Pregnancy and your skin 27th Nov 2019 | By Kesiree Naidoo Pregnancy and your skin Congratulations you are pregnant and while you’re expecting a beautiful glowing skin that we’ve come to associate with pregnant women, there may be a few unexpected surprises leaving you less than happy! To begin with pregnancy can affect not just your skin, but your hair and nails too. Most body changes observed in pregnancy are regarded as physiological or normal and result from hormonal, vascular, metabolic and immmunologic alterations which are necessary to sustain a healthy baby. Not all changes are bad and the good news is that most of these physical changes regress in the first six months after delivery anyway. Some women experience healthier and better looking skin in pregnancy. The ‘pregnancy glow’ results from a combination of 50% more circulating blood volume giving you a brighter or flushed appearance, and a hormonally driven increase in sebum production making the skin more shiny. Other common vascular changes are reddening of the palms (palmar erythema), spider veins and varicose veins. Most of these changes can be attributed to the effects of oestrogen and an increase in the circulating blood volume. Stria gravidarum (stretch marks) are caused by changes in the connective tissue or literal ‘stretching of the skin’ in pregnancy. Stretch marks usually develop on the belly, hips, buttocks, breasts, or thighs during the later stages of pregnancy when the body is rapidly growing. Most stretch marks fade to pale or flesh-coloured lines and shrink after delivery, although they usually do not disappear completely. Higher levels of oestrogen prolong the growth phase of the hair, resulting in less shedding and thicker, healthier looking hair especially in the third trimester. Unfortunately the hair may quickly go into the resting phase after delivery leading to a depressing loss of hair within the first 6-12 months after delivery. This condition is known as telogen effluvium and thankfully full regrowth is the norm. Some may experience increased hair growth or hirsutism on the upper lip, chin and cheeks which luckily usually abates after delivery. Pregnant women may develop harder, thickened nails, while others find that their nails are softer or more brittle. These changes are temporary, and the nails should return to normal. Melasma also known as ‘mask of pregnancy’ is probably the most disturbing form of hyperpigmentation in pregnancy affecting as many as 90% of women. Other forms of hyperpigmentation include darkening of the areola, linea nigra (vertical pigmented line than runs down the middle of the abdomen) and darkening of pre-existing moles (melanocytic naevi). Hyperpigmentation is thought to be related to increased oestrogen, progesterone and melanocyte stimulating hormone. Fortunately the hyperpigmentation of pregnancy regresses in most cases. There are numerous treatments for Melasma but many of these are not suitable in pregnancy. Eccrine glands activity increases in pregnancy with increased sweating making pregnant women heat intolerant and contributing to discomfort in the third trimester. Increased androgens boost sebum production with a resultant oilier skin. Fortunately an oilier skin does not always mean acne. Acne breakouts usually occur during early pregnancy. Remember that not all treatments and products are safe to use during pregnancy and its important to check if your pre-pregnancy treatments are still suitable. Besides these physiological or normal changes in pregnancy, pregnant women are also susceptible to common skin diseases or skin concerns. Dry or sensitive skin may occur for the first time during pregnancy or be part of an ongoing problem. Pre-existing skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and rosacea may improve or worsen. While you are pregnant you may need to change your existing skincare regimen for one that doesn’t contain ingredients that are unsafe or have high irritation potential. In general vitamin A and its derivatives, including retinol, are not safe for use. If you would like our advice on whether you can still use any of your existing creams, please email us or alternatively book an appointment with our medical therapist or dermatologist.