Trying to put together the ultimate pregnancy skin care routine that maintains your glowing complexion? Charlotte’s gone ahead and done it for you. Below the esthetician and first time mama-to-be walks us through what products she used to maintain her glowing complexion and tackle the unique skin care concerns that pop up during pregnancy.
For someone who has now reached 39 weeks, I can now say that pregnancy was more eye-opening and transformative than I could have ever imagined. It’s pretty incredible that in less than a year, I’ve literally created a whole nervous system, with functioning organs and a pair of eyeballs, too. Sometimes it’s still hard to believe that there is a tiny human being inside of me that can breathe, blink and suck on her thumb– until that is, reality hits when she suddenly kicks me hard in the gut!
Luckily, pregnancy has been relatively smooth for me. I didn’t have morning sickness, bleeding gums, food aversions, or fatigue. I did however have to deal with a lot of pain and discomfort when sleeping from the extra weight pressing down on my spine, and my hands and fingers are often so sore and bloated that it’s often uncomfortable using them (especially in the mornings). And of course, there have been some interesting changes to my skin that even I didn’t expect!
Now that I am just days away from my maternity leave, I took the time to share my thoughts and advice on what worked (and what did not work) for my skin. Luckily, I was able to navigate these new skin challenges with my good friend and dermatologist Dr. Claire Chang of Union Square Dermatology, who also recently became a mom this year too!
About 6 months before I got pregnant, I finally solved my issues with hormonal acne. I was on the road to recovery, with some leftover hyperpigmentation to gently fade away with vitamin C treatments. Once I found out I was pregnant though, I was worried that pregnancy could make my hormones go wild, and undo all the hard work I’d done to get clear skin.
I spoke to Dr. Chang about what products and ingredients she recommended to prevent and treat acne. She recommended forgoing any high percentages of chemical exfoliant treatments, such as salicylic acid, and instead opt for more natural ingredients such as tea tree extracts and green tea. There’s nothing concrete in research or studies that chemical exfoliants can impact the fetus, but the general rule of thumb is that it is better to be safe than sorry.
What was key for me throughout the 9 months was to use a facial moisturizer that would be lightweight and suited for the summer weather, so I wouldn’t clog any pores while giving my skin barrier the nourishment and hydration it needed. I relied on the Neogen Joan Day and Night Cream, which has green tea and vitamin C. I especially loved the soothing lavender scent. It has one side that is more lightweight in texture and one that is a bit thicker. I used the thicker texture as a moisturizer at night, and sometimes even for my body as well, especially the belly area.
As an additional treatment step, from time to time I used the Benton Tea Tree Serum in areas where I would usually break out. And I’m happy to report that I didn’t have to deal with any breakouts my entire pregnancy!
Body – Stretch Marks
Dr. Chang told me that one of the biggest skin concerns that most pregnant women have is the fear of getting stretch marks from your growing belly area. I truly believe stretch marks can be worn with pride as a sign of what amazing wonders your body has accomplished, but for those who would rather keep them to a minimum, here’s what you need to know.
Stretch marks form when the elastic tissue tears, as it bears the extra weight and sudden growth in your body. Most of the stretch marks you will encounter in your life are hereditary (if you can, ask your mom if she experienced stretch marks to get a sense of if you may get them too). But with skin care, 70% is often impacted by genetics, and 30% is impacted by your lifestyle and how you care for it.
To take that 30% by the horns and minimize the chance of experiencing stretch marks, the best advice is to use oils and moisturizers to hydrate and deeply moisturize the skin as much as you can. The goal is to keep it moisturized enough so that skin has more flexibility to stretch a little more without succumbing to stretch marks. It’s not a 100% guarantee that nothing will happen but it’s always best to give it all you got!
For this particular skin concern, I used the Solved Skincare 100% Organic Jojoba Oil. I loved the lightweight, but still deeply moisturizing oil. Because there were no fillers, and it was just all jojoba oil (my favorite oil), it had this natural luxurious slip and no scent. I would slather it all over my belly after showers in the morning and before going to sleep. I went through about 3 bottles of it during my pregnancy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this new routine continues on after I give birth. It’s nice giving my body some extra love, especially as I am quarantining and now used to a nightly self-care ritual.
