Over the years, I’ve received lots of questions on skincare during pregnancy. My first book Genuine Beauty includes a chapter dedicated to the subject, but I haven’t really talked about it over on the blog – perhaps because it’s a distant topic for me personally and one that arouses plenty of opinions and emotion. But it’s about time to talk about it, so I decided to put together a basic guide on skincare while expecting.
During pregnancy, the body and hormones go through such major changes that the effects can often also be seen on the face. Some experience dry skin, some battle with an explosion of impurities, some get pigment spots. The good news is that the changes usually sort themselves out already during pregnancy, by the time your child is born at the latest. Especially pigment spots should fade away by themselves.
By no means do you need to stop using cosmetics while pregnant, but it’s worth paying attention to how many products you use and what they contain. If unsure about what to use, I recommend ditching complex chemical cocktails in favour of simple products that have the shortest possible lists of ingredients. Follow the same rule of thumb while breastfeeding.
Especially if using natural cosmetics, there’s no need to get over-cautious. It’s good to make sure the products you use don’t contain essential oils that aren’t recommended (listed below), but you don’t need to place every single plant extract under a magnifying glass, as the quantities in products are extremely small and won’t seep through the skin to harm your baby. If, however, you are using several different products, a chemical cocktail begins to form.
There’s no one right way to treat skin during pregnancy, but it’s good to minimize the total load of chemicals. We are all exposed to hundreds of chemicals each day, but we can at least directly impact what we apply on our skin.
Aromatherapy During Pregnancy
The general guideline is to avoid essential oils during pregnancy, but except for a few, most essential oils are completely safe. Essential oils to avoid during pregnancy include: anise, basil, fennel, jasmine, juniper, marjoram, myrrh, clary sage, black pepper, clove, oregano, peppermint, sage, cedar, cypress and thyme.
Some oils can come to the rescue for various symptoms during pregnancy. The aromatherapeutic effects of essential oils aid swelling and remove metabolic waste from the body, relieve muscle tension and relax the mind. Already during the first four months of pregnancy, you can safely use geranium, mandarin and nerolioils. Geranium relieves swelling, and can be used in the bath or foot bath. Add three drops of geranium essential oil to the bath water.
From the start of the fifth month, useful essential oils include orange, frankincense, rose (used in moderation), sandalwood andlemon.
Massaging the body relaxes, rejuvenates and relieves aches and pains. The feel-good factor of gently rubbing your lower abdomen right from the start of pregnancy reaches all the way through to the baby. To relieve increasing back aches as the pregnancy progresses, massage the small of the back with mandarin or sandalwood oil. Mix one drop of essential oil per a teaspoon of carrier oil. Any cold-pressed plant oil can be safely used as a carrier oil also during pregnancy. Beneficial carrier oils include grapeseed oil, wheat germ oiland almond oil.
Preventing Stretch Marks
Preventing stretch marks is an important part of skincare during pregnancy (if wanting to avoid them that is). Daily dry-brushing and using a body oil or lotion that prevents stretch marks are the most efficient ways. You can either make your own oil or choose one of the many high-quality products available. It’s worth continuing with the stretch mark oil for a few months after birth as well.
DIY stretch mark oil:
40 ml wheat germ oil
30 ml rosehip oil
30 ml Argan oil
10 drops neroli
8 drops mandarin
3 drops geranium
2 drops frankincense
Combine the ingredients in a clean glass jar and pour into a disinfected glass bottle. Store away from light. Follow the best before date of the carrier oils.
Here’s a list of stretch mark products in various price ranges:
It’s tricky to pick the most effective product on the list. Without personal experience, the best way for me is to examine the list of ingredients and check out the formulas. I think I’d give the whole list a try if I was pregnant. I’d combine the body serum and stretch mark butter in the Little Butterfly London range; the water-thin serum and rich butter seem like the perfect match. The legendary Egyptian Magic skin cream is another excellent product for preventing stretch marks, and the Weleda stretch mark oil has a cult status among the mentioned products. The ingredients in the Attitude stretch mark cream seem to offer a good price-quality ratio.
For Achy Feet
It’s worth investing in a good foot cream during pregnancy to alleviate swelling and aches. A warm geranium foot soak followed by a massage with an invigorating foot cream is a sure way to pamper an expectant mother. Recommended foot creams:
Attitude Blooming Belly foot cream, with cooling, ache-relieving menthol.
Neal’s Yard Remedies’ Comfrey & Mallow foot balm, with comfrey to relieve tired, strained and achy feet.
I recommend using simple, gentle products when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. The French Iroisie skincare range is ideal, as it does not contain essential oils and isn’t packed with active ingredients. The mild, soft fragrance shouldn’t make you queasy either.
