Understanding your pregnancy skin
Despite common belief, not everyone gets that gorgeous ‘pregnancy glow’ whilst expecting, so I spoke to skin care expert and therapist Katharine Mackenzie Paterson to find out a bit more about what happens to our biggest organ during pregnancy.
It’s always a joy to have pregnant clients at KMP Skin, and provide them with some well deserved relaxation and pampering. On occasion though, if an expectant mother is struggling with her skin or a body issue, one of the things I have noticed is that they feel almost as though they are not entitled to complain, because there is this miraculous process happening to them.
The skin on our face is always on show, and can contribute to such a massive part of our emotional wellbeing and confidence, so when Jen asked me share some of my expertise about some of the changes that can affect your skin during pregnancy, I was really keen, so at least if you are experiencing changes in your skin, hopefully you won’t feel so panicked and unsure of what to do to help.
I thought this would be a good one to focus on first- because pregnancy glow is actually ‘a thing’, and if you’re experiencing it, amazing - enjoy it!
It’s believed you actually get a glow whilst pregnant due to increased levels of oestrogen, which is responsible for increasing blood flow to aid growth of your baby and transfer nutrients. (Progesterone’s main function is to loosen your ligaments/muscles and to help your internal structures to increase in size.) This combined with producing more oil, and around a 40% increase in blood volume, gives you that peachy, radiant, dewy looking skin.
'Pregnancy mask’, as it’s more commonly known, is scientifically known as melasma or chloasma. Melasma can happen to anyone, and not just during pregnancy, but can commonly be triggered in pregnancy by the changes in hormone levels, particularly by an abundance of oestrogen, and also by your body producing extra melanin, which it does to protect your skin against the UV light. Melasma is more common in people with darker skin tones and those who tan very easily. It appears as patches of brown or greyish pigmentation, quite commonly on the upper lip and on the forehead.
Typically, pregnancy induced melasma will start to fade when a pregnancy ends, or after you finish breast feeding, if you are breast feeding. Occasionally it can stay permanently on the skin though. There isn’t really a lot you can do with melasma if you’re experiencing it during your pregnancy, the best thing to do is just ride it out… however, being really vigilant with applying SPF on your skin daily, will prevent the pigment getting any darker. Wearing a hat during the summer, and avoiding anything which stimulates excessive heat in your body. In terms of skincare, using a pregnancy safe Vitamin C product will help to keep the pigment brighter too.
Another quite common skincare issue during pregnancy is skin sensitivity. Again, triggered by altered hormone levels, you may become more sensitive to the sunlight, products or your skin may feel quite delicate, taught and itchy.
Generally your skin can become sensitive because there is an increased blood flow to the skin, and also because your skin will be stretching everywhere on your body to a certain degree, not just on your torso.
If you are a sufferer of eczema or psoriasis, you may find that these can get worse during pregnancy. With some psoriasis sufferers, they may actually find that their psoriasis improves because the immune cells which normally would aggravate it, decrease during pregnancy.
Rashes or hives can be really common to suffer with during pregnancy. This generally happens because there is a heightened production of histamines, which are the cells that are triggered to calm a reaction and create an anti- inflammatory response.
If you’re suffering with skin sensitivity during pregnancy, stay out of the sun, avoid any activities where you might increase blood flow to the skin, and avoid perfumed products on the skin.
I’m going to break this down into two different sections to cover two types of acne, both common in pregnancies. Any type of spot or blemish is a form of acne, so even if you just have the odd spot, or occasional breakout, this will still apply to you.
Acne Vulgaris is normally caused by an increased oil production and dead skin cells blocking the hair follicles, causing an inflammation in the skin pore. If you suffer with an increased amount of black heads, raised red spots, or pimples with a head.
Acne Rosacea tends to occur in people that already suffer with quite sensitive, delicate skins and eczema and psoriasis sufferers. Although you can have an increased oil production with Acne Rosacea, skin can also feel very sensitive and dry too. It tends to appear as raised red spots, that don’t often get a head on them, combined with high colouring in the face.
It is likely that an increased hormone level in the skin would have contributed to this during pregnancy, as androgens can increase oil production and affect the skins cellular turnover.
If your acne seems to be very hormone related, it might be a case of riding out the storm during the first trimester until everything has started to settle down in your body, but there are definitely ways that you can help acne, and the advice below applies to both types.
