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A Dermatologist Debunks Pregnancy Skincare Myths

Posted on August 19 2021

Your skin goes through many changes during pregnancy; from stretch marks and acne to itchiness and rashes, it’s important to learn how to deal with them safely. And really, who wants to spend hours researching for beauty ingredients to avoid during pregnancy?

We asked UK-based dermatologist Dr Beibei Du-Harpur (@dermatology_demystified) to debunk some of the most common misconceptions surrounding pregnancy skincare.


Myth or Fact: There are ingredients that should be avoided during pregnancy.

This is a fact! There is one common ingredient I would advise all pregnant women to avoid and that is retinol or retinoid. These vitamin-A derivatives, when taken orally (like Accutane or isotretinoin) are known to adversely affect developing babies, so it is best to steer well clear of them. Although the skin is a barrier organ, meaning that it is unlikely that your skincare ends up in your body, because of the proven harm to babies of the ingredient itself, we advise against using them. It is just not worth the risk!


In terms of other skincare ingredients, we would advise being cautious with acids, such as high percentage glycolic or salicylic acid, particularly when used over large areas. Azelaic acid, however, is considered to be safe and is a gentle and effective ingredient with a multitude of benefits!


Myth or Fact: Pregnancy can result in hormonal breakouts.


Fact. With conception and pregnancy comes huge changes in your hormones, which impact multiple organs within the body, including the skin. Hormonal breakouts may happen to some while others may see improvements!


Myth or Fact: Women should change their skincare products or routine during pregnancy.


Fact. Women should check through skincare ingredients to ensure that they are not using a product with retinol.


It is important to consider switching up your beauty routine. Our hormones and immune system are affected during pregnancy, and this is reflected in how our skin reacts. It is worth remembering that the skin is an organ that adapts to both internal and external factors, so the best thing to do is to monitor how your own skin is responding to your pregnancy and adapt your skincare accordingly. One really common pregnancy skin issue is melasma, which is also known as the ‘pregnancy mask’. This happens because the pigment-making cells in our skin become very active during pregnancy. The best way to avoid melasma is to avoid triggering further activity in your pigment-making cells by reducing exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, as this also makes them more active.


Myth or Fact: Facials are not safe during pregnancy.


It depends. As mentioned above, there are certain ingredients such as retinol that are best avoided, this includes high-percentage chemical peels. However, there is no reason not to relax and treat yourself to a facial; just make sure your facialist is aware that you are pregnant and they will adjust your treatment accordingly.


What can be done to ease issues like melasma, dermatitis, varicose veins, and acne during pregnancy?


For melasma, avoiding ultraviolet light from the sun is key, particularly when the UV index is high. Seek shade, wear a hat and use SPF! It is also good to be gentle with your skin to minimise inflammation. I recommend using a gentle cleanser, avoid harsh physical scrubs or exfoliating excessively.


If you’re suffering from dermatitis or eczema, it means that the barrier function of your skin has been impaired. To repair the skin barrier, use a rich moisturising cream or ointment. Also, harsh cleansers overly strip the skin and weaken the skin barrier, therefore, always opt for gentle cleansers.


For most women, the development of varicose veins is genetic, so it may not be preventable. You can try to improve the circulation in your lower legs with regular activity and movement. Putting your feet up and wearing compression socks can also be helpful, as this reduces the work required to get the blood back up to the heart.


For occasional spots and mild acne, you can spot-treat individual pimples with products such as benzoyl peroxide gel. Cleansers containing ingredients such as salicylic acid can also help. However, if your acne is severely troubling you, I would always advise seeking professional help! Prescribed anti-acne drugs will have better clinically proven benefits and your doctor can provide a safe treatment plan.


How did you determine which beauty products were pregnancy-safe during your pregnancy?

I believe in the simple skincare routine, so it wasn’t too difficult for me. Previously, I was using a retinoid serum, but I stopped usage a few months prior to getting pregnant.


What is your pregnancy beauty regime?


My beauty regime is very simple! In the morning, I wash my face with water, unless my face feels particularly oily or sweaty. Next, moisturizer goes on: I like Avène’s A-OXitive Antioxidant Water-Cream, it’s lightweight and contains vitamins C and E. For SPF, I regularly use Cetaphil’s Daily Facial SPF50+ (SGD24.99); it’s fragrance-free and gentle on the skin! SPF is the most important skincare product so it is definitely worth exploring which one works best for you!


At night, I cleanse with either Dr Sam’s Flawless Cleanser or CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. For moisturizer, I switch this up depending on weather, particularly humidity, and how my skin is feeling. My favourite lightweight moisturizers are the CeraVe Daily Moisturising Lotion and Avène’s A-OXitive Cream. If I feel like my skin needs a bit more hydration, I use Avène’s XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cream.


Credits: Article by Beaubit, Photos by Yan Krukov, @stellasimona, cottonbro


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