Though one of life’s most beautiful journeys, pregnancy is also known to wreak havoc on one’s skin, as our body adapts to a great number of changes and hormone levels fluctuate continuously.
These constant changes materialise on the skin, usually in the form of excess oil production, hormonal breakouts, and pigmentary changes.
For many women, these changes can be sudden and overwhelming, particularly for those who have historically experienced great skin before their pregnancy. So, what is the best approach when it comes to managing your skin health during this time?
UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGES
The first step to improving your skin’s health during pregnancy is by understanding exactly what is happening to your body, and how this can affect your skin’s behaviour. Elevated levels of oestrogen frequently cause pigmentation as oestrogen increases the output of melanin (pigment) by melanocyte cells. Another common change is increased eccrine (sweat) gland and sebaceous (oil) production, leading to congestion, blocked pores and breakouts. Increased hormonal activity can also lead to additional vascular formation, so you may notice the appearance of additional veins or spider nevi on the face or body. Some changes in nail and hair growth can also be observed on occasion, and of course, stretch marks can be a major concern for many women – these are created when the rapid stretching of the skin results in breakages of our collagen and elastin fibres, seen as large, pink, linear scars.
CREATE CALM AND STABILITY FOR STRESSED OUT SKIN
With so many rapid changes at once, you may notice your skin responding differently to things you haven’t previously had issues with. You may even notice sudden-onset sensitivity. This time is ideal to establish a regular skincare routine in order to bring skin back to a calm and healthy state. The best thing you can do for fluctuating skin is to incorporate calming ingredients on a regular basis, that will soothe any inflammation, nourish and hydrate, and establish a strong barrier function to reduce sensitivity, seal in moisture, and keep out bacteria. When suffering from breakouts or sensitivity, we always recommend pairing back your routine to basics: gentle cleanse, mist, calming serum and calming moisturiser, and avoid actives and exfoliating agents. The Calming Essentials are ideal during this time, ensuring skin is kept soothed, calm and hydrated. If you’re lucky enough to have avoided hormonal breakouts or sensitivity, we encourage you to continue on with your regular routine.
PIGMENTATION & MELASMA
An influx of pigmentation, additional freckles, or melasma (the 'mask of pregnancy’) are perhaps the most prevalent concerns for pregnant and breastfeeding women, driven by the surge of estrogen as well as progesterone. Many women experience melasma for the first time during their pregnancy, and for some women, this will dissipate soon after. Stimulated melanin activity is enhanced further with sun exposure, so your first course of action is daily sunscreen use. We recommend sunscreen application even when indoors – while the majority of UVB radiation is blocked by glass, UVA can still penetrate through, aggravating your melanocyte activity and stimulating pigment, but also causing cell and collagen destruction leading to premature ageing. For treatment of pigmentation during your pregnancy, our Age Defiance Night Serum is not only ultra-reparative, but contains powerful brightening and pigment-fading agents such as licorice root and Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (vitamin C), plant enzymes to gently exfoliate, plus our Chromabright molecule to reduce the expression of tyrosinase, the key enzyme responsible for the production of melanin synthesis.
Antioxidant Facial Oil is great as it has naturally-occurring derivatives of vitamin A.
Stretch marks are another primary concern for most pregnant women and are notoriously difficult to deal with. Many doctors and skincare specialists recommend approaching the problem as early as possible, using strategies to improve skin integrity and facilitate a slower and smoother stretch of the skin to try and avoid the fast snapping of collagen proteins that result in a scar. The first step is to ensure skin is constantly hydrated to allow it to stretch more easily. Our Botanique Body Lotion is filled with nourishing ingredients like Kakadu Plum for powerful antioxidant protection, Shea Butter, Jojoba and Macadamia oils that deeply hydrate, and Aloe Vera to soothe itchy and uncomfortable skin. We also recommend dry body brushing to improve circulation, and regularly massaging the area so skin is fed with oxygen and nutrients and is more pliable and ready to stretch.
Another effective scar-combatting agent is vitamin B, known for its anti-inflammatory, pigment-fading and skin-healing properties. These benefits can also be applied to scarring of the face, left behind by acne and breakouts. We recommend our Vital B Elixir, combining Niacinamide (B3) with hydrating Hyaluronic Acid, redness-reducing Aloe Vera, and spot-fading Kakadu Plum and Mountain Pepperberry.
PREGNANCY AND BREASTFEEDING NO-NOS
There are a number of cosmetic ingredients that should be avoided throughout your pregnancy and beyond into breastfeeding. These have all been linked to various health concerns or are known to affect the development of your baby.
Whilst it’s important to continue getting plenty via your diet, remember to avoid vitamin A and its derivatives in your skincare, including prescription retinoids. This is why we reformulated our Age Defiance Night Serum to include Bakuchiol, as a pregnancy-safe alternative to vitamin A. Derived from the seeds and leaves of the Indian Babchi Plant, Bakuchiol shares many of the same outcomes as retinol, including an increase in cellular turnover, improved skin texture, and inhibition in the production of melanin.
A powerful skin lightener used frequently by dermatologists to combat melasma, hydroquinone has a high absorption rate and can penetrate the bloodstream, so it is recommended to steer clear during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
SALICYLIC AND GLYCOLIC ACIDS
Whilst effective ingredients in combating the types of breakouts, blockages and congestion you may be experiencing during this time, unfortunately Salicylic and Glycolic have been ruled out for pregnancy. However, lactic acid has been deemed appropriate for mums-to-be wanting a gentle chemical exfoliant.
Known to penetrate the blood system and trigger cellular changes in the body, essential oils can be very powerful. Some essential oils that are contraindicated should be avoided during pregnancy for those wanting to err on the side of caution. We use essential oils responsibly and in safe levels in our formulations, however products should be used at your own discretion and in consultation with your medical practitioner.
WE RECOMMEND AVOIDING THE FOLLOWING PRODUCTS DURING PREGNANCY AND BREASTFEEDING:
- Vital A Elixir – contains vitamin A
- Botanique Deodorant – contains clary sage essential oil
- Bioactive Body Elixir – contains sweet fennel essential oil
- Parfum – contains Jasmine essential oil
While all of the changes to our body and our skin can be turbulent and sometimes exhausting, the way forward is to simply navigate these murky waters as best we can. Many of the problems your skin is experiencing will either vanish completely or significantly improve after your pregnancy is complete. Just remember to be kind to yourself in the meantime – after all, your body is very busy creating a whole new life! And while not everyone is lucky enough to receive that beautiful pregnancy ‘glow’ the media tells us about, a reliable skincare routine can certainly bring you a step closer.