Pregnancy Glow - a Myth?
Pregnancy undoubtedly brings a whole host of new changes to the body, including the skin. Many might be expecting the famous ‘pregnancy glow’, only to realise that the skin misbehaves by breaking out, developing sun spots (aka melasma) and being incredibly sensitive, all thanks to the hormonal changes throughout these nine months.
A quick search online might (mis)lead the unknowing to misinformation regarding skincare during pregnancy, creating unnecessary confusion and frustration, during a time when the process should be enjoyed to the fullest. So we’ve done some reading and put together a list of baby-friendly skincare actives for specific concerns:
When the body produces larger amounts of certain hormones during pregnancy, excessive oil (sebum) builds up, leading to predisposition to acne. This could mean an exacerbation of existing acne condition, or development of acne in those who are fortunate enough to not have suffered from it during their lives!
Salicylic acid (a beta-hydroxy acid, or BHA) is great for exfoliating the skin, and the small percentages used in skincare are safe during pregnancy. If you are going for an in-office peel, though, let your practitioner know and you’d want to switch your BHA peel out; alternatives with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are still perfectly ok. Another topical active that is safe and effective during pregnancy is azelaic acid. Benzoyl peroxide, on the other hand, should be avoided, due to safety concerns identified in animal studies. Retinoids are teratogenic, and so is a clear ‘no’!
For some, melanocytes (the cells responsible in producing pigment in the skin) start producing extra pigment during pregnancy. Vitamin C, azelaic acid, and niacinamide are proven to be effective and safe options for both mum and baby. On the other hand, you should steer clear away from hydroquinone and derivatives of arbutin (which get broken down into hydroquinone in the skin), due to the FDA’s concerns of adverse events on foetus in animal studies. Tranexamic acid, while proven to be effective in hyperpigmentation, does not have sufficient safety data on expecting patients, so this should be one to discuss with your doctor.
Baby-friend ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and peptides are great for barrier repair, while azelaic acid also helps with rosacea-prone skin. However, if you’re unsure about any ingredient, speak with your doctor and follow their advice.
What about Sunscreen?
Daily sunscreen use is recommended by dermatologists. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has not found sunscreen actives to be harmful during pregnancy in animal and human studies. The FDA had expressed concerns of the amount of chemical sunscreen being absorbed into the skin and bloodstream, but more research is required on this end. For those who like to be safe (or with skin sensitivity), reach for mineral sunscreens (ones that contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide).
Disclosure: this article is not intended to replace medical advice by your healthcare provider. If you have further queries, book in with the M-ethod™ for an individualised skincare regime tailored to your needs.
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003, Volume 4, pages 473-492
Canadian Family Physician, 2011, pages 665-667
Dermatologic Therapy, 2013, pages 302-311
International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, 2017, pages 6-10
Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health, 2017, pages 63-70
Journal of Perinatology, 2017, pages 778-781