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Pregnancy skincare: How does pregnancy impact your skin?

Pregnant woman washing her face
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Your body goes through multiple changes during pregnancy. From thick, glossy hair to less desirable heartburn and nausea, your surging hormones will result in many side effects.

One area which often changes is your skin. You may be familiar with the ‘pregnancy glow’ but having a baby can also cause various other symptoms from stretch marks to skin tags.

Here we share the most common ways in which skin changes in pregnancy including top tips for how to deal with any concerns.

Pregnancy acne

Acne during pregnancy is very common, particularly during the first trimester where your hormones suddenly change or for women who have experienced acne in the past.

This is due to increased levels of progesterone, an essential hormone that strengthens your pelvic floor, increases blood flow to the womb and delays milk production until your baby’s born.

Unfortunately, it can also be responsible for pregnancy acne. Progesterone ramps up the amount of sebum (natural oil) the sebaceous glands in your skin produce. And too much sebum can block your pores, causing a build of bacteria which leads to spots.

Spots may appear on your face, back, chest or elsewhere on your body. But thankfully there are things you can do to try and get rid of pregnancy acne:

  1. Cleanse your face every morning and night with a mild cleaner
  2. Use an oil-free moisturiser daily
  3. Wash and exfoliate your body to clean pores
  4. Wash bed sheets and pillowcases regularly
  5. Eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water

If you find that acne becomes a problem, speak to your pharmacist, midwife or GP for further advice.

Stretch marks during pregnancy

Stretch marks are a very common symptom of pregnancy - 8 in 10 women will get them from having a baby. They usually appear across the tummy as your skin stretches to accommodate your bump but can also be found on your breasts, hips and thighs.

The first sign that stretch marks may appear is itchy skin. This is because the skin is becoming thinner as it makes room for your baby.

Weight gain and hormonal changes are also a cause of stretch marks. Most women gain 10 to 12.5kg during pregnancy however it’s important you don’t diet to lose weight as this can impact both the health of you and your baby. Instead, you should eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water to keep your skin healthy.

There’s no specific treatment for stretch marks as they don’t cause any medical problems or harm. But you may want to try various at-home remedies that may help to reduce them, such as oils, creams and stretch mark treatments.

Rashes and itchy skin

Itching is a normal sign of pregnancy. It is usually due to changing hormone levels and your skin stretching to accommodate your growing baby.

When skin stretches, it can also become dry however it’s also normal to experience dry skin on your arms, neck, breasts or lips.

Things that can help itching during pregnancy include:

  • Wearing looser clothes that don’t rub against the skin
  • Avoiding synthetic materials
  • Using gentle moisturisers and lotion
  • Having a cool bath
  • Avoiding perfumes and perfumed soap

Itching can sometimes be a symptom of intrahepatic cholestasis (ICI), a serious liver condition that affects 1 in 140 pregnant women. If you experience severe itching or it continues later on in your pregnancy, you should speak to your doctor or midwife as soon as possible.

Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation, otherwise known as melasma, is a skin disorder that can occur during pregnancy. It typically appears as darkened patches of skin on the face, which can sometimes continue to get darker with time. It isn’t anything to worry about, and like most pregnancy skin changes, is due to the increased production of hormones.

If these patches become itchy or painful, you may have another condition and should speak to your doctor.

Hyperpigmentation typically goes away after pregnancy however can take a while to completely fade without treatment, depending on your skin colour. Most treatments are only suitable once you’ve given birth, but there are some things you can do to prevent hyperpigmentation:

  • Wear pregnancy-safe suncare products with a high SPF of at least 30
  • Avoid being in the sun, particularly in the middle of the day
  • Stay in the shade where possible
  • Wear a hat and cover up with loose-fitting clothing

Skin tags in pregnancy

You may notice small bumps or growths on your skin during pregnancy. These are called skin tags and are usually a harmless side effect of hormonal changes and the sudden growth of your skin. They can also be caused by weight gain or your skin rubbing against itself or items of clothing.

Skin tags shouldn’t be painful so if they are, or they become infected, make sure to speak to your GP. Skin tag treatments aren’t usually recommended until after giving birth as skin tags aren’t harmful to you or your baby.

Make sure to speak to your GP before trying to remove a skin tag yourself.

Varicose veins

Varicose veins can be an uncomfortable side effect of pregnancy, most commonly appearing in the legs or vulva. They aren’t harmful and usually get better after birth but there are things you can do to help ease symptoms during pregnancy. Speak to your midwife or GP for more advice.

Changes to your skin are just one side effect of pregnancy. Discover our full range of pregnancy and maternity products that may help to alleviate other symptoms such as heartburn and morning sickness. You can also shop our skincare range to ease itching and dryness.

Find out more about how to manage other conditions during pregnancy including asthma and hay fever.

References

www.nhs.uk/conditions/acne/causes
www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/how-you-might-be-feeling/pregnancy-hormones-progesterone-oestrogen-and-mood-swings
www.acnesupport.org.uk/cause/menstruation-and-pregnancy
www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/weight-gain
www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/stretch-marks/
www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/complications/itching-and-intrahepatic-cholestasis
https://knowyourskin.britishskinfoundation.org.uk/condition/melasma
www.nhs.uk/conditions/skin-tags
www.nhs.uk/conditions/varicose-veins