How pregnancy changes the skin

Skin Care Matters

with Michelle Vernon

Sunday, July 16, 2017

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PREGNANCY brings about a whirlwind of changes to the skin and body.

Many of the physiological changes experienced during pregnancy are a direct response to rising hormone levels. Although these hormones are instrumental in the development of the baby, they can bring with them a host of other body and skin changes which this article will discuss.


Your skin during pregnancy

Pregnancy is often associated with a healthy glow, but that glow is not absolute and is balanced by a long list of not always comfortable or necessarily aesthetic side effects.



Progesterone stimulates oil-producing glands and sweat-producing glands. This is beneficial to dry skin as it will be able to naturally lubricate and moisturise itself.

Ultimately, either skin will have that “pregnancy glow” or a build-up of excess oil on the surface. The latter can become a breeding ground for bacteria and trigger acne breakouts on the face, back and chest.

Each pregnancy is mutually exclusive. The symptoms in any single trimester can vary significantly from one pregnancy and person to the next. Acne is an example. For some women, all the hormone fluctuations can clear up acne. For others, it can worsen the skin condition

To encourage skin wellness and avoid breakouts it is necessary to stick to a gentle but appropriate home care regimen. This includes daily cleansing and moisturising with non-irritating products that are rich with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and omegas that will nourish the skin.

Exfoliating and using a masque once a week will smooth and enhance skin texture and complexion.



Skin pigmentation is an undesirable side effect of pregnancy that happens because of melanocyte-stimulating hormones in high gear.

Sensitivity to the sun is considerably greater. Even minimal unprotected sun exposure forces melanin, the dark pigment produced by melanocytes, to the surface of the skin with ease.

One of the most common forms of pregnancy-related pigmentation is melasma, also known as the mask of pregnancy or chloasma. This condition is recognised as dark patches most commonly on the forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin. This type of pigmentation often clears up on its own within a few months after the baby is born, but skin-lightening treatments may be needed.

The best precaution is to use sun protection with a minimum SPF 50. Other areas of the body that typically darken with pregnancy are existing freckles or moles and the skin around the nipple called the areola. The skin colour remains dark even post-pregnancy until the mother stops breastfeeding the baby.

Linea nigra is another example of a skin colour alteration. It is a darkened line of skin that runs from the abdomen down to the pubic bone. The line begins to emerge approximately halfway through a pregnancy and continues to darken. A few months post-delivery, the line usually fades on its own.

Stretch marks

The obvious physical transfor­mation in pregnancy is a growing belly, with the uterus expanding 500 times its normal size. Simultan­eously, the breasts enlarge as well, in preparation for breastfe­eding.

Skin is incredibly elastic, and can actually stretch up to at least six feet. Nonetheless, when growth is more rapid than the elasticity of the skin, collagen and elastin fibres become strained, causing stretch marks.

Stretch marks commonly develop on the stomach, breasts and hips. Keeping the skin deeply moisturised and nourished throughout the pregnancy will go a long way and is a good preventative measure.

Spider and varicose veins

Pregnancy increases blood flow to the skin. This too contributes to the “pregnancy glow”. It is also responsible for broken capillaries, spider veins and varicose veins that can appear, especially if there is a family history of varicose or spider veins.

The higher amount of blood circulating through the veins puts pressure on the capillaries and causes them to burst or bulge. They may not be aesthetically pleasing, especially when small bluish-red webs show up in obvious areas like on the cheeks or uncomfortable protruding veins on the legs. Usually they are harmless and go away on their own several months post-partum.

To prevent or reduce the symptoms of spider and varicose veins, there are some notable safeguards. Having a sufficient amount of vitamin C is essential for vein flexibility. It promotes healthy veins and supports the flow of blood.

Moving around, not standing or sitting for long periods of time, avoiding crossing of the legs, and wearing compression stockings or leggings will inhibit varicose vein progression.

Natural remedies

Herbal and essential oil remedies have been used for centuries throughout the world to ease and lessen pregnancy symptoms and prepare the body for labouring. Many botanical and herbal extracts work to promote a healthy pregnancy.

It is always advisable to consult a doctor before introducing any home therapies when pregnant.



One recommended and safe extract that is beneficial in the second and third trimester is red raspberry leaf. The tea supplement strengthens and exercises the uterus in preparation for delivery.



Ginger root is great to alleviate nausea or any stomach uneasiness, especially in the first and third trimester.


Essential oils

Essential oils can be used to reset the body and the mind during pregnancy. Simply rubbing a few drops in the palms and inhaling the aroma can go a long way.

Lavender is calming and assists in relaxation, while peppermint or citrus are energising and uplifting. The medicinal benefits of tea tree oil, in combination with a gentle moisturiser, will help balance the skin and help prevent potential breakouts, but it should not be used in the third trimester.

Pregnancy is a delicate time for a woman and the experience for many is overall positive. For some it can be stressful and overwhelming with all of the unexpected changes.

Being knowledgeable is a sensible preparation. The many physiological changes a woman undergoes through pregnancy are often reversed to a normal state after delivery. One certainty about pregnancy is the miraculous transfor­mational capability of the female body.


Michelle Vernon is a licensed aesthetician who operates the Body Studio Skincare located at 23 Central Plaza, Kingston 10, and Fairview Shopping Centre, Montego Bay. She may be reached at telephone 908-0438 or 684-9800; IG @ bodystudioskincare; E-mail:; Website:

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