When you discover that you’re expecting, you can expect a lot of changes in all aspects of your life, and this goes for your skin too.
It’s likely that you’ve heard the common phrase, “you’re glowing” and while it’s not always the case, you may notice some positive changes to your skin. However, it isn’t all shiny skin when it comes to a pregnancy, there are also some less ideal aspects—namely, a few ingredients that you should avoid.
To give you a better idea of what you should know about skincare during pregnancy, we’ll elaborate on some of the changes you can expect, as well as some skincare ingredients to avoid.
Skin Changes to Expect During Pregnancy
If you’re someone who’s experiencing a pre-motherhood glow, congratulations! What exactly causes pregnancy glow? Well, there are a few different factors involved.
First, you’ll experience some changes in hormone levels, which might cause the glands on your skin (primarily your face) to secrete more oil (sebum). Combine this with an increased blood volume (meaning more blood flowing to your skin), and your face will look slightly flushed, slightly oily, and absolutely glowing.
There is one downside to the pregnancy glow, however. An increase in oil on your face combined with a fluctuation in hormones may make the perfect conditions for acne.
Alternatively, your mama-to-be skin changes may include developing skin that’s dryer, which could end up either exacerbating OR providing relief if you suffered from preexisting skin conditions like rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis.
There is also a rare condition called melasma (chloasma) to be aware of. Also known as “pregnancy mask,” this condition is a type of hyperpigmentation where tan or brown patches appear on the face. While they can also be on the upper shoulders and chest, the patches are more likely on the face (hence the pregnancy mask nickname).
Melasma shouldn’t be a cause for concern, and it typically goes away on its own after the pregnancy. If you end up having it for an extended period of time, you can try certain prescription creams.
Either way, it’s recommended that you avoid your exposure to sunlight if you notice melasma, as it could intensify the darkening on your skin. That said, it’s best to wear sunscreen at all times (SPF 30 or higher) to minimize your risks of intensifying the hyperpigmentation.
Safe Skincare During Pregnancy
If there’s one piece of advice that you should take away from this article, it’s that it’s always better to err on the side of caution. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensures safety for certain uses and product labeling, skincare and cosmetic products can be sold on the market without FDA approval.
In addition, there are a few ingredients that you should avoid entirely.
Ingredients to Avoid
Retinoids, also known as vitamin A, are essential for healthy skin, eye, and immune health. It’s likely that you’ve found retinoids in certain skincare products, particularly those designed to work as an anti-aging cream.
Retinoids are generally successful at reducing fine lines (and can even reverse acne), but high doses have been linked to birth defects. While it’s recommended that pregnant women avoid all retinoids, prescription medicines like Accutane and Retin-A are considered to be the most dangerous.
Ironically, hydroquinone is a medicine that can help correct hyperpigmentation (like melasma or chloasma). However, while scientists still haven’t found a link between congenital defects and hydroquinone, the body absorbs a significant amount of the compound and so, on that basis alone, health care professionals generally urge pregnant women to avoid it all together.
While it may be strange to even consider that formaldehyde (a known carcinogen and component of embalming fluid!) could be found in your favorite skincare products, it’s certainly a possibility.
While formaldehyde itself is not used as much as it was in the past, some chemicals are commonly found in cosmetics that release formaldehyde and can have a similar dangerous effect. Formaldehyde, and these other chemicals, can be associated with miscarriage and infertility.
Protection from UV rays is important, especially while you’re pregnant, but there is, unfortunately, an ingredient in most sunscreens that should be avoided. Oxybenzone is used as the UV filter in sunscreen, but it’s also been associated with a range of adverse health and environmental effects.
The endocrine-disrupting chemical has been associated with changes to lactation, fetal damage, neurological conditions, Alzheimer’s disease, and hormone disruption.
If you’re heading out in the sun, choose a safe sunscreen, like one made with zinc.
Phthalates are another type of endocrine-disrupting chemical that is commonly found in beauty products. While phthalates haven’t been studied extensively in humans, it’s been known for quite some time that they can cause hormone and reproduction dysfunction in animals.
Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics is looking into the substance to determine if endocrine disruption from phthalates can negatively affect reproductive health. While there aren’t any conclusive results yet, to ensure the safety of yourself and your baby, you should avoid phthalates in skincare products, which is commonly found as diethyl phthalate (DEP).
High-dose salicylic acid
Commonly found in face peels, oral medications, and acne treatments, salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory capabilities that are good for our skin, but should be avoided during pregnancy. If you’re taking a lower-dose OTC salicylic acid treatment, it might be okay but you should always check with your doctor first.
Generally speaking, IVF is successful. A recent study put its success rate at just under 30%, which is actually pretty similar to a natural pregnancy cycle with a fertile man and woman. As could be expected, if a couple repeats the IVF treatment cycle, they’re more likely to end up with a healthy pregnancy.
Final Thoughts on Pregnancy and Skincare
Unfortunately, your skin brings about some additional concerns when you’re expecting. While it may seem like there’s a lot that you have to avoid to keep your baby safe, we’re also living in a time where many good alternatives are available. Now, more than ever before, there are pregnancy-safe skincare brands that have designed their products with you and mind. Stick with those for healthy skin and healthy pregnancy.