You are probably familiar with what you shouldn’t put into your body during pregnancy. But do you also know what you shouldn’t be putting on it? Pippa Naudé explains how your skincare choices may change during pregnancy.
Dermatologist Dr Barbara Fine explains that you can expect your skin to change during pregnancy, which might require you to adapt your skincare routine. She says, “Your skin may be more sensitive during pregnancy. If this is the case for you, it may be necessary to avoid harsh soaps and irritating substances. You might also find your acne improves… or it can be triggered or even worsen. If so, you should not use moisturisers on your face in order to minimise flare-ups.”
What to avoid during pregnancy
Dr Fine also warns that you should avoid certain ingredients that are used to treat skin conditions and which could have adverse effects on your unborn baby. They are:
- Retinoids – chemicals related to Vitamin A. Dr Fine stresses the absolute avoidance of oral retinoids such as Isotretinoins like Roaccutane. Topical lotions containing retinoids are probably also best avoided, such as Retin A, Retacnyl and Differin.
- Tetracycline – an antibiotic used to treat a wide variety of infections, including acne.
- Hydroquinone – a skin bleaching agent
Stretchmarks occur when the skin stretches rapidly, which causes the collagen fibres and elastic tissues to strain and finally break. This creates small tears. The underlying skin tissue pushes up through these gaps and this is what you see as thin, raised lines.
“Up to 90% of pregnant women will develop stretchmarks,” says dermatologist Dr Rakesh Newaj. “This greater likelihood is caused by two things. Firstly, the growing baby, developing breasts and weight gain stretch the skin. Secondly, during the second trimester hormones soften the ligaments in the pelvic region for childbirth. However, these hormones also soften the collagen in skin, making the pregnant woman more prone to stretchmarks.”
Dr Newaj advises the following to prevent or reduce their appearance:
- Massage the skin with moisturisers to improve circulation, encourage collagen growth and keep the skin pliable.
- Aim for steady rather than rapid weight gain. Adopt a healthy diet and understand that even though you are ‘eating for two’, your small baby does not need portions equal to yours.
He adds that most treatments for stretchmarks – such as laser therapy or tretinoin creams prescribed by health professionals – only help improve their appearance, but do not take them away completely. For this reason, prevention is preferable.
The appearance of brown to grey patches on the skin (and most typically on the face) is called melasma. It is especially common during pregnancy because of hormonal changes that promote pigment formation. This is why melasma is sometimes called ‘the mask of pregnancy’.
Dr Fine says, “Minimising sun exposure can help avoid melasma, and a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 should be used daily. If you get melasma, it should fade a few months after delivery, but may not disappear completely.”
Dr Fine also recommends you have a mole check in early pregnancy, followed up with another check in the third trimester if your dermatologist thinks it is necessary.
If you dye your hair, you’ll be happy to know you can continue to do so throughout your pregnancy. Midwife Christine Klynhans from Midwives Exclusive says, “Although many of the chemicals used during hair colouring procedures probably have the potential to cause damage to a baby, they are unlikely to do so during the few sessions that you may be exposed to them during pregnancy, as only a small amount will be absorbed into the body.”
She adds that a greater concern is for pregnant women who work in hair salons and are exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis. If this applies to you, Christine says, “Make sure that any procedures are done in a well-ventilated area and wear protective gloves if you will be getting these on your hands.”
If you enjoy Brazilian hair treatments, the news isn’t good. “These treatments may contain chemicals like formaldehyde, which are more dangerous in pregnancy. Therefore rather forsake this while pregnant,” she says.
Lianne Walker, a beauty therapist who runs Lianne’s Health & Beauty Salon, says that pregnant women should avoid massage in the third trimester, especially on the lower back, feet and hands, as it could cause premature labour. She adds, “Up until the second trimester you can safely get a massage, but it should be very gentle and only use plain grapeseed or coconut oil. There are therapists who specialise in pregnancy massage and will know which places and pressure points to avoid.”
Although there are a few essential oils (like lavender and chamomile) that are safe to use during pregnancy, Lianne cautions that many others carry risks. As a result she advises that it is probably best to avoid aromatherapy while pregnant.
She also warns against Medi-Heel pedicures as the product can get into your bloodstream, which could be harmful for the baby.
The hot tub
Hot baths and saunas are not recommended during pregnancy, as a high maternal body temperature has been linked to certain abnormalities and miscarriage says Christine. She adds, “This should be seen in context though. If you are in a bath hot enough to raise your body temperature you will probably start feeling uncomfortable and choose to get out of the tub anyway. Therefore, don’t distress if you are currently pregnant and have had a few hot baths. To play it safe, test the water with your forearm before getting in.”
Christine also suggests you use bubble baths and other fragranced products with caution, as these may lead to vaginal thrush and irritations in pregnancy.
Baby & Beauty Products
Moms are resourceful. That’s why they’ve sussed out baby products that can double up as effective beauty products, such as:
- Nipple cream for lip balm
- Wet wipes for removing make-up
- Talc as a dry shampoo or to prevent your shoes from smelling
- Bum cream for mild irritations like rashes or mozzie bites
- Aqueous cream as a soap substitute (just as used for babies)