Pregnant Woman Holding Her Tummy

There's no denying the joy of having a baby, but with that joy often comes an array of changes, including ones you may not have anticipated. From stretch marks to skin sensitivity, pregnancy can be a shock to your regular skin care routine. But never fear! With the proper knowledge and products, you can pamper yourself while keeping those lovely little buns in the oven safe from any potential harm. 

Thankfully we've done all the research so that you don't have to. Welcome to our guide on pregnancy skin care, just one more thing crossed off your mom-to-be checklist!

Why the skin changes when you're pregnant?

Have you noticed that the skin on your face looks different? Or that the skin on your belly has stretch marks? These changes are a result of the increase in hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone, that come with pregnancy. These hormones cause an increase in melanin production, which can lead to darkened areas on the skin, such as the famous "pregnancy mask." Additionally, hormonal changes can affect your skin sensitivity, cause acne, or even skin dryness. The hormones also affect the elasticity of the skin, which can lead to the formation of stretch marks. So, while these changes may not be the most glamorous side effect of pregnancy, they are a natural part of the journey to motherhood.

Skin concerns during pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of excitement and great anticipation. Yet, for expecting mothers, it can also be a period of concern about potential changes to their physical appearance. While morning sickness and weight gain are common issues, many women also experience skin concerns during pregnancy. Hormonal fluctuations can lead to acne breakouts, pigmentation changes, itching, and stretch marks.

1. Stretch marks

Stretch marks are infamous for appearing on a woman's body after pregnancy. But what are they, really? Stretch marks occur when the skin stretches beyond its limit, causing deep tears in the skin's structure. These tears then transform into scars known as stretch marks.

They appear during pregnancy in 50 to 90% of cases. Here are some interesting facts about them:

  • They usually appear between the second and third trimesters.
  • They are due to excessive stretching of the dermis (intermediate layer of the skin) and the breakdown of its components (collagen and elastin fibers).
  • There are two kinds: red ones and white ones. It is worth clarifying that it is not that they are different types, but that they are different evolutionary stages or moments of the same groove. When they’re recent and have just emerged, what is observed is the red streak, which with time atrophies, loses pigment, and "sinks" a little, forming the final white streak.
  • They are usually located on the belly and bust.

Although stretch marks can be permanent, there are remedies to reduce their appearance. Remember, just because stretch marks are common during pregnancy, it doesn't mean they have to stick around.

2. Acne

The increase in progesterone, specifically androgens levels, triggers more sebum or oil production, this oil can clog pores and lead to bacteria, inflammation, and breakouts.; it commonly shows up in the first months of pregnancy. The good news is that there are safe and effective products available.

3. Melasma or hyperpigmentation

One particularly perplexing issue is the appearance of melasma or hyperpigmentation on the skin. This condition, which results in dark patches and spots, can be frustrating to deal with during pregnancy.

Up to 90% of women experience a darkening of the skin during pregnancy, especially if they have dark-based skin. The exact mechanism is not known, but everything seems to indicate that the hormonal rise during pregnancy stimulates the production of melanin.

Some women have brownish or yellowish patches around the eyes and on the cheeks and nose. This is sometimes called a "pregnancy mask." The medical term is chloasma.

Some women also have a dark midline stripe on the lower abdomen. This is known as the “linea nigra”. Although they may not be several malignancies, any conspicuous change in any type of mole should be reported to your doctor.

4. Dry skin

One of the most common complaints is dry skin, which can leave expectant mothers feeling itchy and uncomfortable. During pregnancy, hormonal changes in the body can cause the skin to lose its natural moisture, leading to this pesky problem.

5. Oversensitive skin

Fear not, this is completely normal! Your body is on a whole new mission to nurture and protect the little life growing inside you. Hormonal changes and shifts in blood flow can cause increased blood vessel production, leading to redness and sensitivity. As your skin stretches to accommodate your growing stomach, it can also become dry and itchy.

Want to know how to treat these changes during pregnancy without harming your baby? Let’s find out!

Top 9 skincare ingredients to avoid while pregnant

Usually, most products are suitable for pregnant women, with a few exceptions, because cosmetics generally cannot penetrate the inner layers of the skin or the bloodstream.

However, there are some ingredients that we should avoid. This may be due to:

  • They are fat-soluble: they have a greater capacity to penetrate the body.
  • They could be irritating or alter the skin barrier.
  • They could be harmful to the fetus if they reach it.

Here is a summary of all the ingredients that we must avoid to take all possible precautions regarding the health of our baby:

1. Retinoids (Vitamin A)

We use Vitamin A derivatives to treat acne or skin blemishes.

In general, all products that contain ingredients that begin with "Retin" in their formulation are vitamin A’s derivatives. Retinoic Acid, Retinaldehyde, Retinyl Palmitate, and Retinol during pregnancy are not safe! 

The risk of using a topical retinoid is low, but given the fact the potential effects are so severe,  it's best to avoid any use while you’re expecting.

Topical use of retinoids can lead to a systemic increase in vitamin A, which is associated with birth defects.

2. Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid soothes acne by reducing swelling and redness and opening clogged skin pores. However, it has the potential to be absorbed by the skin, given the fact it is a fat-soluble acid.

During pregnancy, we should limit its use to small areas and for short periods. In general, the small percentages that are used in topical salicylic acid products (2% or less) are considered safe, but it is better to err on the side of caution

The common ones are Salicylic Acid, Benzyl Salicylate, and basically any name that contains “Salicyl”.

Watch out! When used in high concentrations in professional peels, they can also pose a risk during pregnancy, so avoid salicylic acid while pregnant.

3. Glycolic acid

Pregnancy is a time when you want to be extra careful about everything you put on and in your body. So, the question arises, is glycolic acid safe during pregnancy

The use of this AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) is discouraged because it may irritate oversensitive skin. Though glycolic acid is not absorbed into the bloodstream and does not represent any risk for the baby, if you have sensitive skin due to pregnancy, ideally you should avoid using it because it could cause extreme irritation.

If you’re using this ingredient, make sure to pick skin care products that have 7% glycolic acid or less. 

4. Caffeine

Pregnancy certainly comes with a long list of do's and don'ts, especially when it comes to skincare. It's important to be mindful of the ingredients used in your skincare routine, and caffeine-based creams should be on the do-not-use list.

While caffeine may give us a little boost in the morning, it can have negative effects on our skin when applied topically. And when it comes to pregnancy, we want to be extra cautious. Caffeine can cause blood vessels to constrict, potentially limiting blood flow to the developing fetus. Plus, caffeine can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, which is something we want to avoid during this crucial time. So, when it comes to your skincare routine during pregnancy, stick to caffeine-free options to ensure the safety of both you and your baby.

5. Benzoyl peroxide

When it comes to pregnancy, you want to make sure everything you consume or apply is safe for you and your baby. So, you definitely must avoid benzoyl peroxide in pregnancy. While this acne-fighting ingredient may be effective for some, it's not advisable to use during pregnancy. Topical benzoyl peroxide has been found to potentially cause birth defects and harm the fetus. It's important to talk to your healthcare provider about safe alternatives for treating acne during pregnancy. Trust us, there's no need to sacrifice your clear skin for the health of your little one.

6. Hydroquinone

The use of hydroquinone is not pregnancy safe. The skin-lightening agent commonly used to treat dark spots and rosacea has been linked to potential risks for both mother and baby, such as impaired fetal development and even premature birth. But fear not! Alternatives such as Vitamin C or azelaic acid are available to help tackle those pesky dark spots without putting your pregnancy at risk. 

7. Essential oils

Essential oils have become a popular trend in recent years, but expecting mothers need to be cautious about their use. While some claim that essential oils can alleviate pregnancy-related ailments like morning sickness and fatigue, research indicates that they may pose a risk to both the mother and the developing fetus. Essential oils may cause uterine contractions, potentially leading to premature labor or miscarriage. Furthermore, some oils can cause allergic reactions or even toxicity if ingested or absorbed through the skin. So, for expecting mothers it's important to consult with your healthcare provider before using them during pregnancy.

8. Licorice root

Licorice has a soothing effect on the skin and helps to ease inflammation. The glycyrrhizin found in licorice can reduce redness, irritation, and swelling, and is used to treat skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and eczema. However, the issue with this ingredient is that eating it could affect your baby’s development and there’s not enough information that confirms whether topical licorice root could affect the fetus or not. That’s why it’s better to err in the side of caution and avoid it. 

9. Chemical Sunscreens

Sun protection is always a hot topic, but when you're pregnant, it takes on a whole new level of importance. As tempting as it may be to slather on your favorite chemical sunscreen, it's important to know that some of the ingredients in these products can be harmful during pregnancy. Chemical sunscreens can contain oxybenzone and avobenzone, both of which have been linked to hormonal disruptions and other negative health effects. 

What ingredients are safe during pregnancy for my skincare?

Now you’re aware of the numerous skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy. But, fret not, there are still plenty of safer options that will keep your skin glowing and blemish-free for the next nine months. Let’s see the safe ingredient options you can use for a pregnancy-safe skin care routine!

1. Vitamin C

Are you currently pregnant and wondering if vitamin C is safe for your skincare routine? Fear not, my fellow skincare enthusiasts, for the answer is a resounding yes! 

A vitamin C serum is actually a great addition to any prenatal skincare routine, thanks to its ability to boost collagen production and protect against harmful UV rays. Plus, it can help even out skin tone and fade pesky dark spots caused by hormonal changes. Just be sure to opt for products that are specifically formulated for pregnancy, as some Vitamin C derivatives can be too potent and potentially harmful to your growing baby. Now you can glow with confidence and keep your skin looking radiant throughout your pregnancy, all while keeping your little one safe and healthy!

2. Hyaluronic acid

With so many questions surrounding what is safe to use, it's vital to find the right answers. One popular ingredient that has caused some confusion is hyaluronic acid. 

