Pregnancy and the post-pregnancy period can be host to a range of skin issues. Find out what are the most common, and how you can prevent and/or minimise their occurrence.
Pregnancy and post-pregnancy are two periods in which a mum's body undergoes incredible changes. Closely linked to these changes are hormonal fluctuations and other factors such as the stretching of skin during pregnancy, that may result in not-so-glamorous stretch marks.
Here are some of the most common skin problems mums face during pregnancy and after, why these occur and what can be done to bring about relief.
1. Stretch marks
Probably the most common of all pregnancy skin woes, these 'stripes of motherhood' often appear during pregnancy and linger on post-pregnancy, too.
Stretch marks occur when your skin can't keep up with your body's growth or expansion, and the elastic fibres just under the skin break. During pregnancy, stretch marks commonly occur on the belly, thighs and breasts, and sometimes even on the buttocks and upper arms.
These marks often start out reddish or purple-hued, but often fade away to white or silvery lines. Darker-skinned women will often experience stretchmarks lighter than their skin tone, while lighter-skinned women will have pinkish marks.
While stretch marks are permanent in nature, their appearance can be improved by following a few simple guidelines.
- Right from when your baby bump starts growing, keep the skin on stretch mark prone areas of your body -- such as your belly, breasts, thighs -- well-moisturised. Then, even if you get stretch marks, it's likely that their appearance won't be too pronounced.
- Use a gentle and effective skincare product such as Bio-Oil on stretch mark-prone skin to keep it supple, soft and moisturised. Start applying Bio-Oil from the start of your second trimester, massaging it into your skin gently, twice daily, in a circular motion. It can also be used on existing stretch marks to help improve their appearance, as proven by a 2010 clinical study.
- Collagen and elastin fibres in the skin are necessary to keep rapidly growing skin taut, and the stronger they are, the less likely they are to break and leave resulting stretch marks, says Dr Karen Soh, Medical Director of Privé Clinic. It therefore makes sense to eat foods that are rich in Vitamin E and C, zinc and silica, which help to form collagen.
- Similarly, choose skincare products that contain pro-skin ingredients such as vitamins A and E, which are known nutrients for healthy skin. Vitamin A helps to promote the formation of new collagen and promotes skin renewal, and vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant loaded with benefits for your skin.
- Drink approximately 2 litres of water a day to help strengthen and renew your skin, while keeping it moisturised.
2. Mask of pregnancy
Some women get dark, uneven and blotchy spots on their forehead and cheeks during pregnancy. This is commonly known as the "mask of pregnancy" (also known as melasma and chloasma).
These spots, according to experts, are the result of hormonal changes related to pregnancy, which cause an increase in pigmentation. Around 50% of pregnant women experience this skin condition, which may also sometimes linger on post-pregnancy.
- To prevent melasma, women should avoid direct exposure to the sun both during and after pregnancy. This is because sun exposure can stimulate hyperpigmentation as well as darken existing freckles and spots on your face.
- Apply a good sunscreen whenever you are heading out -- even if you are only going to be sitting in a car, in the shade or on a plane.
- Use a good skincare product like Bio-Oil on the patches. Bio-Oil has been clinically proven to improve the appearance of uneven skin tone caused by melasma in just four weeks.
- Keep your skin hydrated and healthy by drinking plenty of water through the day.
Acne and dry skin are two other pregnancy and post-pregnancy skin conditions experienced by many women. Find out what causes them and what you can do to prevent or minimise these issues on the next page.