Pregnancy Skin Problems (Tips For Breakouts, Acne, Melasma, And Unruly Skin)
If you’re pregnant right now and you’ve got breakouts and pregnancy skin problems instead of the pregnancy “glow” everyone’s always talks about, read on, I’ve got some tips for you! (and if you’re not pregnant, but you’re breastfeeding, or you’re just curious, definitely read on too!).
As most of you know, I gave birth to our second daughter, Skye, 6 weeks ago. During both my pregnancies I had major challenges with my skin. I sympathize with every woman that suddenly gets pimples, breakouts, acne, melasma, and other skin issues while pregnant and/or breastfeeding (it’s the worst!).
You never know what to expect, and as they say, every pregnancy is different.
Today I want to share my own story of the different skin challenges I experienced during both my pregnancies (breakouts, hyperpigmentation/melasma, change of skin type, and the unexpected effects breastfeeding had on my hair too).
I also want to share some tips for those of you currently pregnant or breastfeeding and struggling with your skin. Checkout my story and tips below, plus video!
My pregnancy skin problems (changes & challenges)
Based on my experience, the saying “no pregnancy is the same,” is so true. If you got breakouts or acne during your first pregnancy, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get acne or breakouts all over again the next pregnancy. In fact, your skin can be one way the first pregnancy, and completely different the next.
When I was pregnant with our first daughter Luna Ray, my skin went from being chronically oily to crazy oily. How I’d describe my skin (and hair) during my first pregnancy was one giant “oil spill.” All the oil building up on the surface of my skin gave me a pregnancy “glow” (quite literally), but it wasn’t an attractive dewy glow most people are aiming for. Instead, it was a thick and constant build up of a heavy waxy oil all over my face and scalp. As soon as I washed my face, an hour later it would feel oily and dirty again. My hair and scalp were even worse. Normally I only have to wash my hair once or twice a week, but during that pregnancy I had to wash my hair almost every single day because my scalp would get so greasy.
You would think with all that oil and grease, my skin would be a broken out acne mess, but instead, I had completely clear blemish-free skin the entire pregnancy. Not a single pimple!
But, let’s just say that clear blemish-free pregnancy skin didn’t last long. As soon as I gave birth to Luna Ray, within a few days my face exploded with pimples. The crazy oily skin and scalp went back to normal soon after I gave birth, but my face was constantly broken out with large painful cystic pimples. I wasn’t expecting this at all, no one warned me what could happen postpartum. Not only did I have chronic painful breakouts, but my hair thinned out and fell out. (Before I had my daughter Luna Ray, I had very thick, curly ringlet hair. Since I gave birth to her over 3 years ago, it’s been permanently wavy/straight, I completely lost my curls).
Most of the time while I was breastfeeding Luna, my skin was very temperamental and could breakout easily (which was a little over 2 years). The good news was during that time I was so desperate to fix my skin, I discovered more effective remedies for healing breakouts and preventing them from coming back (including my favourite Mint Water Remedy for cystic acne that’s in my FREE Acne Solutions 5-Day Email Course).
I was lucky that I knew how to heal breakouts quickly, but I had to be crazy diligent with my diet to prevent the breakouts from coming back. Usually I can get away with having treat foods once in a while and it won’t give me breakouts. But, during those 2+ years while I was breastfeeding, if I’d have a single cup of ice cream, I’d automatically wake up the next morning with a huge cystic pimple on my face. At that time, my skin was so unforgiving, any small deviation from my clear skin diet would cause terrible breakouts.
Luckily after I stopped breastfeeding, my skin returned to normal, and the cystic breakouts went away (and I could have a treat once in a while without my skin freaking out).
Last summer I got pregnant with our second daughter, Skye.
I was expecting the crazy oily skin to come right back. In fact, while I was visiting my family in Canada, I actually stocked up on a bunch of products specifically for oily skin (this time I wanted to be prepared!).
But, as I said before, no pregnancy is the same. My skin didn’t get oilier, and instead the reverse happened!
From the onset of the pregnancy my skin started getting really dry, and as the pregnancy progressed, my skin continued to get drier and drier. No amount of water, healthy fats and proteins in my diet, or heavy duty moisturizing products could quench my dried out skin.
What was even worse was my skin appeared to be losing elasticity and all the wrinkles and fine lines on my face was a lot more pronounced.
I was starting to look old! (and being 41 and pregnant, this is obviously not the look I was aiming for!).
