When you’re expecting, your body goes through some significant changes. Babies bring with them an increase in the hormones estrogen and progesterone, triggering a whole gamut of skin concerns.
The good news is that most pregnancy skin changes fade as your body rebalances hormone levels. However, you should still have a conversation with your dermatologist about any pregnancy-related skin conditions that seem abnormal.
5 Common Skin Changes During Pregnancy
You’ve likely heard that pregnant women develop a natural “glow,” thanks to increased blood volume, hormones, and oil production that lead to a rosy-cheeked, radiant complexion.
Every pregnancy experience is different, which also applies to your skin. Further, you may go through several “phases” of pregnancy skin. For example, you might have a gorgeous glow during your first trimester, then experience sudden breakouts during the second.
Regardless of what changes your skin experiences during pregnancy, rest assured that you are not alone.
Melasma or “Pregnancy Mask”
Melasma, or dark spots/bands of pigmentation caused by an overproduction of melanin, is very common in pregnant women. It’s often called a “pregnancy mask” because the natural increase in the pigment melanin causes hyperpigmentation across the cheeks, forehead, and nose.
Those with darker skin, pre-existing hyperpigmentation, and freckles are more likely to develop melasma, but it appears in around 50% of expectant mothers, regardless of skin tone.
While it’s not preventable, you can keep it from getting darker by using a broad-spectrum sunblock and wide-brim hats to block UV rays. Most clients see it fade soon after delivery.
Varicose veins are a widespread issue for pregnant women because the increased downward pressure of the uterus makes it more difficult for blood to fight gravity on its way back up to the heart. The increased blood volume is also a contributing factor, as it can cause smaller veins to swell.
Spider veins are inevitable for some, especially if there’s a family history. Still, you can keep them from getting larger by taking frequent breaks if you spend much of your day standing, raising your feet to facilitate blood flow, and wearing support hose.
Varicose veins are typically more of an aesthetic concern than a medical one, but they can become itchy, painful, or worsen over time. In most cases, though, they shrink back to their normal size postpartum.
Oily Skin AND Acne Breakouts
Increased estrogen and progesterone is linked to an uptick in sebum production, the same reason many teenagers are plagued with acne.
You can help keep your breakouts in check by washing your face with a gentle, deep-cleansing face wash, exfoliating regularly, and using an oil-free moisturizer. Just be aware that your skin can become more sensitive to particular products or ingredients during pregnancy, so be very cautious about using anything too strong. When in doubt, ask your dermatologist about product recommendations they have for your particular skin type. A few top recommendations for oily skin and breakouts are NeoStrata Mandelic Clarifying Cleanser, CLn Acne Cleanser, NuCelle Mandelic Serum 10%, Obagi Medical Hydrate Facial Moisturizer, NeoStrata Sheer Hydration SPF 40
In addition to your regular skincare routine, you should avoid touching your face with your hands and always wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap after cleansing to prevent spreading acne-causing microbes.
Linea nigra refers to the dark, black line on some pregnant women’s bellies. It runs vertically, typically starting at the navel, but extending upwards past the belly button is normal. It generally appears by the middle of your pregnancy, and you’re more likely to develop it again if you experienced it during your first pregnancy.
Melanin is also the culprit behind linea nigra, so it’s impossible to prevent it from appearing. For some new mothers, it disappears entirely in the months after delivery. For others, the condition fades but never entirely goes away.
One study found that up to 90% of women develop stretch marks before or during pregnancy.
Many young women develop them during puberty as their bodies go through natural growth spurts, particularly on the hips and thighs. The same is true for pregnancy-related stretch marks. You’ll notice them first as reddish-pink streaks on your breasts, stomach, and hips as the skin stretches to accommodate your little one.
While there’s no “cure” for stretch marks, you can reduce their appearance by keeping your skin well-moisturized. Hydrated skin is more elastic, making it less prone to permanent scarring. You can also expect them to fade from a bright pink color to a less noticeable silvery tone over time.
After delivery, you might also consider fractional skin resurfacing, a laser treatment that helps stimulate collagen production and creates a smoother skin texture and using topical retinoids like Revision Skincare Retinol Complete 0.5% and Revision Skincare Retinol Complete 1.0%.