acne eczema stretchmarks everything you need to know about your skin during pregnancy

Why does my skin break out when I’m pregnant? Will taking a collagen supplement prevent stretch marks? Can I use breastmilk to help heal acne? Are there any skincare ingredients I shouldn’t use while pregnant or breastfeeding?

We asked Dr Zama Tladi, Founder & Chief Aesthetician at Nubian Medical Aesthetics to answer all our questions about skin during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Why does pregnancy cause acne or eczema, or dramatically worsen it in those already affected? 

In the case of acne, pregnancy increases the amount of androgens in the body that lead to more oil production in the skin. This oil clogs pores, making the skin susceptible to bacteria, inflammation and acne especially in the first and second trimester. Fortunately, this is temporary. Try to refrain from squeezing or picking spots as this can cause inflammation and scarring.

The physiological changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy lead to weight gain causing the skin to stretch, which can then further exacerbate eczema conditions amongst women who already have eczema. If one had eczema which was subtle or less obvious, it appears like it’s starting because of these pregnancy changes but pregnancy will not cause eczema. It is necessary to use a good moisturiser, even a natural coconut oil, to replenish the skin and assist it to stretch with less itchiness.

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How do you treat acne in pregnant or breastfeeding women?

Ingredients such as Azelaic acid, Benzac, and Niacinamide are commonly used to treat acne in pregnant and breastfeeding women, and cleansing the skin twice a day is recommended. Visiting the dietitian to recommend the ideal food to eat and which food to avoid (e.g. dairy, red meat, certain sugars) as the baby still needs to get the right nutrients from the mother’s diet. Sunscreen (non-comedogenic) is also very important during this time.

Can breastmilk be used at home for facials?

Breastmilk has a lot of great nutrients like proteins, essential fat, vitamins, carbohydrates for the baby, however these molecules are too large for penetration into the skin so they will end up clogging skin pores.

What skincare ingredients should you avoid while pregnant or breastfeeding?

To err on the side of safety it’s best to avoid Vitamin A and analogues e.g. Retinol, Retin-A etc, salicylic acid and antibiotics called Tetracyclines.

Everything you need to know about your skin during pregnancy and breastfeeding: woman looking at a mirror

Topical products such as body lotion are absorbed into our blood to some degree. What products are safe to use while pregnant?

It is best to use organic moisturisers or sunscreens with natural ingredients as they don’t have chemicals that will be absorbed into the skin and potentially be absorbed into the blood, compared to the inorganic sunscreens that contain metallic chemicals such as  Zinc oxide and Titanic oxide.

Can you have microneedling while pregnant or breastfeeding?

Microneedling is not advised while pregnant and especially not for darker skin types. It can cause hyperpigmentation, which is very common during pregnancy as pregnancy hormones stimulate the pigment producing cells to produce more melanin. It is advised to wait until after breastfeeding when these hormones have settled down.

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Is it ok to get Botox while breastfeeding?

There is currently no evidence documented about the effects of Botox in breastmilk, however it is contraindicated in both pregnancy and breastfeeding due to the fact that it’s injected into the muscle, which contains vessels with blood supply.

Can taking a collagen supplement prevent or repair stretch marks?

Oral collagen won’t have an effect on stretch marks but collagen induction therapy like microneedling can definitely improve the appearance of stretch marks post pregnancy.