Topical skin changes are common in pregnancy; appearing as stretch marks (recorded in as many as 90% of all pregnancies), as well as other skin conditions like acne and hyper-pigmentation. When pregnant, it’s difficult to know what can be used to treat or delay changes, on what was once an unchanged complexion.
So, let’s start with those pesky stretch marks. Characterised by distinguished linear marks, often red, purple or white in colour, stretch marks are likely to appear across the abdomen, hips, thighs and breasts buttocks. Forming around the 25th week of gestation, just as the body begins to stretch a little more to make way for bub’s growth. So, why do they appear? This comes down to the elasticity of the skin (you can thank your genetics for this!) The breakdown of the elasticity causes the fibres in the dermis (our middle skin layer) to shine through to the epidermis (the outer skin layer) giving the unpleasant ‘tiger-stripe’ appearance. Although stretch marks cause no medical harm to you or baby, aesthetically they may cause anxiety for many women, impacting on everyday life. Note: They can also be super itchy!
It’s important to note that stretch marks are an incredibly common – and not just in pregnancy. Puberty, growth and weight-gain can also cause stretch marks, mostly on the thighs and waist.
Keep hydrated. Up your daily intake of water, especially if you work in air-conditioning or dry conditions. The science behind hydration is simple; it flushes out toxins, oxygenates the body, and gives us a radiant glow – no Insta-filter necessary!
Keep your skin hydrated with high quality moisturisers and body serums that are rich in vitamins B,C,E as well as ingredients such as rosehip oil, grapeseed oil, ginseng and licorice root. The combination of these will keep the skin firm and luminous while helping to fight off the effects of ageing thanks to anti-oxidant properties. Apply a body moisturiser in the morning and at night treat yourself to a dry body exfoliation to remove dead skin cells, followed by a body serum before bed (don’t forget the dark chocolate squares for added anti-oxidants!)
Regular use of body lotions and serums enriched with these vitamins during pregnancy, as well as prior to and beyond, will help to regulate the production of collagen and support the outer layer of the skin. Make Friday nights a date night with your skin. Do it!
As for the rest…
Acne and hyper-pigmentation are two of the other most common skin conditions noted in pregnancy. Acne in pregnancy is the result of the hormonal imbalance, particularly in the early stages, when oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone alike are all fighting for a harmonious balance. The typical solution in said outbreak is to reach for the oil-control face scrub. The problem with this, is the skin becomes reliant on the active ingredients (chiefly benzoyl peroxide) and finds itself needing to compensate for the consistent loss of oil. This can make the skin dry, flaky, red and irritated. Not to mention persistent breakouts from harshly disrupting the skin, and the natural oils work in overdrive.
A little patience and gentle cleansers are the best way to approach hormonal flare-ups during pregnancy. Avoid foaming cleansers and instead opt for lactic acid based cleansers and gentle toners contain aloe vera, cucumber and witch hazel.
Never use topical retinoids during pregnancy (vitamin A) as there is a link between retinol use and birth defects.
Chemical peels are a fantastic option for active acne, post-inflammatory acne, acne scarring and pigmentation. Peel strengths vary dependant on skin type, and comprises of glycolic, lactic and salyicic acids targeting superficial scarring, active acne, and superficial pigmentation.
Micro-dermabrasion is a popular, non surgical technique which involves a device that blows crystals onto the skin surface to polish and remove dead skin cells. It is used for a range of conditions such as acne, scaring, photo-aging and stretch marks. Studies have shown that regular micro-dermabrasion treatment on stretch marks results in an improvement in discolouration and skin contour.
Laser therapy can also be performed to fade the appearance of stretch marks, or when in combination with other treatments, can provide safe and effective reduction in the appearance of both red (early-onset) and white (late-stage) stretch marks. Laser therapies work by using wavelengths of light to stimulate growth of collagen, elastin or melanin production in the skin.
For optimum results, we suggest chatting with a skin specialist at a trusted skin clinic. We have a number of recommendations for safe skin products to use during pregnancy and beyond, as well as information for skin clinics in the area.
If at anytime throughout your pregnancy you feel concerned about your skin, please don’t hesitate to chat with Dr Elgey or our friendly staff.