“You’re Glowing!” the words I wished anyone would say to me. The only glow that I experienced was that thin layer of sweat that covered my whole body and let’s be honest, I could hardly reach all of the parts of my body. That layer of sweat was accompanied by topical oiliness resulting in nasty breakouts. Without considering the effect it may have, picking at my pimples caused more breakouts leading to redness and inflammation. This was not a glow friends, it was chaos.
During my time as an Esthetician I have treated many pregnant clients and have been pregnant twice myself. I find that acne is definitely one of the most common skin issues women deal with during pregnancy and I want to talk about what causes it, what you can do to prevent it and how to relieve all the symptoms. Let’s start with the cause.
- We all have sabaceous glands that produce oil and sebum. Sebum is made up of triglycerides, wax esters, squalene, and metabolites of fat-producing cells. Sebum and oil work alongside our skin cells and lipids to create a protective barrier. This barrier helps to keep our healthy skin safe from external components that could cause harm to our skin and to hold in water to keep our skin moisturized and hydrated. For most women during pregnancy, the sebaceous glands work overtime and that can result in topical excess oiliness. This oiliness can cause too much occlusion and then the pores tend to clog leading to the ever- frustrating development of acne.
- Another cause of acne during pregnancy is the natural hormonal shifts that can cause deeper and more painful pimples under the skin.
- Morning sickness and cravings can cause lifestyle changes and diet adjustments that affect our skin, leading to breakouts.
- Unless you are concerned about the ingredients in your skincare, I would suggest sticking to your morning and nighttime regime. It is easy when you’re pre-occupied with an uneasy tummy, to neglect your routine; but, this will only encourage breakouts. Cleansing morning and night with a natural cleanser will help to remove pore clogging dirt and oil; and, continue the process of good cell turnover and regulate oil production.
- Increase your water intake. Now that you are pregnant, your body needs even better hydration to function correctly and your skin can use the support as well. Try to drink at least half your weight in ounces per day (or more if you can manage it).
- Don’t over scrub. Using an abrasive exfoliant or scrubbing too often can damage your barrier function and move bacteria around. Make sure to limit your exfoliating to once a week in the evening. Exfoliating in the evening is preferred because you never want to expose a new layer of skin to the sun, especially during pregnancy when you skin is more susceptible to hyper pigmentation.
- Now this one I say hesitantly, but try to reduce stress. I know that is much easier to suggest than accomplish, but your body exists in an ever-regulating state of homeostasis and stress does change your skin (Slominski). Trying to rest throughout this taxing time can be just what your skin (and your mind) may need.
- Receive regular gentle and pregnancy-safe skin treatments. Even though you may never have felt the need to get a skin treatment or facial, these can be extremely helpful to relieve what is occurring with your skin changes and to reduce stress. Make sure to familiarize yourself with what is safe during pregnancy and to inform your Esthetician that you are pregnant.
Usually everyone’s reaction to a skin problem is to spread on a cream or topical product to fix it. However, during pregnancy it is easy to find yourself questioning whether your skincare is safe for the baby growing inside of you. I think that it is important to explain that there has not been a great deal of research done on the safety during pregnancy of topical acne medications in humans. I believe no one wants to submit themselves and their baby to testing that may cause harm. Most of the information we have is based on how the body absorbed an ingredient and also (unfortunately) animal trials. Therefore, I think it is important to ask yourself if you can accept the risks, I will help to guide as much as I can and then the decisions rest with you.
Absorption rates will be higher if the skin is broken, and broken skin is common when it come to acne.
- Benzoyl peroxide is an anti-microbial that reduces the production of those acne causing microorganisms (Kanlayavattanakul). It is absorbed at a much lower rate than salicylic, but it can be irritating to the skin which is a drawback if you are already dealing with painful acne. No trials on humans have been conducted (Bozzo).
- Salicylic is a common ingredient used throughout acne skin care and it functions a skin thinning agent to soften and unclog pores (Kanlayavattanakul). Salicylic is ruled by the FDA as a category C drug meaning that it has shown negative reproductive results in animal trials, and although it has not been proven to be harmful in humans they suggest avoidance (Arif).
- Topical Retinoids should be avoided because there have been numerous trials done with negative outcomes (Bozzo).
Acne is never just one thing, it always comes with a group of bothersome symptoms. In this section I want to discuss these symptoms and how to obtain some relief. The most common symptoms associated with acne are:
There are a great many natural ingredients that can be used to help with acne and it’s symptoms, but let’s just look at my favorites that can be used topically to help:
- Green Tea Camellia sinensis: One of it’s best properties include reducing acne without the irritating effects topical acne medications usually cause. Also it is a strong anti-inflammatory, skin protect and redness reducer helping to calm some of those acne symptoms.
- Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia: This acne fighting essential oil helps to reduce skin lesions and the severity of existing breakouts. It is a strong anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. Make sure that during pregnancy your dilution is 1% or less for topical preparations (IFPA) which is how we utilize this oil in our treatments.
- Vitamin B3 Niacinamide: This vitamin is easily topically absorbed, does not cause irritation and can help to regulate sebum production. This reduction in oil can prevent breakouts and it’s anti-inflammatory properties can help with the discomfort of acne (Farris). This key ingredient is used in our clarifying mask which is an option in our Custom Radiance facial.
Other great acne fighting and symptom-reducing ingredients include:
It is important to remember, that during this time in our lives our bodies are going through a great deal of changes. Your skin is experiencing all these changes with you and needs your support to function properly. Self-care is a must throughout pregnancy, but it is also the perfect time to practice for postpartum. After baby is born, it is easy to forget that you too have needs. Use pregnancy as a time to gain some good habits that not only support your skin, but support your overall wellness.