What Pregnancy Can Do To Your Skin — & How To Avoid It

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PregSkincare-01Illustrated by Emily Turner.
Nesting, stocking up on baby items, eating well, and getting enough rest are likely at the top of the list when you're expecting. And, yet, throughout your pregnancy you may begin to notice changes in your complexion, making a special skin-care regimen necessary.

Sometimes all those additional pregnancy hormones threaten a normally clear complexion. Since you need to be extra cautious about what you’re putting in and on your body, I've compiled a helpful list of skin-care issues and tips for managing them.
PregSkincare-03Illustrated by Emily Turner.
Pigmentation
The increased hormonal activity may lead some expectant women to experience melasma, or pregnancy mask — essentially, patches of brown spots that appear most often on the cheeks and forehead.

Your best defense for preventing pigmentation is to start using a natural skin lightener every day under your sunscreen. A skin lightener is designed to suppress melanin activity to prevent pigmentation from appearing. Of course, you'll want to be sure to opt for a natural skin-lightening ingredient such as vitamin C (specifically magnesium ascorbyl phosphate), a potent hyperpigmentation-fighting ingredient. The vitamin C works to reduce the appearance of dark spots, melasma, sun spots, and other pigmentation disorders, but it also increases overall skin radiance and brightness.

I highly recommend Vitamin C & E Treatment, which contains a powerful but safe amount of this amazing type of vitamin. Even if pigmentation is not your concern, using this product daily will give your skin a dose of anti-aging protection.

There are many types of vitamin C (ascorbic acid, alpha lipoic acid, and l-ascorbic acid are a few examples), but I find that magnesium ascorbyl phosphate works the best for preventing and fading brown spots and doesn’t cause irritation for sensitive skin types.
PregSkincare-04Illustrated by Emily Turner.
Stretch Marks
Although you may be under the impression that cocoa butter is best for moisturizing skin, the ideal ingredients for keeping the skin on the stomach hydrated (just as on the face) are actually lipid-rich oils like linoleic acid, soybean sterols, jojoba oil, phospholipid, borage oil, kukui nut oil, grapeseed oil, squalane, and rose hips seed oil. By helping to repair the skin’s protective barrier, these oils keep the skin strong and less resistant to tissue injury. If the moisture barrier is intact, then the skin will be better prepared to deal with the inevitable stretching, which often leads to marks. (There are some small studies I’ve seen confirming this.)

Along with using a regular moisturizer at least twice during the day on the stomach, hips, and, ideally, the breasts, I suggest using Pure Radiance Mask at night to give an added boost of moisture repair. Pure Radiance Mask contains many lipid-rich oils that can help prevent stretch marks. Before bedtime, apply a thin coat to the stomach, and massage in circular motions until it's all absorbed. No need to rinse off, either!
PregSkincare-02Illustrated by Emily Turner.
What To Avoid
While there are a lot of good products to remedy skin flare-ups, there are certain ingredients to avoid while expecting because of the harmful effects they may have on your fetus.

Prescription retinoids, for example, with brand names Renova (tretinoin), Retin-A, Differin (adapelene), Tazorac, and Avage (tazorotene) are best avoided. While there are no confirmed studies indicating birth abnormalities resulting from use of these retinoids, doctors are, nonetheless, cautious and typically recommend avoiding topical use of products containing this ingredient.

If you are pregnant and you’ve been using a topical skin cream that contains a prescription retinoid or retinol vitamin A derivative, there’s no need to panic. Fortunately, there is no existing data showing that skin-care products with vitamin A have caused problems with an unborn baby when used topically by pregnant women. Doctors tend to take the more cautious stance, which is the one you may also have adopted when you first learned of your pregnancy.

That said, oral retinoids, such as isotretinoin (found in the prescription formally known as Accutane, an acne treatment with potentially dangerous side effects), are known to cause birth defects, so they should be avoided altogether.

While you're being prudent, you should also stay away from salicylic acid. This ingredient, commonly found in products formulated for acne and clogged pores, is a derivative of aspirin and one that a large number of gynecologists suggest steering clear of during pregnancy. Furthermore, phthalates (found in artificial fragrances) should be avoided because studies have shown that this ingredient may have an effect on pregnancy hormones.

With all the hormonal changes potentially affecting your skin while pregnant, you may also find yourself experiencing increased sensitivity, resulting in breakouts, increased visible redness, and irritation. If so, it's a good idea to abstain from using products containing synthetic fragrance, artificial colors, sulfates, petroleum, mineral oil, SD alcohol 40, denatured alcohol, and isopropyl myristate — all of which can be problematic for the skin and your body by exacerbating your skin-care issues.

These are the tips you'll want to keep in mind for the next nine months, but if you’re not sure about what’s safe and what’s not, always double check with your doctor.

When it comes to our faces, we don’t rely on just anyone to tell us what our skin needs to get that ever-elusive glow. Instead, we turn to skin-care veteran (and celebrity fave!) Renée Rouleau, who knows it takes more than the right products to get radiant. Each week, she’ll be serving up her expert tips to keep your complexion in tip-top shape.