If after something more potent, Little Butterfly London skincare products are specifically aimed at pregnant women. They aroused my curiosity, as active ingredients like vitamin E, cucumber and mulberry target pigment spots, a common issue during pregnancy. After all, many people are after effective products also while pregnant especially if hormones play havoc on skin, but it’s vital to make sure ingredients are safe to use. Little Butterfly London products have a mild fragrance, and I really love the concept of a range specifically targeted at pregnant women.
Iroisie Gelée Douceur Démaquillante cleansing gel is a super gently cleansing micellar gel that won’t leave skin dry or damage the hydrolipidic film. The cleanser contains calming cornflower water, moisturising seaweed, clarifying papaya and antiseptic lemon. The cleanser packs a punch considering it’s a micellar gel, and effectively removes fat-soluble, creamy foundation.
Iroisie Tonique Précieux toning lotion contains ginseng root, ginkgo biloba and seaweed extract to neutralize free radicals and protect skin for external factors.
Neal’s Yard Remedies Nourishing Orange Flower toner contains moisturizing and rejuvenating aloe vera as well as clarifying and skin-softening neroli essential oil. For some reason, many pregnant women are drawn to the scent of neroli essential oil. Neroli affects emotions and mood more than other citrus oils, being one of the best essential oils to combat depression, stress, anxiety and restlessness.
Iroisie Contour des Yeux Efficace Au Jojoba eye contour cream smooths the under-eye area, invigorates tired eyes and reduces puffiness. The cream contains cornflower water to calm and invigorate eyes, jojoboa oil to nourish and protect skin, and seaweed to moisturize.
If skin is in good shape, you can skip using a serum while pregnant, but if your skin suddenly gets ridden with impurities or becomes excessively dry, a serum used as a course of treatment comes to the aid. You can stock a bottle of serum in your bathroom cabinet for a rainy day.
Evolve Hyaluronic Serum provides a boost of hydration. The serum contains rose water, so I’d wait until the fifth pregnancy month before using just in case.
100% Pure Vitamin C Serum is a brightening and hydrating serum that clarifies the complexion.
Iroisie Soin Fermeté firming moisturiser is gentle, calming and brightening. It is quick to absorb and creates the perfect base for makeup.
Little Butterfly London Blossoms in Spring Illuminating Day Cream comes to the rescue in case of tired, stress-out skin. The silky moisturiser includes a lovely array of calming, rejuvenating active ingredients that even out the skin tone. The moisturiser has a mild fragrance and won’t clog pores, so it’s suitable also for blemish-prone skin. Active ingredients include vitamin E, cucumber, mulberry, green tea, acai berry, pomegranate and holy basil to brighten the skin, as well as borage, peach and passion fruit seed oil to fortify, soften, tone down and protect skin. I’m pretty sure use is allowed even if not pregnant …?
Little Butterfly London Secrets at Starlight Illuminating Night Cream brightens, nourishes and rejuvenates the skin during the night. The product is packed with an intriguing selection of active ingredients, and is so different from the day cream that it makes sense to invest in both. The night cream contains mulberry, blueberry, carrot, early purple orchid, French cotton thistle, blackcurrant and comfrey to even out and brighten skin tone and soothe the skin. The formula reminds me of the sleeping maskin Korean skincare. (Addictive stuff even for someone who isn’t pregnant.)
A good facial oil should be part of the beauty regimen also while pregnant. You can go for any single cold-pressed plant oil like Nafha Argan oil or Prickly pear seed oil, which contain a nice amount of rejuvenating and brightening vitamin E. Dabba facial oil cocktails are another excellent choice while pregnant, as instead of essential oils they are mixtures of several cold-pressed plant oils. Chamomile and borage face oil is suitable for sensitive and dry skin. Birch & fireweed face oil brightens lacklustre skin with premature signs of ageing. Rosehip oil elixir is beneficial for skin with impurities and pigment spots and Raspberry oil elixir for dry, tired skin.
To sum it all up, it’s good to reflect on the most important stages of your skincare regimen. Cleanser, toner, skin oil and eye contour cream are the four essential products to use, while other products are something extra, used depending on the season or condition and needs of the skin.
You can keep an extra bottle of serum handy in case of a sudden bout of impurities or dryness, but there’s no need to use it morning and night. I would also focus on dry-brushing, preventing stretch marks, baths and massages.
If you’re pregnant or a mother, I would love to know how you took care of your skin during pregnancy? Did your skin go through changes and did you do something to prevent stretch marks?
Photos Timo Anttonen
Translation Hilla Hautajoki