If you were ever wondering if hormones have a huge effect on your skin and body, then you won’t even need to wonder again as soon as you fall pregnant. My skin has been somewhat on a journey of it’s own – the first few weeks I was clear and glowing, then I got the worst jaw acne I’d ever seen. Huge blister style cysts on my jaw line and cheeks.
Then, when week 10 hit, I’ve (touch wood) been very clear since. I still get occasional breakouts, but my diet hasn’t been the best (damn those pregnancy salt and sugar cravings). They say some get that radiant glow that’s is stereo-typically associated with having a baby, hence “oh my, you’re glowing”. Yet others can be dealt the unwanted card of adult acne, heightened sensitivity and bands of pigmentation.
And to think all we stress about in the beginning is the thought of morning sickness and mood swings!
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I talk about my skincare regime and products a lot. Retinol, acids, microneedling, intense peels – I am a skincare enthusiast who regularly invests time into the best products, ingredients and treatments because I’ve always battled from problem skin. However, along comes pregnancy, and it’s bye bye to my beloved Salicylic acid and Glycolic acid, as they say they aren’t quite proven to be safe.
It’s also goodbye to Vitamin A, which has made me cautious of using Rosehip oil. And the worst of the worst for me, it’s no more salicylic, glycolic and lactic acid peels and microneedling treatments, which I relied on for reducing my acne and acne scarring for so long. Damn it.
Obviously, I’m no pregnancy expert. I’m soon to be approaching week 18, so definitely not a professional with advice, but I have done a lot of research so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts…
Fragrance-free is your friend
If in doubt, always look at fragrance-free products, as you can rest assured they don’t have any harsh chemicals added which provide that uplifting scent. This goes for everything, from the cleanser you use at night, to the body lotion you slather your body with during the day. Even your sun cream – have a look to check the ingredients are as natural as possible.
Obviously, let’s not pretend we’re not in the midst of a global pandemic, and we’re now adding antibacterial hand wash and antibacterial hand gel to our daily regimes a million times over. It’s more important than ever that pregnant women are protecting themselves as much as possible from viruses and germs, without putting themselves at risk or irritation.
If you’re unsure, the best way to train yourself to avoid strong fragrances and added chemicals is to look for ‘paraben free’, ‘fragrance free’ and if you can, ‘natural ingredients’. It doesn’t mean that 100% of the ingredients of your hand wash, hand sanitiser gel, cleansers, lotions etc have to be natural, but the higher to natural content, the better.
The fake tan debate
I’ve found the internet is a minefield when it comes to the rules of wearing false tan. Some courses say it’s best to avoid, as even the gentle versions are still staining your skin and long term there isn’t enough evidence behind it that it’s safe/unsafe. Other sources say as long as it’s a gradual or subtle fake tan products from a respectable, quality assured brand, and not a spray tan, you’re absolutely fine.
To understand this a little further, there is an active ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) that is used in fake tan products to actively bronze the skin – it’s a type of sugar that only interacts with the top layers of the skin, which means it isn’t absorbed into the body. This is why creams, lotions and gels which are applied to the skin topically are mainly advised to be safe. However, this ingredient when used in spray tans can be more toxic and also go deeper down into the skin, as it works to devlop over a period of time.
Because of conflicting information though, I’ve decided to be a pale, pasty preggo lady and avoid any confusion. No fake tan for me!
Along with experiencing increased sensitivity to sunlight, when pregnant you can experience a surge in pigment-stimulating hormones which contribute to melasma forming – that’s those large patches of discolouration which appear on the face, usually the forehead and cheeks.
Although it can fade post-pregnancy, many pregnancy-related hormones still stay elevated during breastfeeding and beyond, so you can expect to see signs of pigmentation which can get worse with the sun for up to a year after birth in some cases.
This is where SPF becomes your best friend during pregnancy and beyond. Ideally, look for a mineral one, such as SkinCeuticals Sheer Mineral UV Defense SPF 50, or Murad City Skin Mineral SPF 50, which have both high factor (SPF50) UVB protection and UVA protection, and mineral ingredients. The two mentioned are quality made and don’t leave an oily film or chalky finish.
Acne and acids
As mentioned above, hormonal acne is huge in pregnancy, which for me is no biggie as I’ve suffered hormonal acne for what seems like forever anyway! However, add racing hormones, an increase in oil secretion, and pregnancy worry to the mix, and the breakouts can be slightly worse during your 9 months carrying.
Sadly, it is advised to stay away from the traditional acne remedies containing retinol and salicylic acid during pregnancy, which were always my go-to’s before. If you have been using these, try not to panic, specialists and experts say that these ingredients won’t specifically harm the foetus, it’re more about how the skin can become more sensitive during pregnancy, and these ingredients will heighten the risk.
Gentle AHA products and natural alternatives can help. I know that the high natural ingredient skincare brand Balance Me have a serum which used a plant-based retinol alternative, and there are brands such as Pai and La Roche Posay which use gentle AHA’s to shift away dull skin cells and renew to provide fresher skin.
Saying no to skin treatments and procedures in pregnancy
When I say treatments, I kinda mean the ones I used to have quite regularly before I got pregnant, like microneedling, skin peels and things like thread vein removal, microdermabrasion, etc etc…
They are mainly advised as a no-no in case they pose a risk, and also because your hormones are all over the place and acting differently, you might not get as effective results as you once had. Your skin may heal more slowly, or you could be prone to pigmentation after a treatment. I don’t have Botox, but it’s worth stating that it is said to not technically be unsafe in pregnancy and while breastfeeding, but it is sensible practice not to inject a toxin just in case something happens to the baby.
For me, some of the risks are just not worth considering, and I’m happy to be my natural self, without fake tan or plumped micro-needled skin for the 9 months and slightly beyond. It’s totally down to the individual of course, but as long as you’ve done your research, you’ve stayed as safe as possible, and really considered your options, you shouldn’t find it too difficult to stay on the safe track.