I would firstly recommend stripping your skincare regime back to something really simple. Cleanse, tone (if needed as an astringent for oily skins), moisturise and use SPF. Try to avoid using products with added fragrances, or with pore clogging ingredients. Dermatological brands can be a good shout at this time as they tend to be ‘non fussy’. Also, unfortunately there’s all the boring advice too - avoiding sugary, processed foods (for acne rosacea sufferers cutting out diary can also really help), washing bed sheets regularly, trying to make a conscious effort not to touch your face too much and also cleaning your phone regularly - as phones are bacteria monsters!
In terms of treatments, LED light is a very good way to help to treat acne, and generally most places will offer it as a quick treatment, if you find it uncomfortable to lay for a long time. For the best results going at least once a week is advised. Also a non systemic peel such as iS Clinical Fire and Ice is amazing as it’s a results driven peel safe for pregnancy.
I have listed below some great products to help with the different skincare issues I’ve spoken about in this blog piece. I have included a mixture of high street and, more luxury skincare products, so there should be something to cover every budget:
High Street: CeraVe Cleansers
These come in a variety of different textures from cream to foaming, to cover different skin types and are a really effective affordable option. (Available form Boots & Superdrug, most chemists too)
Luxury: iS Clinical cleansing Complex
One of the most popular cleansers at KMP Skin, this cleanser lasts for ages, doesn’t have any fragrance, and really effectively and gently removes all the daily dirt and grime, without stripping your skin. (Available from KMP Skin)
For sensitive skin on the body & dry skin:
High St: La Roche Posay Lipikar Baume AP+
Great for eczema prone skins, and just general body moisturising with no added unnecessary ingredients. You can even use this on little people. (Available in most Boots)
Luxury: Epionce Renewal Body Lotion
A really nice non perfumed, paraben free body cream, with lots of lipids and ceramides to help to nourish skin, and keep it fixed and hydrated too. (Available from KMP Skin)
For dullness, age prevention, natural pollution protection - Vitamin C Serum
Vitamin C is a great active ingredient to use during pregnancy, as it’s suitable for pretty much all skincare types, and will help with brightening dull skin, help to heal any scars left from pregnancy acne, calm any sensitivity and also provide great antioxidant protection from pollution and UV.
High Street: La Roche Posay Redermic C10+
A really well formulated high street Vitamin C with added Hyaluronic Acid for dehydration. Also suitable for all skin types, even sensitive skins. (Available form Boots & Superdrug, most chemists too)
Luxury: iS Clinical Pro Heal Serum
This Vitamin C is designed for anyone who has sensitised, compromised skin, thus being great for women who are suffering with their skin changing. It also has a slightly higher level of Vitamin C at 15%, making it that bit more effective in terms of antioxidant protection. (Available from KMP Skin)
For acne breakouts and oilier skins
High Street: The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Cream
Azelaic acid is considered safe for use during pregnancy, and Azelaic acid is also great for busting rosacea too. This can be used at night time and will help to increase cell turnover. (Available in most Boots/ www.boots.com / Fenwick)
Luxury: iS Clinical Active Serum
This serum is AMAZING as it’s results driven, but the active ingredients in this are non systemic, meaning that it can be used during pregnancy and post natal whilst breast feeding. Its a godsend as a lot of actives (such as Vitamin A/Retinol) can’t be used throughout pregnancy. (Available from KMP Skin)
For pigmentation / melasma
Stick to treating pigmentation aggressively after pregnancy and breast feeding for best results. But invest in a great sunscreen, which will help to further protect and prevent.
High Street: La Roche Posay Anthelios
Lightweight, and can be used on little family members too, you can get formulas that target sensitive skins, in a variety of factors, although I suggest SPF 50 for faces. (Available from www.boots.com)
Luxury: Heliocare 360 Color Gel
All Heliocare sunscreens are amazing but if you’re suffering with a bit of melasma, or you would like to have a slight coverage, but not wear a full face of make up (sometimes women feel slightly claustrophobic wearing make up during pregancy) these come in three different shades. (Available from KMP Skin)
Thank you so much Katharine! To contact this skincare whizz (and super lovely human) visit her website here: http://www.kmpskin.com/