For some lucky women, pregnancy provides a beauty treatment for skin that trumps anything you can buy in a jar. That added blood volume coursing through your body brings a flush to your cheeks, and rising hormone levels cause the skin glands to produce more oil, making your skin supple and shiny. The total effect is a lovely pregnancy "glow."
Unfortunately, many women skip that glow and battle skin problems instead. Hormone changes can cause skin to misbehave, so it's slick one minute and scaly the next. Here are some strategies for coping:
- Oily skin. If your body's unique mix of pregnancy hormones is especially strong, you may find yourself with acne like you haven't seen since high school. Although many over-the-counter (OTC) topical acne medications are safe for you to use, avoid creams that contain retinol, benzoyl peroxide, or antibiotics. Always ask your prenatal provider before using any OTC medications just to be sure. You should also stay away from prescription acne medications, including vitamin A-derivative lotions such as Accutane, Retin-A, Differin, and Tazorac.
Clear your shelves of any topical cleansers, makeup, or moisturizers that contain chemical exfoliants made with salicylic acid. Chemical exfoliants that don't contain salicylic acid are safe to use and can help remove dead skin cells.
What else can you do? Because most pregnancy acne is caused by pores clogged with oil, keep your pores clear with mechanical exfoliants. (Mechanical exfoliants are products that may contain synthetic beads or ground-up nutshells, which help scrub away dead skin.) Choose a nondrying daily cleanser and wash your skin with a gentle, oatmeal-base facial scrub a few times a week to further clean pores and remove dead skin. You can also try clarifying masks. For a home remedy, beat two egg whites into soft peaks, apply them to your face, and rinse after 15 minutes. Use oil-free makeup and oil-free sunblock and carry blotting papers to sop up excess oily shine.
- Dry skin. How can you possibly suffer from acne breakouts one month and dry skin the next? Simple: As your hormones naturally fluctuate, so will your skin's appearance.
To cope with flaking skin, boost your water intake to stay hydrated. Topical creams moisturize your skin from the outside, but water helps hydrate your skin from the inside. Remove dead skin cells with a gentle scrubbing cleanser, such as one that contains oatmeal.
Apply baby oil or a scent-free moisturizer twice a day, preferably when your skin is damp, to seal in moisture. Another good trick is to shower for no more than 10 minutes in warm (not hot) water and use a mild moisturizing cleanser and a light body oil while you're in the shower. You can make a moisturizing mask at home by cooking oatmeal until it's thick, letting it cool, and patting it onto your face. Let it dry for 20 minutes; then rinse with warm water. Body balms and a room humidifier also leave skin smoother and more supple, and wearing natural fabrics such as cotton will allow your skin to breathe.
Because of their proven association with birth defects, do not use these dermatologic medications during your pregnancy:
- Fluconazole, an antifungal agent
- Tetracycline, an antibiotic often prescribed for acne
- Minoxidil, a hair-promoting agent
- Isotretinoin, prescribed for severe nodular acne
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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