Your body goes through a world of change during pregnancy. Some of the skin changes can be permanent, but most will reverse themselves within weeks to a year of giving birth.
A variety of things happen with your skin as hormones fluctuate, usually showing up as sensitivities, breakouts, dry itchy skin, sun sensitivity, rashes, stretch marks, dark patches, skin tags, and varicose veins. Just remember that these can be normal.
What Causes Skin Changes During Pregnancy?
Fluctuations in hormones are generally the culprit. Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels influence skin in all pregnant women. Hormones tell your pores to secrete excess oil, make you vulnerable to heat rash, and susceptible to skin discoloration. With your immune system suppressed and your blood vessels stretched to the max, perfect conditions for surface inflammation are also created.
Changes are experienced at different times in pregnancy, sometimes as early as the first trimester. Often, your skin may worsen as pregnancy progresses.
Common Pregnancy Skin Changes
They appear as pinkish or reddish streaks along the abdomen and breasts and sometimes thighs. They're the result of your body growing quickly and usually show up in the last three months. After delivery, they'll fade to silvery-white scars and be less noticeable.
Increases in progesterone levels also trigger more sebum (oil) production, causing breakouts.
Mask of Pregnancy/Melasma
The increase in estrogen, progesterone, and melanocyte-stimulating hormones cause skin to produce more pigmentation, showing up as symmetrical dark splotches on the forehead, nose, and cheeks. Some women's nipples and/or areolas will darken in color, often permanently.
Everything is now sensitive. . . . your stomach, emotions, and your skin. Perfumes may irritate your skin, and it may become red if you scrub or exfoliate.
These are small, loose growths of skin commonly found in high-friction spots like underarms, groin, under breasts, and at the base of the neck as a result of elevated estrogen and progesterone stimulating the growth of the outer skin layers.
Dry, Itchy Skin
Your growing belly causes your skin to stretch and tighten, resulting in dryness and itching.
Skin Care During Pregnancy
- Continue to exercise as best you can to maintain good circulation, easing stress, tension, and inflammation.
- Eat a well-balanced diet that includes natural sources of beneficial probiotics, which colonize the intestines with good bacteria, or elect to take a probiotic supplement (after consulting with your doctor). In keeping your gut healthy, there are many benefits, including healthier skin with less inflammation. You can decrease the likelihood of your baby developing eczema.
- Go easy on your skin. Keep a strict cleansing routine but wash with gentle products that don't contain harmful parabens or sulfates, or retinol and retinoids. Switch to unscented products, containing fewer chemicals. Avoid scrubs and exfoliants and opt for a soft, textured washcloth. Include inflammation-reducing probiotics in your skin care regimen, too, to protect skin's integrity and rebalance.
- Natural acne remedies like tea tree oil or eucalyptus can provide antiseptic and anti-microbial properties if you're suffering from acne.
- Applying daily sunscreen is more important now, than ever. Skin is even more sun-sensitive. Applying SPF of at least 30 can help to keep melasma from worsening.
- Drink plenty of water, keep your skin well-moisturized, and take warm oatmeal baths to combat itching. Products with antioxidant vitamin E and alpha-hydroxy acids massaged onto at-risk areas can help to head off stretch marks.