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Safety is skin deep: what mothers-to-be must heed

Safety is skin deep: what mothers-to-be must heed

A guide to skincare during pregnancy by experts
pregnancy skincare
Representational image | Shutterstock

Expecting women are extra cautious about what they eat, how much they sleep and all aspects of their lifestyle. An important but less known point that experts suggest is that they also remain watchful of what they use on their skin and body during those nine-odd months.  

A would-be mother one needs to relook her routine skincare regimen because of a few ingredients like retinoids which can harm both the would-be mother and her baby. Some commonly used products are safe, but some may contain ingredients that experts ask pregnant women to either avoid or use in low amounts. Happiest Health shares their skincare tips for mothers-to-be.   

Impending changes  

With pregnancy come changes in hormones and skin. Pregnancy-related skin changes can be different in different women. Bengaluru-based consultant dermatologist, Dr Mikki Singh, says that many women experience skin changes during pregnancy; however, there are also some who do not observe any. Some sport perfectly healthy skin, and some others might be struggling with acne, dryness, dark spots or pigmentation.  

According to Bengaluru-based consultant dermatologist and cosmetologist, Dr Shoba Sudeep, skin changes during pregnancy can be physiological and pathological.  

  • Physiological changes are due to the influence of hormones. The skin around the nipples, or existing birthmarks, moles or freckles turn dark. Generally, the skin becomes thin and fragile and a ‘mask of pregnancy’ develops over the face – which is called melasma or dark pigmentation.  
  • Pathological changes can be due to an exacerbation of existing conditions – such as Lichen planus and atopic dermatitis (eczema). All these conditions may flare up during pregnancy but conditions like psoriasis may reduce during pregnancy.  
  • Others: Generalised itching or what we call prurigo of pregnancy can sometimes develop during the second and third trimester.   

Ingredients to avoid 

Illustration by Syalima M Das

“In general, it is advised to stay away from products that contain any fragrance,” suggests Dr Mikki Singh of Bengaluru.  

A few products with fragrances might contain phthalates which can disrupt hormonal functions in a pregnant woman.  

Both Dr Sudeep and Dr Singh suggest that pregnant women should not use products with the following ingredients 

  • Retinol and Vitamin A derivatives in all forms must be strictly avoided in all trimesters. Anti-ageing creams also contain their derivatives. 
  • Creams containing parabens and hydroquinone can trigger an allergic reaction or cause skin irritation.  
  • Pregnant women should opt for physical sunscreens (umbrellas and sunglasses, for example) rather than a chemical sunscreen. Oxybenzone and avobenzone in sunscreen lotions can cause hormonal disruption.  
  • A potentially harmful aluminium chloride is used in antiperspirants. 
  • Benzoyl chloride and salicylic acid are used in anti-acne creams. 

The safe solutions

Illustration by Syalima M Das

There are also safe alternatives that a pregnant woman may use.  

Dr Singh suggests considering use of products that have Vitamin E, Vitamin K and Vitamin B5 besides green tea which nourish the skin. “It is important not to self-diagnose or self-medicate, especially during pregnancy.” More important, she says, is that pregnancy skincare must be kept simple with lots of hydrating and non-irritating ingredients.  

Dr Singh’s fuss-free routine includes:  

  • a soap-free cleanser 
  • a non-comedogenic moisturiser  
  •  a sunscreen without oxybenzone 

Ask the doctor: Dr Aruna Kumari V, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Cloud Nine hospital, Bengaluru, suggests consulting a dermatologist and a gynaecologist for dealing with acne, skin rashes and eczema.  Low doses of glycolic acid can be used for reducing skin pigmentation or melasma. She suggests that “Home remedies like aloe vera gel can act as a good moisturiser.” 

Useful apps: Dr Sudeep says pregnant women could also look up one of many pregnancy check ingredients apps that can tell them what to use and what to avoid. But the best and safest advice on what can be used on one’s skin can come only from a qualified dermatologist.  

A simple, practical regimen 

  • Use a mild cleanser without salicylic acid to cleanse the face. 
  • Keep the skin well moisturised in the mornings and nights.  
  • Avoid chemical sunscreens. Use a physical sunscreen when stepping out in strong sunlight. 
  • Ditch the retinol-containing night creams for the anti-ageing night care regime. Instead, go for glycolic acid-based creams which are absolutely safe and wonderful as anti-ageing creams. 
  • Follow a balanced diet which includes a lot of fresh vegetables, fruits and a good amount of liquid intake – which itself promotes healthy skin.  

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