And not only was my skin looking wrinkled and dry, I was getting breakouts the first half of the pregnancy and melasma/hyperpigmentation was coming out full force.
This time around I didn’t stress as much about my skin, because based on my previous pregnancy, as soon I give birth everything can change (and I was looking forward to seeing what would happen). I also embraced these skin challenges because it was an opportunity to see what I could do or try, to fix these pregnancy skin problems (treating the dry skin and pimples was easy, but the loss of skin elasticity and melasma was hard).
Once I did give birth, my skin changed dramatically overnight. I was actually amazed to see that the melasma/hyperpigmentation completely disappeared the first 3 days after giving birth, but once my milk can in, the melasma came right back (and got worse).
It’s now been 6 weeks since I gave birth to Skye, the melasma is still here, but my skin and hair are for the most part, back to normal. Since giving birth, my skin and hair are no longer dry, the elasticity and suppleness of my skin has come back, fine lines and wrinkles are much softer and less pronounced, and overall (besides the melasma/hyperpigmentation), my skin looks a lot better. Even my hair is so much more smooth and shiny compared to when I was pregnant.
So far I haven’t had any cystic breakouts like I did after my last pregnancy, but the the first week after giving birth I did have a few minor breakouts which went away pretty quickly.
Comparing the two pregnancies and postpartum periods, it’s amazing to see just how different they were. You just never know how your skin will react to pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, and the hormone changes that comes with all of this. Based on my experience, you can’t quite predict or control what will happen, but there’s definitely things you can do to support the health of your skin, and even make it better.
Tips for managing pregnancy skin
I know a lot of people will say not to fuss about your skin and changing body while pregnant, and instead focus on the miracle growing inside you. I think that’s great if you can do that, but I know for myself, I also wanted to feel good about my changing body. Through both my pregnancies I had morning sickness, nausea, food aversions, and insomnia – I didn’t feel so great, so if I could look a little better than I felt, I was all for it!
Below are skincare and diet tips that have worked for me and my coaching clients. Pregnancy isn’t the time for drastic lifestyle changes, but making small improvements and adjustments (and doing them consistently), can actually bring about some great results.
Tip #1 – Pregnancy skin is sensitive skin – treat it that way
Whether you feel it or not, when you’re pregnant, your skin is much more sensitive and fragile compared to normal. It doesn’t matter your age or skin type, with the increase of hormones and all the changes happening to your body, this naturally affects your skin.
As you probably already know, pregnant women are advised not to use skincare products containing ingredients like Vitamin A (retinoids/retinol), Salicylic Acid, Benzoyl Peroxide, Hydroquinone, etc., due to these ingredients being potentially hazardous to your baby’s health and development.
Ontop of these ingredients not being safe for your growing baby, I would also say majority of these ingredients could potentially irritate your skin during pregnancy anyways. So, it’s not necessarily a bad thing you have to take a temporarily break from them.
In general, I recommend being cautious using any skincare product containing strong ingredients or has a rough or abrasive texture; even if the product is safe to use, and it’s natural or organic.
Best to be careful using facial scrubs, masks, exfoliating acid toners or serums, brightening products, harsh cleansers (such as soap or foaming cleansers), facial brushes, and even essential oils. You might regularly use these products when you’re not pregnant without any issues, but while you’re pregnant, these products can be way too harsh for your skin.
I know for myself, I tend to cut down on the skincare products I’m using while I’m pregnant, and simplify my skincare routine considerably. My skin does a lot better.
My advice is keep an eye on your skin. If you notice any signs of redness, stinging, bumpy skin, or irritation; stop using the product for the remainder of your pregnancy (and even the first few months postpartum), and find something gentler.
As for facials, dry skin brushing, and tanning – I would stay away from all of that while you’re pregnant too. Even waxing while pregnant can cause serious skin sensitivity.
Tip #2 – Update your skincare routine
Old habits can be hard to change. You might be surprised just how many people are attached to what they think their skin type is, or what their skin type was 10+ years ago! I know plenty of people who haven’t had a single breakout or blemish in years, but still only use products formulated to treat acne (which they probably don’t need anymore).
Even myself, most of my adult life I’ve had oily skin and while I was pregnant with Skye, my skin became very dry. I noticed in the beginning how less shiny my skin looked, but for some reason it didn’t quite register that my skin type had completely changed. It was only until my husband one day remarked how dry and lined my skin was looking, did I realized I no longer had oily skin, and I needed to start changing things up in my skincare routine.
