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Skin care for pregnant and breastfeeding women

Pregnancy Skin Changes and What to do About it

While some lucky women are blessed with a pregnancy glow, for others, pregnancy can wreak havoc on the skin. Melasma, stretch marks and pregnancy acne are the top skin concerns women face while pregnant.

No matter how your skin reacts when you’re expecting, skincare safety for pregnant women is important. Today, we’ll talk about how to treat melasma, breakouts and stretch marks while pregnant. You will learn what skincare products are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, what you should avoid while pregnant and also dispel a few pregnancy skincare myths.

Skincare for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

Safe skincare for pregnant and breastfeeding women

Skin safety is a must for women that are pregnant or breastfeeding. That doesn’t mean all active ingredients are off limits. There are many skin treatments that are safe for pregnant women to keep your skin healthy and glowing.

If you’re a beauty junkie, being pregnant can cause you to rethink trying new products. What about that new skincare ingredient or cutting-edge treatment? While it’s rare that a new skin treatment or ingredient will harm the fetus, the health of the baby should always come first. As Lea Barclay from Specialist Skin Solutions says, “If in doubt, go without”.

Cream for melasma acne stretch marks opt

Melasma, acne, stretch marks — Oh no!

It’s a fact that skin changes in pregnancy. It can be distressing to see that your skin seems to change overnight due to hormonal changes. If you’re struggling with melasma, pregnancy breakouts and stretch marks, keep reading.

Fighting pregnancy acne

Fighting Pregnancy Acne

A lot of women suffer from pregnancy breakouts. You can thank pregnancy hormones for that.

Acne is not merely a cosmetic problem. If you struggle with acne, you may feel distressed, embarrassed and anxious, leading to a loss of confidence. This is a double blow for pregnant women that are already struggling to find clothes that flatter their baby bump.

Acne is also a concern because it is hard to conceal breakouts with makeup. Pimple redness can be covered with a good concealer, but bumps and pustules are not. Flaky skin and peeling from acne treatments makes concealing acne with makeup difficult as well.

The goal is to treat and prevent acne from forming in the first place. For pregnant and breastfeeding women, Lea recommends hydroxy-acid facial peels, which have pore-unclogging action and encourage skin cell turnover. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can be combed with topical B vitamins for even better results.

Oily skin often accompanies acne. Lea recommends using topical niacinamide serum at home to control oil production naturally. Niacinimade is a form of vitamin B that supports normal oil production, and it is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Niacinimade works similar to vitamin A for this purpose, however vitamin A is off limits during pregnancy because it can harm the baby.


If you suddenly develop brown, splotchy skin, it could be melasma. Melasma is common during pregnancy, again due to hormones. It is also known as chloasma. Brown pigmentation on the face gives skin a splotchy appearance and muddled skin tone. When all you want is a healthy, even skin tone, melasma can rear its ugly head and get in the way of that.

Blotchy skin on upper lip, sides of the forehead and cheeks can be hard to get rid of. Melasma causes many women to reach for makeup, but unfortunately it is difficult to conceal. The condition affects so many women, it’s been dubbed the “mask of pregnancy”. Cute name, but how do we get rid of it?

Protect skin from the sun

Protect your skin from Sun

Shielding your skin from the sun is the #1 way to prevent and reduce melasma. Brown hyperpigmentation worsens with sun exposure, so start with a good daily moisturizer with SPF.

Mineral powder sunscreens are also easy to apply on-the-go and are safe for pregnant women. Dermal nurse Lea Barclay of Specialist Skin Solutions swears by the Aspect Doctor range. This convenient tinted sunscreen even has a brush on the tip for touch ups throughout the day.

There is no excuse to go without sunscreen. When you are out and about, the EnviroStat keychain will be your best friend. It easily clips onto your handbag, pram, gym bag, or you can simply leave it in the car or touch ups on the go. The convenience factor of this travel-friendly sunscreen is unbeatable.

Clinical treatments for hyperpigmentation

Light exfoliation (think AHA peels at the clinic or glycolic acid toner at home) can improve skin radiance dramatically by gently sloughing away pigmented skin, revealing the fresh, even skin beneath it.

At Specialist Skin Solutions, Lea recommends both the SkinPen and Deep Sea Peel. These do wonders to reduce skin pigmentation. Microdermabrasion is also safe to exfoliate and lighten skin during pregnancy, reducing melasma.

Vitamin C for melasma

Pregnant women can get relief from melasma with a good topical vitamin C serum. Safe and effective, vitamin C is a remarkable skin brightener and antioxidant. It also shows some evidence of sun protection, which is essential for melasma sufferers. Studies on this are limited, however, so don’t skip daily sunscreen just yet.

The catch is vitamin C oxidizes quickly in the bottle, reducing its effectiveness. The best vitamin C serums have a stabilizer like vitamin E or ferulic acid to slow oxidation. The best serums can be pricey, so you want to get your money’s worth and make it last. Stick with high-quality brands.

Stretch marks

Stretch Marks Skin Care

What causes stretch marks? Basically, stretch marks are tears in the skin. Obviously everything is stretching when you’re pregnant. Lea explains that the body produces hormones that will make help make skin soft and pliable while pregnant. But if skin stretching happens too quick, it’s going to snap. And then you end up with a tear in the skin. You guessed it, stretch marks.

