The Pregnant Girl's Guide to Skin Care: A Top Dermatologist Explains What You Can Expect

July 28, 2016
By: Jackie Burns Brisman | by L'Oréal
The Pregnant Girl's Guide to Skin Care: A Top Dermatologist Explains What You Can Expect

Calling all expecting mothers, this one’s for you. If you’ve been looking forward to that proverbial pregnancy glow only to be met with dark patches of skin discoloration, you’ve come to the right place. While stretch marks are an expected skin care side effect of pregnancy, there are many other side effects that are not. As well, many of the ingredients that are used to address the effects you can experience during this time are as off limits as that spicy tuna roll. To learn more about what you can expect—and what you need to avoid—when it comes to skin care and pregnancy we turned to board-certified dermatologist, and expert, Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali. 

Skin Discoloration

“Stretch marks are extremely common,” explains Dr. Bhanusali. Other effects? “Melasma, also known as the mask of pregnancy, is a common condition that occurs on the cheeks, chin, and forehead, characterized by dark patches of pigment. Patients sometimes also note an increased darkness of the nipples, skin tags, and moles around the body. Some may also get a distinct hyperpigmentation down the middle of the stomach known as linea nigra.”

Changes in Hair Thickness

Many women will notice an increase in thickness and speed of hair growth…everywhere. “While this can be great in the short term for luscious locks, some patients may suffer from a condition called telogen effluvium after giving birth. This is a rapid loss of hair, generally occurring three to six months after giving birth. It’s generally considered non-permanent and most recover over the subsequent few months. It’s due to the cumulative stress on the body and abrupt change in hormone levels—of note, you may also see this after trauma, surgery, or stressful life events,” Dr. Bhanusali says.

Visible Veins

“It’s common to notice more prominent veins, especially in your legs,” he explains. “This is due to a pooling of blood and can sometimes lead to itchiness and mild discomfort. I generally recommend patients keep their legs elevated as much as possible when sitting and to moisturize two to three times per day.”

What Ingredients to Avoid When You’re Expecting

Chances are the moment you found out you were having a baby you altered your diet. No more after-work cocktails, forget about eating that ham sandwich, and well… soft cheeses, they’re officially off limits. However, on that long list of things to avoid when you’re pregnant, did you know that some skin care ingredients are among them? Dr. Bhanusali says that retinoids—retinols among them—are absolute no-nos and to immediately stop using products that have been formulated with hydroquinone—often found in dark spot correctors. “I usually take a less is more approach with pregnant patients,” he says. Other ingredients to avoid include dihydoxyacetone, often found in self tanner formulas and parabens.

With the fluctuations in your hormone levels your skin can start to over-produce oil. Keeping your face clean will help keep breakouts at bay but, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are two other ingredients that should be avoided, so spot treatments will have to wait until after the baby has arrived (and after you’ve stopped breast feeding). Choose a good cleanser, a hydrating moisturizer, and, as always, an SPF. “I generally recommend a sunscreen—physical ones are better bets like the Skinceuticals Physical Defense SPF 50,” he says.

What to Reach For

Dr. Bhanusali is big on skin care from the inside out and recommends his pregnant patients reach for foods rich in vitamin E—like almond butter—and vitamin B5—like Greek yogurt.

Post-partum, you can return to your regular skin care routine—unless you are breastfeeding, and then you should wait things out a bit. More often than not, the side effects you experienced while you were expecting your bundle of joy will subside on their own. If you're a new mom that's ready to get her glow back after pregnancy, check out our guide, here!

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