Your pregnancy skin care routine, explained
It’s not just your body that rapidly changes during pregnancy but your skin can, too. While it can look more glowy, some mums experience a whole range of skin conditions. To learn about the best pregnancy skin care routine, and pregnancy skin care products, to solve these skin issues, we chatted to Emma Hobson, Education Manager, International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica.
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What is pregnancy melasma?
For the mum-to-be there can be a few hurdles to face along the pregnancy pathway, one being hyperpigmentation on the face. This condition is called melasma (chloasma) when dark, mottled patches of pigmented skin start to appear on the sides of the nose and spread out across the cheeks like the wings of a butterfly.
Melasma affects nearly 70% of pregnant women and is most common in women with dark hair and fair skin. This pigmentation mask varies in depth of colour depending on the person’s hereditary background but it can be worsened by various triggers. The main one being exposure to UV rays. It's not the easiest of skin conditions to treat, it involves the diligent daily use of sunscreen, combined with skin lightening treatment products in combination with regular exfoliation.
Whilst pregnant and breastfeeding, any treatment should be focused on ‘supressing’ the excess pigmentation, versus trying to eradicate it completely. The good news, melasma should naturally fade post-pregnancy as the body’s hormones begin to rebalance.
One of the best ways to treat melasma is with a pigmentation lightening serum, the ingredients work by suppressing melanin (the pigment that colours the skin). Various ingredients affect the different stages of the metabolic chemical pathway involved in melanin production and so as a combined ‘task force’ they can effectively target the skin discolouration. Many of the products are perfectly safe to use during pregnancy but always ensure to check with your obstetrician and the product manufacturer.
In combination with your skin lightening serum, you’ll need to use an exfoliant two to three times per week. This ensures your serum works at its full potential, as well as shedding dull, tired skin, helping to create a luminous skin appearance. You can use exfoliants containing lactic or glycolic acid, phytic acid, digestive enzymes or a scrub, just be careful with a scrub if your skin is sensitive. Avoid exfoliants with vitamin A or its derivatives as well as salicylic acid.
The third and probably the most important product when fighting pigmentation is the use of a sunscreen SPF30-50, I’d recommend using a physical sunscreen containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Your sunscreen needs to be applied liberally and reapplied throughout the day.
When treating skin discolouration issues it’s important to ensure that your skin care products need to be fragrance-free to avoid worsening the condition, as artificial fragrance can make the skin photosensitive.
There are some excellent professional skin treatment courses that treat hyperpigmentation effectively, including IPL and chemical peels, however, I’d suggest holding off on receiving these until you’ve stopped lactating and your hormones are starting to rebalance. The results you achieve will be much greater and therefore make it better value for money.
There are some excellent homecare treatment products on the market that deliver the desired results throughout your pregnancy and beyond. A word of caution: be wary of buying products off the internet that may come from unknown overseas sources. They probably won’t come with an ingredient or safety guarantee!
Why does the pregnancy glow happen?
Perhaps this has happened to you when everyone comments on how “you’re simply glowing“ during your pregnancy. So where does that pregnancy glow originate from and is it all good news?
The ‘glow’ is due to a large increase in the volume of blood in your body (about 50% extra) during pregnancy, your heart rate will go up to try to meet the demands, and your veins will relax to compensate. Because of this, your blood pressure should decrease through the first half of your pregnancy (that’s why you can feel faint) and then rise again throughout the second half. This extra load also affects the tiny vessels just beneath the surface of the skin. It’s this excess blood that gives the cheeks a rosy, flushed appearance and can make the face feel hot.
The downside of this increased blood flow? Sadly it can cause spider veins on the face, neck and upper chest as well as increased skin sensitivity and inflammation. Regarding the body, it can cause circulatory problems and fluid retention - that’s where those lovely puffy ankles and legs come from (ah, joy oh joy!)
When it comes to limiting the effects of broken capillaries I’d suggest using a serum that contains red raspberry extract (contains vitamin P), it’s a terrific ingredient that helps strengthen the capillary walls and helps prevent spider (thread) veins, look for serums with at least a 70% concentration.
Eat lots of red berries too, such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries which help strengthen capillary walls and reduce the incidence of broken capillaries and redness. Because of the skin’s increased sensitivity, it makes it more reactive to the environment including the effects of U.V. stress, spicy foods, and stimulants such as coffee and highly active skin care products and treatments. That’s why it’s best to avoid these triggers and to swap to products that have been specifically designed for sensitized skin, containing calming, anti-inflammatory ingredients that work on reducing the redness and irritability. The skin will resume to ‘normal service’ once the body’s hormonal levels have settled post-pregnancy, sadly that means you’ll also lose that pregnancy glow!
Look for products that contain bioflavonoids and potent antioxidants which also strengthen capillaries, look for ingredients such as grape seed and white and green tea. Also, anti-inflammatories to reduce irritation and redness in the skin, such as calendula, panthenol, ginger and bisabolol and cucumber. Barrier-building ingredients such as oat kernel (avena sativa), sunflower seed extract and borage seed oil reduce irritation. Opt for redness-relieving primers with conditioning silicones and a green tint to neutralize skin sensitivity.
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