Hormones can play a large role in how someone's complexion changes over the course of their life. For the female body, puberty marks the beginning of a regular cycle known as the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle is the body's way of preparing the uterus for fertilization each month.
Over the course of 28-35 days hormones will fluctuate to stimulate the release of an egg from the ovaries (ovulation), thicken the uterine lining (womb), and then shed the uterine lining (menstruation) when fertilization does not occur through bleeding. This process repeats until pregnancy (fertilization) and menopause (cessation of menstrual cycles.)
We have talked in the past about how someone’s complexion might change over the course of the menstrual cycle due to the changes in progesterone and estrogen in the body and how they affect sebum production in the skin. See: Balancing Hormones Naturally and Skincare Routines for Menstrual Cycles.
In this blog, we are going to dive into the most common skin problems women encounter before, during, and after pregnancy.
In our last blog Pregnancy & Skincare, we asked local midwife, Angelique…What are the most common potential skin problems you see during pregnancy?
- Dryness & Itchiness
- Increased sensitivity
- Increased hair growth on face
Let’s dive a little deeper into this topic shall we?
Dryness & Itchiness
The body undergoes an incredible transformation during pregnancy. It is normal to feel somewhat itchy and tight. Angelique mentions that certain types of itchiness, i.e. relentless itchiness on the palms may be a good reason to check-in with your healthcare provider. Keeping hydrated and using natural skincare products can help a lot with dryness. We recommend choosing oil-based moisturizers with little scent or essential oil to keep things safe and neutral!
Midwife Mantra - “For real, drink lots of water-it just helps....”
Melasma is the change in melanin production due to fluctuating estrogen levels paired with sun exposure. It can appear as patches of discolouration on the skin. Melasma usually goes away within a year after delivery. Sleep and proper UV protection can make a big difference!
Pregnancy hormones can make the skin especially sensitive to the sun - always make sure you have a zinc-oxide or titanium-dioxide sunblock on. Take breaks while in the sun, and make sure to hydrate lots!
Midwife Mantra - “Pigmentation on certain areas of skin, armpits, nipples, groin and sometimes face can become darker. Always check with your health care provider if you are worried, but again, the body is just preparing you for all the changes the baby will bring. “
The first trimester is when women can experience an intense surge of a wide range of symptoms from morning sickness, acne, excitement, mood swings, fatigue, depression, tender breasts, heartburn, food cravings, food revulsion, constipation, or nothing at all!
Midwife Mantra - “Be mindful that skincare products you have used your whole life may not smell as awesome or may be irritating to your skin while pregnant....sensitivities to all things in life can alter...fret not.”
The presence of acne on the skin can absolutely be related to hormones changing during pregnancy. It is extremely common for women to experience the appearance of acne after going off hormonal birth control to get pregnant. The acne may be associated with pregnancy, however, it could be more-so related to the balancing of hormones and the flushing of synthetic hormones from the body! (It is normal for anyone going off birth control to experience acne. It is also normal to be prescribed birth control as a method of treatment for acne… a vicious cycle).
During the first trimester, there is a rise of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone. One of its roles is to maintain progesterone production to thicken the uterine lining to keep the growing embryo alive. Progesterone can cause the skin to be more blemish-prone because of how it affects oil production in the skin.
As estrogen starts to rise and prepare the body for breastfeeding and childbirth the skin can start to balance out as well.
It is really hard to predict what will happen from person-to-person and pregnancy- to pregnancy; however, both acne and glowing skin are common. We recommend you just find a routine and product line you enjoy (and is safe for pregnancy) and stick to it.
Varicose veins are enlarged veins that can be red, blue, or skin color. They are a common occurrence in the legs in the third trimester. During the third trimester of pregnancy, the hormones cause veins to dilate to carry more blood. Also, as the uterus continues to expand, it puts pressure on the vein that carries blood from the legs and feet to the heart. Although varicose veins are not considered a medical issue, they may be painful.
A few ways to minimize varicose veins include:
- not sitting with crossed legs or standing for extended periods of time
- keeping your legs elevated whenever possible and wearing compression stockings
- exercising to maintain a healthy circulation
Varicose veins will likely get better after you deliver your baby, but if they don’t there are several different treatment options you can discuss with your doctor. Ref: Healthline
Increased Facial Hair
Increased facial hair could be related to the rise of secondary sex hormones in the body due to pregnancy. These hormones are preparing the body for childbirth and breastfeeding. If you have a family history of thicker, coarser hair you might notice these traits even more during pregnancy.
Top Skin Care Tips for Pregnancy
- Drink lots of water
- Remember your body is changing A LOT, it's normal to be experiencing itchiness and tightness.
- Find resources and a healthcare professional you trust. No Googling…. Less fear!
- Get lots of rest
- Just let yourself be. Comparison is toxic!
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
- Make self care a priority! Establishing routines will be helpful postpartum, although they may disappear for a bit.
- Elevate those legs!
- Consult a doctor before using creams with steroids, retinols, or other intense skin medication during pregnancy!