I see a lot of pregnant ladies in my treatment room. Many times, these women have never really had any skin issues up until their pregnancy. It can be difficult to deal with as they look to their other pregnant friends whose skin is glowing and beaming with life!
The ugly truth is that your hormones can do some not-so-nice things to your skin during pregnancy and there isn’t much you can do to control that. However, some things can be done to minimize some of the most common skin concerns during pregnancy, including acne flare ups, melasma (or pigmentation), and facial puffiness.
The most important thing to remember here is that none of these concerns are permanent. In fact, most of my clients see a surge in skin-related changes in the early and middle parts of their pregnancy, and then this tapers off toward the end of pregnancy. Keeping the skin clear during the early months can definitely be challenging, but rest assure, for the most part, it is a transient time, and your hormones will regulate after a few months post-baby.
Let’s discuss some of the most common skin concerns during pregnancy, the do’s and don’ts, and the best treatments for each.
PigmentationThe way you can tell the difference between melasma and sun damage is their general shape and size. I tell my clients that if their pigmentation looks like little islands on their skin, then it's probably just sun damage and the best way to treat that is sunscreen, large hats, staying out of the sun during peak UV hours, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet. If the pigmentation looks like a continent, then you’ve got melasma which is much harder to deal with, and sadly, is more common during pregnancy. This “pregnancy mask” is triggered by melanin stimulating hormone or MSH. This means the pigmentation you see on the skin is actually coming from within the body as a defense mechanism to danger or external damage. It’s much harder to treat because skincare products and treatments can only travel so far into the skin where this melasma has originated from.
Do-Wear a physical SPF like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and stay indoors in the middle of the day.
-Use a vitamin C serum during the day to prevent further skin oxidation and pigmentation.
-You can also use products that contain lactic acid, Arbutin, licorice root, and kojic acid to lighten pigment or prevent it from getting worse.
-Drink plenty of water and eat antioxidant-rich food (to neutralize free radical damage and prevent pigmentation from worsening).
TreatmentsLactic acid: It’s considered safe to use lactic acid during pregnancy. This is an alpha hydroxy acid (from milk) that exfoliates the top layer of skin, brightens pigmentation, and hydrates the skin.
Gua Sha: Any time you can move lymphatic fluid, you’ll be assisting the body in releasing toxins and cell metabolites that are damaging the skin. You can get a Gua Sha facial (my pregnant women LOVE this treatment), or you can buy your own tool and do a daily gua sha practice on yourself.
Don’t-Try to limit the amount of time you spend in the sun during peak hours. -Stay away from glycolic acid, salicylic acids, saunas, spicy food, and stressful situations. These all trigger worsening melasma and the acids are not safe to use during pregnancy.
-Do not use Retin-A (vitamin A) or hydroquinone as these are not only dangerous during pregnancy but can have serious health consequences as well.
AcneAcne flare-ups happen a lot during pregnancy as hormones are constantly fluctuating, similar to when you were a teenager! This can be very difficult to deal with as your body is also changing (and getting bigger) and then on top of that, your skin looks like that of a 16-year-old again. Here’s how you can reduce the breakouts.
Do-Drink lots of water, you want to keep your body as clean as possible. Constipation during pregnancy can lead to more breakouts so it’s important to stay hydrated for your GI tract as well as for your skin.
-Use a clay mask; this is a safe alternative to using stronger acids like salicylic acid and works by drawing out inflammation and killing bacteria off the surface.
-Exfoliate regularly and use a gentle cleanser. It's common when acne flares up to try to “dry it out” with a harsh facial cleanser. What your skin needs is nourishment and balance. Use a pH-balancing face wash like Sea Silk Wash and exfoliate to remove dead skin every few days.
-Eat lots of fruits and vegetables to flood your body with nutrients that help keep your immune system strong (many times, acne can linger because the body is slow to heal itself).
Treatments-Go for a relaxing facial; not only can your technician perform extractions to remove some of the pesky areas of congestion but facials are relaxing to the skin, mind, and body. As your skin breaks out, it's easy to feel anxious and this can just exacerbate the breakouts. A facial will ease your mind, and get your body in the rest and digest mode which activates your body’s own healing response and stimulates immune function.
-A Gua Sha facial will also help release stagnation and toxins being held in the skin. See a professional first so you know exactly what kind of pressure to use when dealing with acne and then get a Gua Sha stone to use at home on your own.
Don’t-Stay away from retinols as these are considered dangerous to use during pregnancy. You’ll also want to stay clear from laser treatments and strong chemical peels (gentle lactic is ok).
-Try to stay clear from having sugar drinks or eating a ton of heavy, processed food. This causes more stress on the skin as well as the GI tract which is never conducive to healing acne.
Facial PuffinessMany pregnant women complain of just looking puffy, tired, and “saggy.” As your blood volume increases, so will the accumulation of fluid in the face!
-Drink lots of water to flush toxins as much as possible. Get regular exercise to get your lymphatic system moving. The lymphatic system does not have a “pump” like the circulatory system does so it needs regular stimulation to move toxins and get your fluids moving.
-Perform light lymphatic drainage daily. This can be done by dry brushing, massaging the chest and arms, and rubbing the back of the neck. Gua Sha is the most popular treatment I do for pregnant women because it detoxifies the face and also relaxes the entire mind and body.
Gua Sha facial from a professional or use a gua sha stone at home. Get a prenatal massage from a licensed massage therapist; this will relax your muscles and move toxins out of the body, reducing overall puffiness in the face and ankles.
-Try to limit salty foods, sugary drinks, fried foods, or anything that comes in a bag. The more fillers and chemicals you put in your body, the harder it has to work to detox them out. Inflammation gets triggered when your body has a hard time processing things out so try to eat as clean as possible. This means lots of fruits, veggies, healthy fats, lean proteins, and whole grains.
- Don’t go to bed late; sleep is so important for reducing facial puffiness. Turn off your electronics an hour before bedtime and put on some mood lighting to help your brain feel like it’s time for bed. This regulates melatonin in the brain and tells your body it's time for sleep.
Best products for pregnancy
Sea Silk Wash - a gentle, seaweed-based facial cleanser that uses a coconut emulsifier so it’s gentle but cleans the skin well. It also balances the skin’s pH.
Mermaid Face - a hydrating toner that uses plankton enzymes and white tea to protect skin from environmental aging factors by neutralizing free radical damage.
Shell Scrub - a gentle facial exfoliant that moisturizes the skin while it sloughs off dead skin cells.
Marine Clay Mask - this softens skin while treating blemishes. The salicylic acid in this product is botanical-based (from willow bark) so it’s safe to use during pregnancy.
Clear Glow Omega Oil - An oil-soluble form of vitamin C that moisturizes skin while killing surface bacteria.
Nori Oxygen Gel - a light serum that absorbs quickly into the skin. It contains red algae which are nourishing for dry, irritated skin, and uses liquid oxygen to detoxify cell damage.
Plankton Peptide Cream - a rich nighttime cream that contains seaweed, plankton extracts, and collagen-producing peptides. This gives lots of moisture while hormonal changes can leave the skin feeling dry overnight.
Sol Veil SPF 25 - This is an aloe-based daily moisturizer with physical sun protection from titanium dioxide. This is ideal for daily use.
Favorite Tools during pregnancy
Medicine Woman Gua Sha Tool - This gua sha stone is great for beginners. It’s easy to use and hold in your hand, it also has an added scalp comb for deep relaxation.
Energy Wand - This wand vibrates about 6,000 per minute so it’s very relaxing to the central nervous system and helps wake up skin cells and circulation. It’s great to use for lymphatic drainage as well.