actually improve.”
In addition to pregnancy acne, some mothers-to-be may notice dark blotches, rashes and stretch marks, among other skin blemishes. If you are experiencing these types of issues, take comfort in the fact that most will fade within a few months of delivery. Until then, here are some coping strategies.
You may begin to have breakouts you either haven’t had previously, or haven’t seen since the days you wore braces. Unclogging your pores is important, but since your skin may be more sensitive during pregnancy, treat it gently. Use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser, toner and oil-free moisturizer, and avoid abrasive scrubs. “Skin is on edge due to hormonal levels. You don’t want to give it another excuse to break out,” says Dr. Shapiro.
Accutane, Retin-A and any other retinoids (tretinoin, tazarotene, adapalene) may affect your baby, so don’t use them while pregnant or breastfeeding. Other acne medications to avoid while pregnant or nursing include spironolactone and oral tetracycline antibiotics (doxycycline, tetracycline, minocycline). Also steer clear of salicylic acid washes and other over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid.
Darkening or discoloration of the skin is a common occurrence during pregnancy. Dark blotches — referred to as chloasma, melasma or the mask of pregnancy — may appear on the forehead, bridge of the nose, cheeks and above the upper lip.
“Most medications or treatments — such as Retin-A, bleaching creams or chemical peels with glycolic acid — are not FDA-approved during pregnancy,” says Dr. Shapiro. “Lasers are safe, as they don’t go past the skin, but most women tend to wait it out to see how much their skin will improve on its own after delivery.”
In the meantime, to help prevent additional dark spots, always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (which has UVA and UVB protection) with an SPF of at least 15. Wear a hat with a wide brim, choose sunglasses that offer UV protection and stay out of direct sunlight between 10 A.M. and 3 P.M.
Standout Scars and Moles
Scars and moles may become more pronounced during pregnancy. “Women worry about melanoma as moles get more prominent, but the moles are usually benign,” says Dr. Shapiro. “Observation is the treatment. And, again, sun protection.”
Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy is a bumpy, itchy rash that can appear on the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, hips, arms and legs. Common in first-time and multiple pregnancies, this skin eruption appears in the third trimester and disappears after delivery. Dr. Shapiro recommends getting relief over-the-counter from Benadryl, oatmeal baths, Sarna and calamine lotion.
Some pregnant women get reddish streaks along the abdomen, usually due to rapid weight gain and larger-weight babies, but it happens to thin women as well, says Dr. Shapiro. “Laser treatments and topical retinoids [after pregnancy] have been tried for this troublesome problem, with varying success.”
Be Simply Radiant
Expectant moms may be concerned about the safety of certain ingredients in makeup and other beauty products. “There’s no hard science,” says Dr. Shapiro, “but organic is key. You don’t need to stop your beauty regimen during pregnancy, but note that heavy products and complicated makeup will just enlarge pores and irritate the skin. Use lighter products to let skin breathe.”
Keep your routine simple, be gentle on your skin — and you will be glowing.
Elaine Marotta is Editor-in-Chief/VP Publishing Operations of You & Your Family and CW Publishing Group.