Natural Skin Care During & After Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a beautiful and magical time, but it can also be a time of skin care ups and downs. While some women develop the "pregnancy glow" and sometimes see an improvement in skin conditions such as acne, others can face skin care challenges that appear for the first time in their lives or worsen during all, or part, of their pregnancy. Changes that occur in your skin during one pregnancy, can also be completely different with another.

After years of dealing with oily/acne prone skin and rosacea, my skin with both of my pregnancies became drier, but also clear and without my usual rosacea flareups. My breakouts disappeared and I found that I needed to switch up my skin care to be more hydrating and moisturizing and less focused on clarifying breakout treatments. Interestingly, this is how my skin stayed. Although I still get occasional breakouts, my skin remained needing additional moisture than it had needed pre-pregnancy. My rosacea flareups returned, though. Bummer.

The changes that happen to your skin during pregnancy are as unique as you and your baby. But there are three skin care concerns that I most frequently address with my pregnant clients: acne, melasma (hyperpigmentation) and stretch marks. While it may not be possible to completely resolve these concerns during pregnancy (or beyond), there are things that you can do to naturally prevent and treat them.

Things to note:
The following information is based on the perspective of a holistic skin care therapist. As part of holistic skin care treatment, please ALWAYS, ALWAYS check with your doctor or dermatologist concerning chronic skin care concerns and treatment during pregnancy and beyond. 

Also, this article covers only a few pregnancy skin care concerns. It is not intended to be a comprehensive coverage of what may benefit skin while pregnant and nursing OR skin care that you should avoid while pregnant and nursing. I also recommend very prudent use of any skin care products during the first trimester of pregnancy. Always check with your doctor. 

ACNE/BREAKOUTS

Fluctuations in hormones during pregnancy can cause breakouts, even in women who have never had acne. Conventional treatments, such as Accutane and retinols are not safe for pregnant and lactating mothers. Products to treat acne, including ingredients, such as salicylic and glycolic acids are also contraindicated.

What can you do to soothe and minimize breakouts while pregnant and nursing?

First of all, it is important to maintain a regular skin care routine. I know this can be difficult, as life gets crazy with a little one (either in the belly or out), but it is the best tool in treating breakouts. Try this easy, quick 4-step plan:

STEP 1: CLEANSE (Morning/Evening)

Look for gentle, cleansers with soothing,  natural anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as licorice root and aloe and plants such as green tea, calendula and rose. Cleansers with antibacterial herbs, such as thyme and sage, can also assist with killing acne-causing bacteria.

STEP 2: EXFOLIATE (Once a week)

Look for "leave-on" exfoliating mask products containing natural fruit and plant enzymes (such as papain from papaya and bromelain from pineapple) - these enzymes help to remove dead skin cells that can clog pores and smooth and refine skin's texture, while minimizing inflammation. Products containing probiotics can give an additional benefit of creating a balanced skin environment. 

STEP 3: TONE (Morning/Evening)

Skin toners help to bring skin to the proper ph balance required for balanced skin. Look for toners that also have added antioxidants and hydrating ingredients such as aloe, sea kelp or hyaluronic acid.

STEP 4: MOISTURIZE/PROTECT(Morning/Evening)

Maintaining proper moisture balance is critical, so be sure to continue using a moisturizer, as dryness can actually encourage skin to pump out more oil, causing more breakouts. You can opt for gel formulas containing ingredients such as sea kelp, hyaluronic acid and aloe to keep skin hydrated. Finish with a layer of protective, natural broad-spectrum, non-nano titanium or zinc oxide sunscreen to protect from UV damage. The sun's rays can cause hyperpigmentation of healing blemishes, leaving those annoying red marks behind that can last awhile. 

Getting regular professional facials with pregnancy-safe ingredients can also make a difference. 

If you are experiencing breakouts during your pregnancy, be gentle on your skin and yourself. You are creating life and your body is just working out all of the incredible details. :)

MELASMA

Melasma, also known as "the mask of pregnancy," are the dark patches that can sometimes occur during pregnancy on the forehead, cheeks, upper lip and chin due to hormone fluctuations, genetics and sun exposure. For some mothers, melasma eventually disappears, while for others, it can stubbornly remain for years, resisting treatment. Some traditional chemical lightening treatments such as retinols and hydroquinone, are not only potentially irritating, but are not safe for expecting and nursing moms. 

So what is a mama to do?

Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to prevent melasma DURING pregnancy other than to wear a good quality, natural broad-spectrum sunblock of at least SPF30 every day and stay out of the sun, or well-covered to reduce pigmentation, as the sun's rays can darken melasma. But melasma can be treated gently and safely post-pregnancy. 

Natural approaches to gently treating melasma, over time, post-pregnancy include treating skin with ingredients (natural antioxidants, lighteners and exfoliants) such as lactic acid (derived from milk), kojic acid (found in soy and mushrooms), arbutin (found in blueberries), azelaic acid (from grains), licorice root and stabilized Vitamin C - the key being to use products containing these ingredients consistently. Stubborn melasma can benefit from non-invasive treatments under the care of a dermatologist, such as microdermabrasion and laser therapy. 

Although these treatments may not completely erase your melasma, they can offer improvement. This improvement can be maintained by regular, daily applications of sunblock.

STRETCH MARKS

Stretch marks are the glorious proof that our bodies have stretched and grown to accommodate life. But, should you want to improve the appearance of stretch marks, or prevent them, there are a few natural ingredients that can help. Of course, none of these ingredients are guaranteed to prevent stretch marks and nothing can make them go away completely (they only improve the appearance), but even the act of applying these to your pregnant body can be a self-affirmation of love and care toward yourself and your baby.

SHEA BUTTER: 

Shea butter is a renowned stretch mark ally. Its deep moisturizing and regenerating properties make it a great choice. However, some people with latex allergies can have issues with shea butter, so please take that into consideration.

COCOA BUTTER:

This is the only thing I used on my breasts, thighs and belly while pregnant - like my mother before me. While my mom went through 3 pregnancies without a mark, I avoided them on my thighs and belly - but not my breasts. Things got pretty "full" in that department while I was nursing. But, my boobs never looked so fabulous and they still do even years later and nursing for 3 years. ;)

ROSEHIP SEED OIL:

Rosehip seed oil is an amazing regenerating oil to use to both prevent and treat stretch marks. It is anti-inflammatory, as well as a powerhouse of cell regeneration, making it great for stretch marks, scars and burns. 

ESSENTIAL OILS:

While I recommend avoiding ALL essential oils in the first trimester of pregnancy, there are a few that make wonderful skin care allies to prevent and treat stretch marks in the second and third trimester. However, some essential oils are NOT SAFE AT ALL to use while pregnant or nursing. Please consult a qualified medical practitioner or aromatherapist before using any essential oils during pregnancy, and always use them diluted in an educated way.

::Vetiver::

A wonderful oil for dry, itchy belly skin, vetiver also nourishes and promotes cellular regeneration.

::Frankincense::

A very powerful healing oil - frankincense helps to both prevent and treat tissue damage, making it a great choice for stretch marks.

::Geranium::

Geranium helps to improve skin's elasticity, which makes it a great oil for stretch mark prevention.

There are other treatments that you may consider, such as laser, under the treatment of a dermatologist.

Pregnancy and new-motherhood is a wild, beautiful ride. Our bodies go through so many changes, skin included. Blessings to you, your little one and your beautiful, radiant, glowing mama skin! <3