Skincare Guide to Pregnancy
Nothing says hormonal skin better than a pregnancy. While each pregnancy is different, perhaps everyone can agree that there are many ups and downs, which are ultimately reflected on our skin. From that pregnancy glow, to sensitivity and melasma, taking care of your skin can be a tricky matter. You want to address specific issues, without using any questionable ingredients and treatments.
On a personal note, my skin never looked better than during pregnancy. It was plump and spot-free, so I kept my skincare to a bare-bones minimum. Like water minimum. But I did develop crazy dry eczema on my upper shoulders and almost nothing relieved it until I tried a full-on balm. I'll get to the products I personally recommend later, but first a few notes on general skincare during pregnancy.
Ingredients to avoid
- Retinoids: While most OTC versions like Retinol have to jump through a few hoops to get converted into retinoic acid, then cross your bloodstream and into placenta, it doesn't hurt to play it safe and avoid this Vitamin A family.
- Salicylic Acid: This beta-hydroxy acid stems from the aspirin family (which is a pregnancy contra-indication) - so like with Vitamin A, it won't likely hurt a developing fetus if used in tiny amounts topically, but you may as well steer clear during pregnancy.
- Ammonia: Look for hair dyes that are ammonia-free for a safer pregnancy
- Essential Oils: Avoid using pure EOs as these can cross into the bloodstream. A tiny bit in a cream won't hurt, but if you can skip out on these, do so.
- Treatment ingredients: Many OTC ingredients should be safe, but if you can, avoid using your usual acne/eczema/anti-aging products since cortisone, benzoyl peroxide, hydroquinone and other ingredients could be irritating during this extra sensitive phase.
Solution: Look for Azeleic acid to reduce redness and comforting ingredients like oat, chamomile, green tea and Tulsi. The key here is to minimize ingredients as much as possible - look for single-ingredient products like the Holy Basil hydrosol from Shea Brand.
Solution: Melasma forms around highly vascular facial areas, and this will only subside once hormones are balanced (which may or may not happen post-pregnancy). Your best bet is full-spectrum SPF to prevent any more discoloration. Avoid hydroquinone and other lightening ingredients. Look for a mineral sunscreen - I like Murad's City Skin Age Defense. It has 2.7% Titanium Dioxide with 10.0% Zinc Oxide for broad UV defense. The interesting factor is in the Lutein, which helps block some of the blue light we're exposed to, and a polymer matrix that forms a barrier against pollutants. By the way, blue light and regular ol' daylight can also worsen melasma (outside of traditional UV).
Solution: Since BP and Sal Acid are off the list, look for alternatives like Niacinamide and Zinc (I'd recommend Deciem's product but I don't really like glycols and they're somewhat questionable during pregnancy).
Ingredients: cold-pressed certified virgin organic Black Cumin (Nigella sativa) oil, organic Cajeput (Melaleuca minor) essential oil, Vitamin E (Tocopherols) oil.
Again, less is more, so I like Odacite's Bl+C | Pimples for breakouts since you only need a drop or two for spot treatment. It only has 3 ingredients, and it works to reduce stubborn breakouts while reducing your exposure to other common ingredients in most acne or blemish products.
Problem: Stretch Marks
Solution: First off, stretch marks have a genetic component. So check with your mom to see if you may be prone to them. A 2015 study showed that cocoa butter and olive oil are not effective at reducing or preventing pregnancy stretch marks (Striae gravidarum). There's even a possible link between lower back pain and stretch mark severity...so there's more research to be done on the origins of pregnancy stretch marks. For now, all you can do is try to prevent them and if they do surface, there's nothing wrong with embracing the marks of motherhood.
Ingredients: apricot oil, marshmallow root*, rosehips*, lavender flower*, chamomile flower*, calendula flower*, lavender essential oil* *USDA Certified Organic ingredients
What I like most about this belly oil is the limited ingredients used (it's basically apricot oil). Since it is an oil product, preservatives are not needed as they are with creams (since bugs love water). Apricot oil is moisturizing and relatively innocuous for skin, so a great benefit for pregnancy. Lavender is ok for use during pregnancy, and there aren't any other plant essential oils that can potentially cause harm. The fact that these are also organic ingredients reduces the trace levels of pesticides that may be found in plant-based products.
Solution: Sheet Belly Mask
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Hydrolzed Collagen, Xanthan Gum , Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Aloe, Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Propolis Extract.
The Hatch Belly Mask is heaven for your belly. It is super hydrating and you can see the top active ingredient is Glycerin (see below for more on this super and humble ingredient). Aloe and sunflower seed oil provide some necessary hydration with an emollient boost. Finally the interesting factor comes in the form of propolis - my fave cold-busting remedy. Now this sheet mask won't prevent a cold, but propolis is a powerful substance produced by honey bees to protect their hive structure from cracks as well as invaders. It is known for its antimicrobial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties, so it's an added benefit to this glycerin/aloe hydration mask.
Aveeno Eczema Therapy works like a charm for eczema and dry, scaly skin.
Ingredients: Glycerin, water, cetearyl alcohol, isocetyl alcohol, dimethicone, cetyl alcohol, benzyl alcohol, ethylhexylglycerin, sodium cetearyl sulfate, benzoic acid, stearic acid, dipotassium phosphate, potassium phosphate, p-anisic acid, caprylic/capric triglyceride, sodium hydroxide, avena sativa (oat) kernel oil, ceramide NP, citric acid, avena sativa (oat) kernel extract
The most abundant ingredient is Glycerin, even more than water. I think this is what makes the product so great. You can use other humectants but eventually they dry up on skin. Glycerin is fabulous at keeping skin hydrated for longer periods of time. The formulation is balm-like without being greasy. It is rich, so use sparingly. It also contains skin protecting ceramides and anti-inflammatory Avena Sativa (Oat). Overall, a relatively clean formulation (no added fragrances, colors) and it does the trick at providing much needed hydration to dry skin. Personally, I tried everything from layering hyaluronic acid serums and 'sealing it' with oils, to barrier creams and this was the only product that quickly improved my skin.
Problem: Sore Nipples
Ingredients: Organic Olive (Olea Europaea) Fruit Oil, Organic Beeswax (Cera Flava), Organic Cocoa (Theobroma Cacao) Seed Butter, Organic Shea (Butyrospermum Parkii) Butter, Organic Mango (Mangifera Indica) Seed Butter, Organic Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) Flower Extract
What's nice about the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter is the limited ingredients but also the certifications: It is USDA certified organic and according to them, the first Non-GMO Project Verified Nipple Cream. They also have a vegan option without beeswax. This product will inevitable go into a newborn's mouth, so choosing a product with safe ingredients is key. While I don't traditionally think GMOs are a bad thing, it's fine to be transparent about our food products. Another good option is the Motherlove Nipple Cream, which is also certified organic.
The last thing a pregnant woman wants is to add another worry to her list. Hopefully this guide helps you clear some of the worries and sets the record straight about some of the misconceptions out there. Please always consult your doctor about any worry or decision as this is not medical advise. Here's to an ever-present pregnant glow! ✨✨✨✨