This naturally occurring substance is well-known for its ability to hydrate and plump the skin, but is hyaluronic acid safe during pregnancy? The answer is yes. Hyaluronic acid is considered safe and suitable for use during pregnancy skincare. This superstar ingredient is a humectant, meaning it attracts and retains water, keeping your skin hydrated and plump, which means it’s going to be your perfect ally to treat stretch marks and dry skin– something every pregnant woman can get on board with! It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help soothe any pregnancy-induced skin irritations. Overall, hyaluronic acid is a safe and effective addition to your pregnancy skincare routine – just be sure to patch-test any new products. However, it's always best to consult with your healthcare provider before introducing any new product into your regimen. With the right information and careful consideration, you can maintain healthy, glowing skin throughout your pregnancy.

3. Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is a popular skincare ingredient known for its ability to treat acne and rosacea and is generally considered safe to use during pregnancy. This clever ingredient works by reducing inflammation, unclogging pores, and slowing down the production of melanin, which means it can help combat a range of skin concerns. Of course, as with all skincare products, it's important to use azelaic acid in moderation and to consult with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns. But if you're looking to keep your skin healthy and glowing during pregnancy, azelaic acid may be just the ingredient you need.

4. Centella Asiatica

If you're looking for a natural way to nourish your skin and alleviate stretch marks, look no further than Centella Asiatica. Also known as "Gotu Kola" this Ayurvedic herb has been used for centuries to heal wounds and reduce inflammation, making it an ideal ingredient for new mothers.

5. Shea Butter

Shea butter is well known for its moisturizing properties. Pregnant women can use it as a cosmetic to combat skin concerns during pregnancy like dryness, sensitive skin, and stretch marks.

6. Niacinamide

With so much conflicting information out there, it's hard to know what to trust. So, let's talk about niacinamide, shall we? This wonder ingredient has been making headlines in the skincare world for its ability to reduce inflammation, and hyperpigmentation, and regulate oil production. But is niacinamide safe during pregnancy? The answer is yes! According to experts, niacinamide has been deemed safe for topical use in pregnancy. So, go ahead and add this powerhouse ingredient to your skincare routine and bask in that pregnancy glow!

6. Mineral-based sunscreens

Look for mineral-based sunscreens that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients. These gentle, effective options offer plenty of sun protection without the added risk. As a wise person once said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and when it comes to protecting your baby, it's never too early to start!

Skincare routine during pregnancy

Among the million things you have to worry about as a mom-to-be, your skincare routine shouldn’t be one of them. That's why we're here to give you an easy step-by-step guide so that you can enjoy the incredible journey of motherhood without having to stress out over what products are best for your skin! 

So kick back and get ready, because we've got some amazing tips and tricks to share with you on how to maximize this magical time with the right pampering using top-quality skincare!

1. Oil-based cleanser

You can never go wrong with the Korean double cleanse, not even during pregnancy or lactation! Though this step can be avoided if you don’t feel like performing a 10-step skincare routine, it can be very beneficial for your complexion as it helps soothe and hydrate the skin

2. Water-based cleanser

The second step in your skincare routine is a water-based cleanser, to remove traces of dirt, makeup, and oil that may remain on your skin. If you’re not adding the oil-based step, the water-based cleanser is a must!

3. Exfoliate

Perhaps chemical peels and some more aggressive exfoliants are not the most suitable for skin that is undergoing hormonal changes, so we opted for a physical, but extremely gentle exfoliant for your skincare routine.

You can do this 2-3 times a week!

4. Toner

Don't worry: we've chosen the fragrance-free ones because you must limit the use of perfumed products, and super mild toner so you don't have to skip this step of your Korean beauty routine.

5. Serum/Ampoule

Vitality and hydration are two of the things that best suit dull and tired skin during pregnancy, so we have thought that this list of serums/ampoules you will like to add to your skin care routine:

6. Moisturizer

We almost reached the end of our safe routine during pregnancy, but the cream cannot be missing. This offers you long-lasting hydration and a wonderful calm so that your skin feels good 24 hours a day. Here we show you some options for those who are on the sweet expectation:

7. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is just as important during pregnancy as it is at any other time. Not only can it help prevent sun damage, but it can also help prevent melasma, a common skin condition that often occurs during pregnancy. So, it's time to snag a pregnancy-friendly sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and protect that beautiful baby bump from the sun's harmful rays. We recommend:

Where to find the best skincare products when pregnant?

Pregnant women need to be extra cautious when it comes to their skincare products. It is best for one to use natural and more organic ingredients like shea butter or centella asiatica so as not to irritate the skin or affect the unborn child’s health. Additionally, you should wash off makeup each day and drinking lots of water can help maintain moisture levels. Furthermore, moisturizing is an essential part of a safe skincare routine while pregnant. Finally, avoid using harsh exfoliating products and chemical peels until after the baby is born. 

For those looking for the best skincare when pregnant, in Asian Beauty Essentials you can find all you need! From facial oils and cleansers to serums and toners, we have everything a pregnant woman could want in her skincare arsenal. Make sure to check out what we have today!

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