What to Expect (of Your Skin) When You're Expecting: How pregnancy hormones influence your skin
By Lizzy Moran, Holistic Hormonal Wellness Coach
It sounds cliche, but the process of creating a human being with our own bodies is a miracle. One can expect a multitude of varying physical and emotional experiences from excitement to fear, morning sickness to a changing body and identity. The same can be said for skin during pregnancy. We often hear of the pregnancy glow thanks to the abundance of estrogen and extra blood volume. But many can also struggle with acne, dry/itchy skin and hyperpigmentation.
During pregnancy a person’s hormonal composition looks a lot different than it would if one were still cycling. At the beginning of pregnancy progesterone and estrogen slowly rise. As the placenta develops the production of these two hormones will be taken over by this new organ you have just grown until you give birth. Yes, that’s right, you not only grow an entire human but also a completely new organ.
You can learn more about hormones like estrogen and progesterone and their influence on your skin throughout all seasons of life by downloading our free ebook, Hormonal Health and Radiant Skin Ebook.
Hyperpigmentation or Melasma
A major contributor to hyperpigmented skin is caused by high levels of estrogen, which is abundant during pregnancy. Estrogen stimulates the production of melanocytes in the skin to produce more melanin or skin pigment. Unfortunately, many of the conventional treatments to treat melasma, like hydroquinone or retinoids, are best avoided during pregnancy due to their class C designation from the FDA.
Some natural ways to manage melasma while pregnant:
- USE SUNSCREEN. Ideally a non-toxic, mineral based sunscreen. The FDA recently conducted a study that found that the active ingredients in sunscreen can be absorbed through the skin directly into the bloodstream and that the levels of chemicals found absorbed by the skin were deemed to be unsafe. Not good for you or your growing baby.
- Eat Fiber. Support healthy digestion to ensure detox of circulating estrogen metabolites by pooping daily! Digestion can get sluggish during pregnancy due to high levels of progesterone circulating in the body. Eating fiber rich foods like whole grains and cruciferous veggies can help your body to flush waste optimally.
- Moisturize and Repair:
Chronic inflammation has been shown to have an exacerbating effect on acne. Inflammation can be triggered by certain foods especially those with a high glycemic index, stress and/or blood sugar imbalance.
Stress is not always easy to manage, especially during a major life event like pregnancy. That said, explore what stress management tools you have in your pocket and do your best to implement one of them daily. A walk outside can do wonders for you mind and body! Need inspiration? We deep dive into stress and how to manage it in our ebook!
One of the best ways to combat inflammation is through food. You can do this two ways, first by consuming mostly whole foods, like organic veggies and fruits, clean sources of protein, whole grains and an abundance of healthy fats. Food that comes from the earth is what we evolved to consume to nourish ourselves and our offspring and has all the vitamins and minerals a growing baby needs. Second, manage your blood sugar by consuming healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, seeds and nuts, and protein in every snack and meal. Chocolate and peanut butter count! This is sometimes easier said than done when you’re navigating complete exhaustion or day 53 of constant nausea. Do your best. Listen to your body and nourish it in the way that feels best for you in the moment.
Some popular ingredients used to manage acne, like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, are unsafe to use during pregnancy. In fact, the chemical exposure to fetuses in utero found in recent studies is pretty shocking. In a study conducted by the EWG, 287 industrial chemicals were found in umbilical cord blood. This does not mean you have to give up on your beauty routine for 9 months!
You can thank those hormones for an increase in sensitivity and potential dryness of your skin while pregnant. Sensitive skin can sometimes be soothed by addressing sources of inflammation, which you can learn more about from our free ebook!
A good place to start when combatting dry skin is by ensuring you are properly hydrated from the inside. Pregnant people should aim to consume close to a gallon of water a day or 3.7 liters. That is A LOT of water. Keep a water bottle or thermos of tea with you at all times to make sure you are drinking adequate amounts. In addition, you can eat your hydration by consuming fruits and veggies with high water content like cucumber, broccoli, peaches, tomatoes, melons and leafy greens.
Secondly, use products that nourish the natural barrier of your skin like:
You and your body are doing a truly incredible thing; creating life. Hold space for yourself and all that comes up for you during this time. It can be joyful and can also bring about many other emotions, all of which are real, valid and NORMAL. Transitions of any kind are not always easy and graceful. Lean on your support system, and take a moment to acknowledge that you and your body are navigating one of life’s most remarkable feats.