Skincare in Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a very exciting time, and with it comes a number of changes to our bodies, including changes to our skin. Here’s a rundown on what skin changes you may see during pregnancy, and what products are safe to use on your skin. 

Skincare in Pregnancy

What skin changes can occur in pregnancy?

Lots of changes can occur in the skin during pregnancy, and not all will affect all women.

Many women experience the development or worsening of acne, especially in the first trimester. This is related to changes in hormone levels and an increase in oil production as a result. It usually improves as the pregnancy progresses.

Melasma, also called the ‘mask of pregnancy’, is common. This is the development of patches of increased pigmentation, usually on the face. 

Stretch marks or striae can affect up to 90% of women, and usually develop in the second and third trimesters. 

Some women may experience increased hair growth, and thickening of the hair. Following pregnancy, it’s common to experience shedding of the hair in a process called telogen effluvium, which usually resolves in 6 to 12 months. 

Darkening of the skin, especially the nipples, as well as the development of a dark line on the abdomen called linea nigra can occur. This usually fades following the pregnancy. Sometimes, existing moles may become darker, but any changes should be reviewed by a doctor.

Prominent blood vessels, spider veins, skin tags and seborrhoeic keratoses can all develop, and often resolve following pregnancy. 

How can I treat my acne when I’m pregnant?

Topical ingredients that are safe in pregnancy include azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid, lactic acid and niacinamide. Certain topical antibiotics such as clindamycin and erythromycin are also considered safe, as are the oral antibiotics cephalexin and erythromycin, when used under medical supervision. Chemical peels with glycolic acid and lactic acid are also safe, as is LED light therapy

How can I manage pigmentation in pregnancy? 

The single most important factor in improving the appearance of pigmentation is strict sun protection. The use of sunscreen alone can improve melasma by up to 50%.  Ingredients that can be helpful in fading pigmentation include niacinamide, azelaic acid, vitamin C and kojic acid. Chemical peels with alpha hydroxy acids may also be helpful. 

Why do some women get stretch marks, and not others?

Stretch marks are more common in those with a family history of stretch marks, having a big baby, significant weight gain during pregnancy, and younger maternal age.

How can I prevent developing stretch marks?

Unfortunately, there aren’t any clinical studies that have shown with confidence that any treatment prevents stretch marks. Very weak evidence suggests that 15 minutes of massage with bitter almond oil, hyaluronic acid and Centella asiatica extract may reduce the development of stretch marks in pregnancy. 

What products should be avoided in pregnancy?

All retinoids should be avoided in pregnancy, including over-the-counter versions and prescription retinoids. Salicylic acid is generally best avoided too, although some experts consider it safe when used in small amounts for a limited time. Hydroquinone is not safe for use in pregnancy, and neither are botulinum toxin, dermal fillers and lasers.




Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…