How pregnancy changed my skin and what I did about it


To say pregnancy is a period of rapid change is an understatement. It alters your mind, your body, your lifestyle (bye, wine) and your skin. Some women experience major changes in their complexion that last for the duration of their pregnancy. My own skin issues changed several times over—from first trimester dullness (no amount of sleep can quench that exhaustion) to third trimester swelling (cute for your lips, not so much your ankles). MECCA retail skin care manager Lucy Simpson says beauty regimes during pregnancy are all about preserving and protecting your skin. As with everything pregnancy-related, I didn’t always know what I was doing, but here’s how I handled it.

Play by the rules

There’s only one hard and fast rule of pregnancy beauty: no retinol (aka vitamin A). It’s great for reducing fine lines and wrinkles, but it can be absorbed through the skin and interfere with foetal development, so skip it while you’re pregnant. Similarly, hold off on reaching for anything too intense. “Pigmentation can be an issue that comes up with pregnancy, but it’s not the time to treat it,” says Simpson. “Chances are, when you’re not pregnant, the condition will change again.”

Chill on the actives

“Pregnancy isn’t the time to start dabbling in skin care with lots of actives,” says Simpson. “Your skin might not react to the ingredients the way it normally would.” I also chose to avoid salicylic acid and instead treated the hormonal breakouts on my chin with gentler lactic acid. This ExfoliKate Gentle Exfoliating Treatment makes for a great spot treatment. When my breakouts were bad, I’d apply it over the area, wait two minutes and then rinse it off in the shower. Once the breakouts settled, I opted for Go-To Exfoliating Swipeys as a twice-weekly treatment to keep acne at bay. I really enjoyed how easy these were when I was tired, swollen or just over it.

Check expiration dates

All beauty products expire. If this is news to you, look for the little container illustration on products and take note of the “6M” or “12M” stamp. This means you have six or 12 months respectively to use an item after opening. Mascaras have the shortest lifespan of just three months—are you panicking about how long that emergency Better Than Sex has been in your handbag? Falling pregnant inspired me to do a deep cleanse of my bathroom and purge everything expired. Products past their used-by date are more likely to irritate, and with my skin already more sensitive I didn’t want to risk it.

Try natural products

Like many women, I was definitely incentivised to explore natural formulations, but I didn’t want to make life too hard for myself. Ditto, I couldn’t completely give up coffee, and limited myself to one cup a day. As it turns out, taking a cleaner route with my beauty routine wasn’t hard at all. Many of my high-rotation brands were already pregnancy-safe, Tatcha, Go-To and Summer Friday’s included. One switch I did make was to Juice Beauty Phyto-pigments Ultra-Natural Mascara. The range is one of the few with organic certification and this mascara boasts a heap of awards. Plus, it didn’t hurt that Gwyneth Paltrow had a hand in formulating it and wore it on her wedding day.

Prepare for a routine change

For many women, skin can change significantly during pregnancy. My skin is typically quite oily, even during winter, but pregnancy completely balanced it out. This meant tailoring my usual regime to suit. I could delve deeper into oils and heavier hydrators and lighten up on the exfoliation. Pregnancy skin can change in a lot of ways, so adapt your routine accordingly.

The pregnancy “glow”

“You’ve got two extra litres of blood in your system when you’re pregnant, so everything is more vascular,” says Simpson. “You flush more, get more redness, and in general might feel hotter. Any areas where you’ve got broken capillaries—often on cheeks—can swell more with actives like vitamin C, which is another reason to avoid them.” She suggests incorporating a treatment with horse chestnut extracts, which strengthen capillaries, like 111SKIN Nocturnal Eclipse Recovery Cream.

Third trimester puff

For me, water retention was real. Elevating my legs at night, cool foot baths and dry brushing helped with my lower half, and for my face I got into some rigorous rose quartz rolling. Simpson also recommends Cosmetic 27 Crème Bio-Logique 27 Universal Biologic Cream, which uses lettuce extract. “It’s almost like a topical antihistamine for the skin.”

SPF protection (obviously)

Fluctuating hormones may cause pigmentation, but sun exposure can exacerbate overactive pigment-producing cells too. Your skin is also much more sensitive to UV rays. During pregnancy, you should be extra vigilant with sunscreen. Avoid chemical sunscreens, which can contain harmful ingredients, and instead opt for a mineral sunscreen free of nanoparticles, so there’s no chance of it getting into your bloodstream. I really got into mixing my SPF in with my moisturiser.

Your body in focus

The body is doing all the hard work during pregnancy, so I’ve paid a lot of attention to it over the last nine months with regular chiropractor appointments, prenatal Pilates, epsom salt baths and body oils. Go-To Exception-Oil was my number one favourite. It’s a balm formula that’s absorbed quickly, making it mess (and risk) free. Once a week I’d mix my epsom salts with something a little more luxe, like Frank Body In Your Dreams Sleep Soak and Soak.

Tame your lustrous locks

During pregnancy, you stop shedding hair as much as you usually would. Already having thick hair, this meant I went a little more Hermione Granger than usual. Alas this extra volume is only temporary, so don’t be tempted to have it thinned out by your hairdresser. I used Living Proof PHD shampoo and conditioner and added a weekly smoothing treatment to keep my locks sleek and shiny. This also helped ensure my hair was more presentable when 20-minutes more sleep inevitably won out over blow-drying. I added Bumble and bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil to my ends on non-wash days to smooth out any frizz and often tied my hair all back into a low bun.

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