Stretch marks generally affect the tummy, hips, buttocks and breasts. Dark red or purple lines in the skin signal where the skin has stretched too much. Stretch marks are hard to remove, so prevention is key.

If you have stretch marks, all hope is not lost. Certain skin treatments can improve the look of stretch marks to make them less obvious.

Silicone sheets for stretch marks

These are the gold standard in scar reduction and preventing stretch marks. They work by reducing tension on the skin and creating a barrier that reinforces hydration. Many silicone sheets say they will remove stretch marks. However, that is mostly false advertising. They are better for preventing stretch marks, or helping prevent new stretch marks from getting worse. If you notice stretch marks forming, try to catch them early.

Stay hydrated with essential fatty acids

Keeping skin hydrated and elastic is the key to staving off stretch marks. Drinking water and eating fatty acids can help. Fish oil is particularly effective, if you can tolerate the side effects. Other good fats like those in avocados, cooked salmon and nuts are good choices. Evening primrose oil is also chock full of fatty acids. The goal is to make the skin lovely, soft and supple so that it stretches without tearing.

Is Bio Oil good for stretch marks?

Bio Oil for stretch marks is one of the first OTC stretch mark creams women reach for. While it does keep skin hydrated, Lea warns that some pregnant women may be allergic to the ingredients in many of the formulations. For sensitive skin types, jojoba oil and vitamin E oil are good Bio Oil alternatives for sensitive skin.

Stretch mark treatments

Prevention is better than a cure when it comes to stretch marks. So, prevention is the first step. Stretch marks can only be made to look better but they are unlikely to disappear altogether. Like a scar, it will at best mature to a faint pale line that blends with the skin around it. Once stretch marks happen, unfortunately they are there.

If you end up with stretch marks, don’t be dismayed. There are two effective treatments you can try after pregnancy to fix stretch marks. SkinPen for stretch marks is remarkable, and laser for stretch marks can diminish redness.

Pregnancy skin products to avoid and what to try instead

Keep your skin and your baby safe during pregnancy with these expert tips.

Say no to cosmetic injectables & fillers

Muscle relaxant injections are great for getting rid of wrinkles and fine lines, but they are not safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding. The same goes for cosmetic fillers.

While many of these localized treatments are unlikely to cause harm, there is limited data for one simple reason: Few studies are willing to test on pregnant women. Without a safety confirmation, reputable medical doctors won’t allow fillers or injectables while pregnant.

Avoid topical vitamin A during pregnancy

Vitamin A has many incredible anti-aging benefits, but it is a no-no during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Vitamin A is common in anti-aging skincare. It goes by many names such as retinol and retinyl palmitate, so be sure to check the ingredient list and avoid those if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Prescription Retina-A is also off limits.

Topical vitamin A serums, creams and moisturizers can absorb through the skin and enter the bloodstream, which has has been linked to birth defects. It’s not clear exactly how this happens, but it is a must to avoid vitamin A during pregnancy for this reason. It’s just not worth the risk.

Give your skin a break

Pregnant skin is prone to irritation and other new skin problems that you haven’t experienced before. Rather than rush to aggressive skincare treatments, give your skin a break. Harsh scrubs and chemical ingredients can make irritation look worse. Stick with gentle products, such as mineral makeup and gentle, fragrance-free cleansers.

If your skin is more sensitive than normal during pregnancy, you are not alone. To reduce facial redness and soothe skin irritation, antioxidants are the answer. Antioxidants calm inflamed skin naturally while supporting skin’s ability to fend off nasty free radicals that lead to stressed skin.

Lea recommends an antioxidant moisturizer or antioxidant serum. Unlike antioxidant face washes that rinse off in seconds, you want the ingredients to stay put so they can go to work healing and protecting your skin. Applying a nice serum or moisturizer on your face before bed gives the antioxidants a chance to work overnight. Vitamin C serum and green tea moisturizers are a favorite. Plus, they are safe for pregnant women.

At Specialist Skin Solutions, Lea recommends gentle treatments that won’t exacerbate redness and irritation. Anti-aging peptide masks and hydrating face masks are ideal for pregnant women with sensitive skin. Keeping skin hydrated and supple can take years off your appearance, restoring a youthful, healthy complexion in less than an hour.

Keep skin hydrated after morning sickness

Morning sickness can dehydrate skin, leading to dull skin that’s dry and crackly. Hyaluronic acid is an excellent moisturizing ingredient for pregnant and breastfeeding women. It attracts water to the epidermis, leaving skin bouncy and glowing. Pop on a little hyaluronic acid serum each day for healthy, happy skin. This is a great pick-me-up for stressed skin, especially after a bout of morning sickness when you feel lifeless.

Hold off on skin lasers

Skin lasers can do wonders for your complexion, but you should wait to book that appointment until after you have given birth. No lasers whatsoever should be used during pregnancy. In fact, Lea goes so far as to recommend that women wait to schedule laser treatments until after they are done breastfeeding. While lasers are not proven to cause birth defects, there is not enough research to confirm their safety while pregnant. The reason? Most scientists are unwilling to do medical testing on pregnant women. Skip the laser treatments for now.

Healthy, glowing skin is possible during pregnancy

For many women, it takes effort to keep skin looking great during pregnancy. We all want that healthy, beautiful glow and clear complexion. Sticking to skincare treatments that are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women will give you beautiful results without compromising the health of your baby.

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