Your ultimate pregnancy skincare regimen
It can be very overwhelming trying to figure out where to begin with treating your skin while you're pregnant, not to mention difficult to understand the difference between what is actually good for you and what is not effective at all. So here are some do's and don'ts for how to keep your skin in its best shape possible during your pregnancy.
What to avoid:
In the obstetrics world, the only topical skin care ingredient that is considered unsafe during pregnancy is a prescription cream or gel called Tretinoin (aka Retin-A). Tretinoin is considered tetrogenic because of it’s similarity to isotretinoin (better known as Accutane). Isotretinoin is a medically recognized human tetrogen, which means it can disturb the development of the baby.
The over-the-counter and equally effective version of this drug is called Retinol. However, its use and safety during pregnancy is unknown. Retinol palmitate, a very weak form of retinol, is found at the end of ingredient decks on most skin care products because retinol palmitate is used as a preservative, not an active ingredient. Always ask your OB for clearance before using a product that contains any form of retinol on your skin.
What to include:
Hormonal fluctuations, especially in the beginning of pregnancy, can leave a woman feeling pretty blah! Then there’s the end of pregnancy when your glam-factor can be outweighed by your desire to just get labor over with, already. With so much going on, you are going to want a simple skin care program that covers all the bases, keeps you looking your best, and is quick and easy for morning and nighttime rituals.
As my clients know, I have a huge love for foaming enzyme cleansers. Enzyme cleansers are a happy medium between gentle creamy cleansers and super strong cleansers. Enzymes are natural ingredients that eat dead skin cells and the foaming action of the cleanser acts as a surfactant to sweep away, dirt, oil and debris. Between the enzymes and the foam, you will have perfectly clean skin that is not dry, tight or irritated.
Creamy cleansers are not as effective at keeping the skin clean and can cause more issues with clogged pores and acne. Not to mention, the build up of residue and dead skin these cleansers leave behind will prevent the absorption of products into the skin. On the flip side, super strong cleansers can over-strip the skin and may cause or exacerbate irritation. Because the skin may experience many hormonal fluctuations throughout your pregnancy, stay away from anything too aggressive that may cause sensitivities or inflammation.
Anti-aging and hydration
Pregnant or not, Peptides and Hyaluronic Acid are my super effective, yet super gentle, solution for all skin types.
Peptides are safe anti-agers and are bioavailable, which means that they have almost zero percent chance of causing any reaction. Peptides are chains of amino acids (like the amino acids found in your skin) that communicate to your cells to perform specific functions better. Your cells are designed to age and die, but peptides keep your cells performing certain functions at high levels in order to help them live longer and make your skin look healthier. Basically, they help your cells to outsmart the natural aging process.
Hyaluronic Acid is also found in every cell and delivers moisture to your body. Topical HA found in skin care products works by delivering high levels of hydration to the skin. This helps to keep the skin balanced and keep inflammation and irritation at bay. Remember, the more hydrated your skin is, the better all of your other skin care products work! I recommend applying HA serums while your skin is still damp. And it's important to seal in HA with a cream or SPF, otherwise the water content in the serum will absorb into the air, taking some of your skin’s own hydration with it.
When it comes to antioxidants, Vitamin C will always be my favorite. Not only does Vitamin C help to brighten skin by increasing skin health, but it also inhibits the enzyme that causes your skin to produce melanin. Melanin is what shows up in your skin as pigmentation (aka dark spots or sun spots). During pregnancy, high levels of Vitamin C can have a positive effect on brightening any hormonal pigmentation (chloasma) that may occur.
Apply Vitamin C in the morning to help protect your skin from the oxidative stress it receives from sun and stress during the day. Bonus: applying it in the morning also improves the performance of your daily SPF products.
During pregnancy, your skin is more sensitive to the rays of the sun. It is so important to use a high quality SPF on the regular (yep, every day) during your pregnancy. This one product will protect your skin in so many ways and prevent it from looking inflamed, pigmented and dull.
Invest in a high quality brand of sunscreen and select one that contains the opaque ingredients, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Opaque ingredients work the best to protect and prevent pigmentation. If you have any questions on which SPF is best, always ask your dermatologist what they recommend as the best quality and safety for use during pregnancy.
AHAs and Salicylic Acid
Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Salicylic Acid can be very safe and effective in helping to control acne and overall skin texture issues during pregnancy. However, be very careful about adding these products to your regimen because they can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun even more.
AHAs work to exfoliate the skin by dissolving “the glue” (aka corneocyte cohesion) that holds dead skin cells together. Salicylic Acid works by dissolving oil on the skin. A blend of the two ingredients together is excellent for safely preventing blackheads and whiteheads.
There are many different ways you can use these ingredients, including masks, serums and creams. Because these types of products can cause dryness, irritation, and make your skin more sensitive to the sun, don’t use them unless you are already on a balanced and healthy skin care routine using many, if not all, of the ingredients I outlined above.
The key to healthy, excellent-looking skin is not acids and exfoliators…the key is balance, nutrition, hydration and protection. Exfoliating ingredients like AHAs and Salicylic Acid should be considered icing on the cake in making your skin glow and look its best.