We know you were smart about sun protection before you got pregnant (right?), but now it's even more important. Your skin is extra sensitive to rays in the early stages of mommyhood. However, you certainly don't need to miss out on summer fun. Just carry this advice (and a bottle of sunblock!) with you for healthy, beautiful skin now and for years ahead.
During pregnancy, pigment-producing cells called melanocytes kick into overdrive, making your skin more susceptible to discoloration (anything from freckles to melasma) when it's exposed to UV rays. "And pregnancy alters your immune system, which may put you at a higher risk of developing skin cancer if you don't take precautions," says Ava Shamban, M.D., a dermatologist in Santa Monica, California, and author of Heal Your Skin. "Your skin is your first line of defense against the sun, so it's essential to protect it with an SPF cream," she says. Be sure to reapply sunscreen every three hours (more often if you're sweating) and after you swim.
Pick a formula that guards against UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of 30 or higher. In your extra-sensitive state, steer clear of chemical sunscreens and go for physical blockers (the label will list zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as main ingredients). They sit on top of skin, rather than being absorbed into it.
Try Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock Lotion SPF 60+ ($11; drugstore.com)
Pregnant celebs may parade their string-bikinied bumps on the beach, but a one-piece or tankini is a smarter choice. Your prominent belly catches rays from every angle when you're lounging, so it's more vulnerable to getting burned, says Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., a dermatologist in Washington, D.C. Don't want your linea negra to get darker? Then it's best not to let it see the light of day. Cover it up!
Cheapie or luxe, a pair of shades are a must! In addition to slathering on sunscreen, you do your face a favor if you don sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection regularly, and a hat with a big brim when you're out in the sun for an extended time.
Maternity styles may be lacking, but brands like Mott 50 (Mott 50.com) and Solumbra (SunPrecautions.com) make tunics in generous sizes that offer the equivalent of SPF 30 or higher. There's also SunGuard ($2; SunGuardSunProtection.com), a laundry detergent that adds SPF to your clothes.
Originally published in the June 2011 issue of American Baby magazine.
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