High estrogen levels during pregnancy affect skin—and skincare regimens—in more ways than one
When a woman is pregnant, her skin can really go one of two ways. Possibility A: Her high-estrogen state washes away all previous acne and blemishes, causing glowing, clear skin. Or B: That flood of estrogen increases the flow of blood to vessels causing flushing, rosacea and benign cancerous growths as well as worsened acne and sometimes even melasma, aka a deepened pigmentation on the cheeks also known as pregnancy mask. Fortunately, says Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Ronald Moy, many expecting women fall into the former category. “Overall most women are pretty happy with their skin during pregnancy,” he says—a blessing since “you can’t treat acne very well because you can’t give medicine to a pregnant woman.”
The difficulties are the same when treating virtually any of the negative skin effects attributed to a hormonal upsurge. Beginning immediately in the first trimester, “you don’t want to use any prescription products or topical antibiotics, most specifically Retin-A (or any over-the-counter retinols or vitamin A products), and benzoyl peroxide, Proactiv and Oxy 5 haven’t been tested with pregnancy, so you’re better off not using anything,” says Moy.
In fact, even for the approximate one-third of women (by Moy’s estimation) who develop melasma, which can show up at any time during the pregnancy or during nursing, treatment—lasers, peels or bleaching cream—must be delayed until after giving birth. The only truly safe solution is concealer and foundation—and a strong SPF, since the condition is exacerbated by sun exposure.
But not all skincare formulas must be avoided—Moy’s own DNA EGF Renewal products, formulated only with natural plant extracts and plankton, safely helps repair DNA and sun damage along with hydrating and even thickening the skin to help counteract stretch marks. Moy admits skincare choices are tricky during those delicate nine months, especially “if you want to be natural and a purist.”
Parabens, despite their negative reputation, aren’t dangerous during pregnancy, says the derm, but it is always best to use more natural formulas when in doubt. And as in any other state, the complexion is still greatly affected by diet—pregnant women battling acne should avoid excess sugars. In the end, “the best thing is eating well and eating antioxidants—not pills but fresh produce,” says Moy.