There’s more to being pregnant than just the bulging belly. You have unusual cravings, mood swings and expanded waistline. The nine months also comes with skin changes. Now, the luckier ones get rosy cheeks and great hair, but other expectant moms struggle with discoloration, varicose veins, breakouts and skin tags. Pregnancy can also bring hypersensitivity, which means for the nine months, your favorite beauty products and jewelry are off-limits.
Skin Changes During Pregnancy To Watch Out For
So why are these happening? Hormone fluctuations. Mount Sinai Medical Center New York Associate clinical dermatology professor Dr. Judith Hellman says progesterone and estrogen level changes affect pregnant women’s skin. Below are other surprises that await you.
- Clear complexion and pregnancy glow – According to experts, a combination of oil, 40-percent blood volume rise and hormones render the mother-to-be’s skin to appear shiny or luminous while pregnant. Hellman says the hormonal changes send more nutrients and oxygen to the organs. The radiance can also be due to the weight gain, filling out the skin and tightening it so it looks smoother.
- Dark skin blotches – Nearly half of expectant moms develop melasma. These are dark, big patches on the face (also called “pregnancy mask”) due to elevated hormone levels. The hyperpigmentation typically manifests symmetrically on the nose, forehead and cheeks. Preventing melasma is difficult. The only options to avoid it worsening are to keep away from the sun and apply broad-spectrum sunscreens.
- Hair all over – The drawback of having beautiful hair that grows fast: not all of it happens on the head. Some grow on the legs, armpits, face and bikini lines. Bleach creams or depilatories will do for small regions like the lips, but they’re no good for bikini lines. These products contain active ingredients calcium thioglycolate and barium sulfide that can enter the bloodstream and affect the baby. They have yet to be proven safe for pregnant women.
- Procedures like depilatories and waxing can hurt and result in rashes or breakouts. Shaving is less irritating. Hey, it’s all temporary so why sweat it? Hair, including those on the head, will begin falling out three to six months after giving birth (called telogen effluvium) says NYU Medical Center clinical associate professor Dr. Elizabeth Hale.
- Moles – Either new ones start showing up or the ones you have start growing bigger. Sometimes women develop pregnancy tumors or pyogenic granulomas on the mouth or hands. Although most are nothing serious, seeing a dermatologist if anything strange appears doesn’t hurt. Hellman says that skin cancers emerge while pregnant so better get examined to be sure.
- Dark stripe on abdomen – Around 75 percent of women develop linea nigra, a dark vertical line from the belly to the pubic portion. It happens because more melanin is produced during pregnancy, explains Advanced DermCare dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara. The nipples might turn dark too. These two disappear after pregnancy. UV rays can darken the linea nigra further so apply sunscreen if wearing belly-exposing bikinis.
- Breakouts – More progesterone means more oil produced, causing the breakouts, says dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch. Steer clear of acne products containing retinoids, salicylic acid and retinol as they can cause birth defects. Mount Sinai Medical Center plastic surgery assistant professor Matthew Schulman suggests using benzoyl peroxide instead since it’s proven safe for use while pregnant. Natural topical remedies like lavender and tea tree oil, crystal-free microdermabrasion and intense pulsed light treatments are other options.
- Lush, thick hair days – The hair of pregnant women rest longer before it falls out, resulting in thicker manes. It’s the same for the nails, they grow stronger and longer. Hirsch says pregnancy drives up blood volume, water and hormones. This effect also fades after pregnancy.
- Sensitive skin – Hale says this can happen even with materials or products that didn’t bother you before, but is most common with jewelry. Go for fragrance-free mild products and test skincare products behind the ear or wrist prior to using them.
- Skin tags – These are small, harmless growths connected to the body by a narrow, tiny base. They’re usually noted in high-friction areas like the groin, the neck base, underarms or under breasts and appear within the third or second trimesters. Schulman says that progesterone and estrogen levels rise during pregnancy, stimulating the outer layers of the skin to grow. While some do shrink upon giving birth, most stay, but dermatologists can take them out.
- Varicose veins – The elevated blood volume making the cheeks glow also places pressure on the veins of the leg, leading to swelling that hurts. Manhattan Vein Treatment Center director Dr. Luis Navarro describes varicose veins as swollen veins that are unusually stretched and protrude from skin. They’re often caused by weak walls or faulty vein valves.
Exercise improves circulation and prevents blood from being pooled in one spot. Women who are on their feet for extended periods should consider wearing compression hose. Sclerotherapy after delivery or when over having children is one treatment says Navarro.
Clearly, a lot goes on when you’re pregnant, especially with your skin. Now that you know pretty much what to expect in terms of your skin with a baby growing inside you, there’s little chance of you freaking out once you start encountering them. Have fun with the whole pregnancy experience.