My recommendation to you is to take a good look at your skin now, and at the beginning of every trimester of your pregnancy to make sure you know what your current skin type is and that you’re using appropriate products.
If your skin is changing, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to buy a whole set of new products, but you might have to change one or two things like your cleanser or moisturizer, or use more or less of something.
For example, when my skin went from oily to super oily during my first pregnancy, I just washed my face with smooth raw honey twice a day, and stopped using everything else. For me, having such oily skin was a sign my skin was particularly sensitive and my body was secreting extra oil as a protective barrier for my skin. As uncomfortable as it was having such heavy oily skin, I didn’t feel a particular need to disrupt it or control it. I just wanted to leave it be, not put anything on my skin, and in fact, it worked in my favour because that pregnancy my skin was completely free of any blemish or breakout.
During my second pregnancy when my skin went from oily to dry – instead of buying all new skincare products formulated for dry wrinkled skin, I just adjusted certain steps in my skincare routine. For example, before I got pregnant I was doing the Oil Cleansing Method (washing my face with oil and a damp wash cloth). When my skin started getting dry and wrinkled during the pregnancy, I switched to the Dry Oil Cleansing Method (washing my face with oil and a dry cotton cloth – no water). I was still using the same oil to wash my face, but changed the technique, which was much more moisturizing. For my nighttime skincare routine, I also replaced the facial oils I normally used for a richer moisturizing cream, which also helped considerably.
You just never know how your skin is going to change during pregnancy, and also, postpartum. I can say for myself, my skin type has changed again quite dramatically since I gave birth a few weeks ago, and as I continue breastfeeding, I’m sure it will continue changing more.
Tip #3 – Eat more of this…
Pregnancy isn’t the time to be restricting your diet. But, it is the time to be eating super nutritious food to nourish yourself and your baby.
For some of you, you’re going to have strong cravings while you’re pregnant, for others this might happen post-pregnancy while you’re breastfeeding, and some of you might be dealing with cravings all the way through.
One way or another, there’s certain foods you should eat more of to help reduce inflammation, speed up healing of your skin, and keep your complexion healthy and radiant.
Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids. All of which are important for skin health. If you want clear glowing skin, eat a lot of vegetables.
The two types of vegetables I highly recommend eating are green leafy vegetables (because they are anti-inflammatory and will help speed up healing of your skin), and also richly pigmented vegetables (because they’re rich in antioxidants, and have a wide array of vitamins and minerals – which will protect your skin from cell damage and ensure you’re getting the proper nutrition you need).
When you’re eating a lot of nutritious food, it shows in your skin. Not only helping to keep it clear, but healthy food will give you a healthy glow.
I know many women have strong aversions to vegetables while they are pregnant. I am one of them! As much as I LOVE vegetables, during my first pregnancy I could barely eat them, let alone look at them.
Luckily, there are ways to still eat vegetables (and get all the skin beautifying benefits from them), without having the strong aversions standing in your way. One thing that worked for me was experimenting with different ways of preparing vegetables. For example, during my first pregnancy I couldn’t stomach eating most cooked vegetables. But, I realized that as much as I had a strong aversion to cooked vegetables, I had no problem eating fresh green salads and green vegetable juices, so I ate that instead every day.
The same might be true for you, or the reverse, you might not have a problem eating cooked or steamed vegetable but have an aversion to all raw vegetables. I find exploring your aversions a little more deeply will uncover some exceptions and certain foods you can still get away with eating.
Also, aversions and cravings don’t necessarily last the entire pregnancy. I’ve known many women who’ve had strong aversions in the beginning of their pregnancy, but once their morning sickness subsided after the first trimester, they no longer had aversions and could have more variety in their diet.
Your digestion is directly connected to the health of your skin. If your digestion is slow or stagnant, an increase of toxins and waste can be excreted through your skin, which can result in pimples, boils, congested pores, rashes, and skin irritation.
With pregnancy comes slower digestion. This is due to changes in your hormones and that your body is trying to work more efficiently absorbing nutrients from your food. Also, as your baby is growing, it naturally takes up more space, which can result in your baby pressing up again your intestines, stomach and other digestive organs – which can compromise digestion and make the passage of foods and waste more difficult (and uncomfortable!).