Other products that made it super easy to hydrate my face and body were mists! As my belly grew, it became harder to bend down and moisturize my legs, so having a mist like the Klairs Fundamental Ampule Mist made it easier to spritz morning and night to keep my body skin hydrated and soft.
Pro-tip: Don’t neglect your butt! I’m in my final days of pregnancy, and I’m happy to report that my belly area has 2-3 tiny stretch marks at most. But my butt (which already had stretch marks pre-pregnancy) experienced more stretch marks! I wasn’t diligent at all about moisturizing my rear and bust, so if I could give you a pro-tip, I would encourage you to take the time to moisturize all over.
Melasma – Treatment
I encountered a lot of melasma this pregnancy, and I’ll tell you why: I was overly confident. I have pretty fair skin, without much pigmentation or even freckles. I’m also great at wearing sunscreen, so I felt I had all the right tools in my tool kit to not worry about melasma.
Boy, was I wrong!
I didn’t realize how susceptible pregnancy would make me to damaging UV rays, and how quickly my skin would sprout brown spots. It didn’t help that the bulk of my pregnancy was during the summer, during a period of COVID quarantine. I spent most weekends outdoors, especially since indoor activities were discouraged. Also my work-from-home desk is positioned right next to a huge window with lots of exposure to UVA and UVB rays.
I also wasn’t very careful about avoiding direct sunlight. I would be outside lounging in the park for hours. My cockiness led to pigmentation, splattered all across my cheeks. It’s upsetting because now I need to use a concealer to blend the brown spots away, when I never had to.
The solution to get to the root of this skin concern is actually not concealer, but Vitamin C. Luckily, Vitamin C is completely safe to use when pregnant (confirmed with Dr. Chang), so I try to incorporate it into my routine as much as possible. In my daily skin care routine I use the Some By Mi Galactomyces Pure VItamin C Glow Toner, which is a great way to incorporate daily vitamin C both morning and night. I love how it’s also filled with hydrating fermented ingredients, which makes this a great toner & brightening essence combo, if I ever felt lazy and wanted to simplify my routine!
If you want more vitamin C, check out the Good (Skin) Days C’s the Day Serum 10% Vitamin C treatment as an additional spot treatment.
Note: They do say that melasma can fade away on its own after pregnancy. I’ll keep you posted on what happens in the months following!
Melasma – Prevention
Now that I’ve shared how you can reduce pigmentation, let’s not forget that it’s best to focus on prevention! Once I realized how melasma was affecting my skin, I doubled down on sunscreen. I curated a mineral-based sunscreen that has SPF 50, Thank You Farmer Safe Sun Fluid. It’s in a larger bottle, which has lasted me much longer since I was slathering it all over, multiple times a day. I personally do not think chemical-based sunscreens like the Thank You Farmer Sun Project Essence and the Neogen Day Light Sunscreen are unsafe in any way just because they are not mineral, but because so many of you provided feedback on preferring a mineral-based sunscreen during pregnancy, I decided to curate the mineral-only sunscreen version as well!
Pregnancy is a wild ride to say the least, and it definitely can make an impact on your skin! I’ve definitely learned a lot through this journey, and I’m excited to pass on my full pregnancy routine:
Here’s my full pregnancy routine:
Step 1&2: Double Cleanse – Then I Met You Cleansing Duo
Step 3: Tone – Some By Mi Galactomyces Pure Vitamin C Glow Toner
Step 4: Essence – Then I Met You Essence
Optional Steps: Treatments – Benton Tea Tree Serum, C’s the Day Serum
Step 5: Moisturize – Neogen Joan Day & Night Cream
Body: Solved Skin Care Jojoba Oil, Klairs Fundamental Ampule Mist
Step 6: Sunscreen – Thank You Farmer Safe Sun Fluid
Also, to help with your journey, I’ve put together a specially curated Mama-To-Be Skin Care Starter Set of the key products in my routine that I consider as essentials during pregnancy and plan to use while breastfeeding too. Hoping it would be an easy gift for any mamas-to-be, or as add-ons to your current routine.
I’m excited to meet my little one in a week’s time, and let her know all that I had to change in my lifestyle to bring her into this world. Though, of course, I’ll let her know that she was so worth it!