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Top 5 common skin problems during pregnancy

Pregnant woman consulting a doctor online

While many speak of the ‘pregnancy glow’, the converse is actually true too — some soon-to-be-mothers experience skin problems due to the fluctuations in their hormone levels.

The good news is that these problems are temporary. Your skin should soon go back to normal soon after you give birth, though this doesn’t happen immediately. Additionally, you can easily treat these skin problems to make them less pronounced.

Here are five common skin problems associated with pregnancy and what you can do to address them:

1. Hyperpigmentation

You may notice brown or grey-brown patches on your face, typically on your cheeks, nose, forehead, chin, and upper lips. These spots, according to experts, are the result of hormonal changes related to pregnancy, which cause an increase in pigmentation. Around 50% of pregnant women experience this skin condition, which may also sometimes linger on post-pregnancy.

Here’s how you can prevent hyperpigmentation in pregnancy:

  • As sun exposure can darken existing spots on your face, it’s best to avoid direct exposure to the sun both during and after pregnancy.

  • Apply good sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 whenever you are heading out — even if you are only going to be sitting in a car, in the shade, or on a plane. Get a big, floppy hat, or use an umbrella when heading out.

  • Keep your skin hydrated and healthy by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

  • Get your required daily intake of folic acid.

  • You can also use gentle exfoliating scrubs and polishing kits that are specially formulated for damaged skin; or use products with bleaching agents. Opt for brands that use milder ingredients. To be on the safe side, consult with your doctor about skin products that are safe to use during pregnancy.

2. Sensitive skin

Some women notice that their skin becomes easily irritated or red or swollen during pregnancy. For example, your skin has a negative reaction to a product that had previously worked for you; or noticing that perfumed products are now making you break out. If you’ve had sensitive skin prior to getting pregnant, you may find that it’s even worse now.

The main culprit for sensitive skin at this stage is the changes in your hormones. Your increased hormonal levels heighten your senses during pregnancy, which causes your skin to react easily to external factors like heat or other irritants like dust or pollen.

You cannot prevent having sensitive skin while pregnant, but there are remedies and skin care tips that can help you avoid flare-ups during this period:

  • If your skin turns red, itchy, or tender after using a certain product (even if you swear by it before pregnancy), stop using it right away.

  • Switch to unscented and hypoallergenic products. There are a lot of cruelty-free and natural products that are made specifically for moms-to-be.

  • For itchy spots, you can dab a small amount of calamine lotion to prevent exacerbating it.

  • Keep your skin moisturized to prevent dryness and itchiness.

  • Cool down by taking a bath or shower when the weather gets too hot. Drink lots of water too.

  • Take note of skin irritants like dirt or dust, or even food, and avoid those for the time being.

You should also check in with your doctor if the redness or itchiness does not stop after you discontinued the product, or if you get rashes in your abdominal area.

3. Acne

During pregnancy, the body produces more of the hormone estrogen in order to maintain a healthy uterine lining. However, this increased hormone production may cause the oil glands in the skin to produce more oil, causing breakouts and pimples, even if you previously had clear skin.

If you already had acne before getting pregnant, you may find that the pimples get even more inflamed during pregnancy. Do not despair though, because acne flare-ups usually happen during the first extending up to the second trimester, but usually clear out during the third trimester.

Managing acne during pregnancy can be tricky, as a lot of anti-acne products are unsafe to use during pregnancy, so consult with your doctor before using anything. Here are some ways to treat and prevent acne while you’re expecting:

  • Wash your face at least twice a day (and after heavy sweating) with a mild facial cleanser. Avoid overdoing it, as it may cause dryness.

  • You can use lactic acid, tea tree oil, or sulfur to treat your breakouts.

  • Avoid picking at your pimples as this only worsens the acne and leaves unsightly scars. If you suffer from acne scars, try applying a skincare product that is clinically proven to improve the appearance of scars.

  • Schedule an appointment and a facial with your dermatologist. She may give you suggestions on how to treat acne during pregnancy using products that are safe for you and your baby.

4. Dry skin

Some moms get dry, itchy skin when they get pregnant. Unfortunately, dry skin is a common side effect of pregnancy. Hormone changes cause your skin to lose elasticity and moisture as it stretches and tightens to accommodate your growing belly. This can lead to flaky skin, itchiness, or other symptoms often associated with dry skin.

Other moms might notice red, flaky patches on their faces — a condition known as nonspecific dermatitis. Most women experience dryness and itchiness in the abdominal area, but you can also feel it in your arms, thighs, or breasts.

The key to addressing this is staying constantly hydrated. Here are some tips to prevent your skin from becoming too dry and itchy while pregnant.

  • Use gentle, hypoallergenic lotions and moisturizers, especially in areas that are often itchy.

  • Check your soap. Stay away from body washes and soaps that contain harsh alcohol, fragrances, or dyes, which can be irritating to the skin.

  • Try using a humidifier in your bedroom at night.

  • Drink a lot of water.

  • How about a yogurt mask on your belly? Yogurt is rich in lactic acid and protein, which can help detoxify and hydrate your skin. Massage a thin layer of plain yogurt into your skin with your fingertips and leave it on for 2 to 3 minutes. Cleanse with warm water and dry off with a towel.

  • Limit your shower time. Avoid bathing in hot water, which can strip away your skin’s natural oils and is also bad during pregnancy. Warm water is fine.

Due to fluctuating hormone levels, some itching, especially on the palms, is normal. However, do not hesitate to consult your doctor if you experience severe itching on the hands and feet and if along with dry skin during pregnancy, you have dark urine, light-colored stool, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

5. Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are probably the most common skin problem during pregnancy, as they linger on and leave “tiger stripes” even after you’ve given birth. While genetics is one factor in the appearance of stretch marks, it also has a lot to do with your skin’s elasticity.

Even without pregnancy, rapid weight gain or loss often leads to stretch marks. They occur when your skin can’t keep up with your body’s growth or expansion, and the elastic fibers just under the skin break.

During pregnancy, stretch marks commonly occur on the belly, thighs, and breasts, and sometimes even on the buttocks and upper arms. These marks often start out reddish or purple-hued but usually fade away to white or silvery lines. Darker-skinned women will often experience stretchmarks lighter than their skin tone, while lighter-skinned women will have pinkish marks.

While stretch marks are permanent in nature, their appearance can be improved by following a good moisturizing regimen and home remedies:

  • Start a good skin moisturizing routine early on in your pregnancy. Make sure you apply a moisturizer to your body, especially in areas where growth is expected such as your belly, breasts, and thighs. Then, even if you get stretch marks, it’s likely that their appearance won’t be too pronounced.

  • Eat food that is rich in vitamin C, as it helps to produce collagen to keep the skin barrier intact.

  • Drink lots of water.

These skin problems during pregnancy may be temporary. Some may linger long after pregnancy, so it’s important to adopt a proper skincare routine to prevent pregnancy from taking a major toll on your skin, and your self-esteem. Remember to moisturize, use pregnancy-safe products, and consult a dermatologist for your skincare needs on the Doctor Anywhere app.

To learn more about women’s health issues and the support services that are available, visit

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