It’s no surprise that hormones play an important role in the condition of our skin. And that’s why pregnant women in particular are prone to a host of unnerving skin changes including acne, pigmentation and stretch marks.
It’s increased levels in estrogen and progesterone that allow for a viable pregnancy, but it’s these hormones that can also wreak havoc on the skin.
According to Danielle Edwards, the education manager at The International Dermal Institute, what happens to our skin during pregnancy is essentially out of our control.
Although that’s no great comfort, she adds that you can combat pregnancy-related skin conditions simply by adjusting your skin-care routine and being diligent about moisturizing your entire body every day.
The mask of pregnancy, formally called chloasma, mainly affects women with darker complexions. Essentially, it’s discoloured patches of skin that form in a masklike configuration over the forehead, nose and cheeks.
This is because the cell that produces pigment, called the melanocyte cell, is controlled by estrogen, explains Edwards. The good news is that chloasma generally fades a few months after delivery.
Pregnancy also makes women more prone to hyperpigmentation, so freckles and moles become darker and more noticeable. Sun exposure can intensify discoloration, so avoid prolonged sun exposure and be sure to always wear SPF when outside.
“If you haven’t been protecting yourself from the sun, hyperpigmentation becomes more difficult to treat at the end of the pregnancy,” says Edwards.
Most women develop stretch marks across their belly and breasts.
“These marks are caused by tiny tears in the tissue that lies just below your skin and enables it to stretch,” explains Edwards.
Depending on complexion, stretch marks can be pink, reddish-brown or dark brown. Like pigmentation, stretch marks generally fade after delivery. But the key to keeping them under control is to keep the skin supple by hydrating. Although no cream will actually stop the tearing of the skin as it stretches, applying moisturizing creams will increase the integrity of the skin.
And, Edwards recommends applying vitamin E to any stretch marks you notice forming. “It’s a great skin healer,” she says.
The increase in estrogen and progesterone can cause sebaceous glands to release more oil, resulting in breakouts. Edwards warns that women who are prone to breakouts during their menstrual cycles are more prone to acne during pregnancy.
“On the whole, the way your body was before will govern the way it is during pregnancy,” says Edwards.
Edwards recommends washing your face with a gentle cleanser both morning and night, using an oil-free moisturizer (to avoid clogging pores) and using a mild exfoliator once or twice a week.