Because digestion naturally slows down during pregnancy, you want to avoid getting constipated. It’s not only uncomfortable being constipated, it’s not healthy, and it’s definitely not good for your skin.
It’s really important to eat a wide variety of fiber-rich and water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables to help move food and waste along your digestive track.
Whole grains, beans/legumes, nuts and seeds are also high in fiber, but be careful because they are low in water and for some of you, not the easiest to digest. I recommend always eating these foods with some vegetables (like serving whole grains with cooked vegetables, or sprinkling nuts/seeds on a salad, etc). This will make it much easier for your body to digest and prevent constipation from these foods.
In addition to eating plenty fiber-rich and water rich foods to prevent constipation, I also recommend making sure you’re drinking plenty of water and fluids, and doing some sort of movement or exercise every day. All of this will help support your digestive system and keep you more regular.
Proteins & Healthy Fats
And lastly, make sure to be eating healthy fats and proteins which are the building blocks for healthy glowing skin (and supple, youthful skin too).
This is really important, pregnant or not, if you want beautiful skin, you need to be eating healthy proteins and fats.
What’s important is making sure you are getting these healthy fats and proteins from fresh, real food, and not processed products.
Things like oils, margarine, faux meat products (like tofu hot dogs) and even protein powders are all processed products and unfortunately many people believe they are a healthy source of protein and fats. These food products aren’t fresh real food, and they’re not necessarily healthy or good for your skin.
I would cut back on any “food” or condiment that comes out of a bottle or package and do your best to replace it with real foods (sources of healthy proteins and fats are vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, fish, eggs, meats, etc.).
Obviously if you are cooking something and need a bit of oil to cook with, that’s fine. But, I wouldn’t be pouring coconut oil into a smoothie and thinking you’re getting a good serving of healthy fats. You’re much better off adding fresh coconut meat to your smoothie, not the oil!
To keep things simple, when in doubt if your food is healthy and real, just ask yourself, “Was this created by mother nature or a factory?” The more food you are eating that is fresh, real and from the source (and not born out of a factory), the better it will be for you, your baby, and your skin!
Tip #4 – You’re not pregnant forever, so don’t stress
I know how all the body changes during pregnancy can feel overwhelming at times. You’re growing a beautiful baby inside you, but on the outside, the breakouts, pimples, melasma, stretch marks, and expanding body aren’t as fun.
I get it (been there myself). But, I want to reassure you that it’s not forever. For many women, a lot of these pregnancy conditions clear up pretty quickly after giving birth, sometimes quicker than you expect.
The pimples, breakouts, melasma/pigmentation is all from your pregnancy hormones. Once you give birth, those hormones start to go back to normal, and so does your body.
Stressing about your pregnancy skin isn’t going to change it, and in fact, the stress will make it worse.
Instead, I recommend doing the reverse. Let your broken out skin and imperfections be your motivator to get super healthy and to take good care of yourself. Look at this journey and process as opening the doors to a better you.
And if it makes you feel any better, I had all sorts of skin challenges while I was pregnant, and my post-pregnancy body currently feels like a bowl of mush. 5 weeks postpartum, I am so terribly out of shape, my muscles have turned to flabby jelly, my skin stretched out and dry, my forehead has clouds of melasma all over it, and my eyes are as tired and blood shot as can be (and this is just the tip of the iceberg).
Being the eternal optimist I am, I LOVE this time, because I feel like a sculptor with a brand new block of clay, and I can shape and mold my body any way I want. Ya, it will take some time to get my body where I want it to be (strong and fit again!), but who says it has to be hard and torturous? I choose not to get overwhelmed or hard on myself (because that sucks, and it’ll just causes more wrinkles and breakouts!). If our bodies can make babies, in my book, our bodies have the potential for anything.
What are your tips?
I want to thank everyone for your pregnancy well wishes! You’re so thoughtful for thinking of me. I have to say, I’ve been missing blogging while I’ve been on my maternity break, so it’s great to be back!
I know many of you are mothers as well, and there’s a few of you currently pregnant and struggling with your skin. If you have any tips or things that have helped you dealing with breakouts, acne, or melasma/hyperpigmentation during pregnancy or postpartum, please share them in the comments below. I know your wisdom and experience will be most appreciated.
Pregnant or not, if your dealing with melasma/hyperpigmentation, or cystic hormonal breakouts, I’ve got a few more blog posts and videos that will definitely help.
Go check out these blog posts: