Finally being pregnant is such a wonderful and amazing time. I say that first hand because for the past months, I finally know what it is like to be truly blessed with life growing inside of you. Everyone always seems to be talking about the pregnancy glow and while many people have been commenting about me having some kind of radiance about me (probably because of how generally happy I am from within), I am the first to admit that it isn’t all about rainbows and butterflies as I have also not been immune to the skin problems that pregnancy brings about.
You never really know what to expect when you’re expecting (as cliche as it sounds as it is the cover of every pregnant woman’s bible) and I know that every pregnancy is different. But what I am sharing with you in this entry is my own story of the different skin challenges I am experiencing and also anticipating to experience in my pregnancy and what I’ve been doing to address them. All of these recommendations are of course based on personal experience and when it comes to the skin changes during pregnancy, there truly is no one size fits all formula and when dealing with serious skin issues, it is always ALWAYS best to consult with a licensed practitioner. But these are the ones that have helped me greatly so far:
CONCERN #1: Stretch Marks
It’s too early to tell (at 15 weeks) if I’m going to have stretch marks in my belly or not as my skin hasn’t stretched to its maximum extent yet and my barely there bump is proof of that. However, allow me to say that the dread of getting stretch marks is real and I am sure something most first time moms-to-be can relate to. I asked my OB-GYN about this and she said that creams and oils specifically formulated to prevent stretch marks can only help one avoid stretch marks by about 10-15% but that I should feel free to use them if it means improving my skin strength and elasticity so I currently am. There’s nothing to be lost with applying these as a preventative measure anyway.
The biggest factors that will determine if you will get stretch marks or not rely on two things mainly: 1) genetics (if you or anyone in your family have a history of getting stretch marks) which I have absolutely no control over as I did get stretch marks in my thigh area in adolescence and my mom did get stretch marks when she was pregnant and 2) in how rapidly you put on weight during your pregnancy (something I am trying my best to be very careful about and which explains why I have been a very picky eater for the past few months).
While getting stretch marks is something I’ve decided to no longer fuss about as only time will really tell and if ever I do get some, I have decided to wear it as proudly as I do all my other battle scars like a badge of honor for being a mommy, I still do my due diligence by religiously applying the creams and oils that give me a 10-15% chance of advantage. As they say, “prevention is better than cure.” So these are the ones that I have in my arsenal:
1. Clarins Huile “Tonic” Body Treatment Oil (P3,350 for 100ml, Rustan’s) and Clarins Stretch Mark Control (P3,750 for 200ml, Rustan’s)
This has got to be my favorite body oil and lotion combination. The oil has a minty rosemary scent which perks me up when I apply it fresh from the shower everyday since I found out I was expecting and it contains a natural mixture of essential oils that my skin easily absorbs whenever I massage it on. The Stretch Mark Control Lotion is an unscented cream that I apply on areas of loose skin like in my hip and thigh area and it is also very easily absorbed by my skin and barely leaves residue after application. I have really dry skin and I love these products because they feel very rich and moisturize very well. The downside to this product though is that it is quite pricey and you’d probably go through more than two bottles each in nine months.
2. Mustela Maternité Stretch Marks Prevention Oil (P1,050 for 105ml, Mothercare) and Mustela Maternité Stretch Marks Prevention Cream (P2,200 for 250ml, Mothercare)
I love Mustela’s Stretch Mark Prevention Oil that I am almost going into my second bottle. This combination is definitely more cost-efficient than Clarin’s as it comes at a friendlier price for even more product. More so, Mustela is a French brand that has long been known to develop natural care products that are safe for women and for babies so I feel very assured that what I am putting on has been tested thoroughly. The oil and lotion both have a very mild scent when applied and I love how soft and hydrated it makes my skin feel after I use it although I do apply it twice or thrice a day when I feel my skin getting dry again (it’s been my mission to hydrate my skin as much as possible!) The oil absorbs easily. One thing I observed though is that it does take more rubs to thoroughly massage the lotion to my skin before it gets absorbed so I tend to rub it on for a good three minutes so as not to leave residue on my clothes. However that is something I’m definitely willing to live with since I love this product so much.
I also got the Stretch Marks Recovery Serum which is meant for post-partum use as it claims to decrease the appearance of stretch marks by 75% but the review for this will have to wait.
3. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Soothing Oil (P645 for 150 ml, PCX), Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Moisturizing Body Oil (P445 for 250ml, PCX) and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Scar Serum (P1015 for 30ml, PCX)
I used Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Lotion before when I would go to the beach and had to add much-needed moisture to my sun-burnt skin and I was so hooked on how amazingly sweet it smelled as it smelled literally like good enough to eat chocolate. The body oils and serum smell just as great as I remembered and I have to say that it is very rich and works well in moisturizing the skin. A lot of people give this product raves for being amazing in terms of reducing the effects of pregnancy on women’s skin especially when it comes to itching, dryness, scars and marks but a lot of reviews also state that it didn’t really help in preventing stretch marks from forming. From personal experience, I had to stop using this product despite it’s moisturizing benefits as I was developing a hypersensitivity reaction to one of the ingredients or the fragrance and developed a mild rash where I applied it. (Then again, I have super sensitive skin so this might not apply for everyone so it’s still a good product to try if ever.)
Other notable mentions:
For those who are into all-natural products, I also tried using Virgin Coconut Oil and rubbed it on my belly at some point. While it should help moisturize, I found it a tad too oily and less easily absorbed by my skin. More so, it left a greasy stain on my clothes which isn’t good if you’re on the go.
I’ve yet to try other products and oils like Bio-Oil or Mama Mio Goodbye Stretchmarks Cream which I hear a lot of moms also rave about.
CONCERN #2: Acne
Out of whack hormones can only mean one thing: acne. Apparently, puberty and adolescence aren’t the only time you develop those annoying and nasty bumps and before you know it, your pregnancy glow isn’t so much a glow but more of grease due to excess oil production. The downside to dealing with acne during adolescence vs. during pregnancy? The conventional acne treatments and medications are most definite no-no’s for an expecting mom. This means that those tried and tested products proven to treat acne like retinoids, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, AHAs and BHAs are all not safe for use during pregnancy. What’s a girl to do then? Not much unfortunately.
When it comes to acne, I’ve found that drinking adequate amount of fluids throughout the day and a balanced diet are probably the best thing any pregnant woman can do. (I try to lessen dairy as much as possible from my diet as some studies have shown to have been linked to acne.) As for my skin routine, it’s pretty much basic:
I wash my face twice daily with a gentle soap-free cleanser like Cetaphil Oily Skin Cleanser (P675 for 125ml, Watson’s). I like this product because it doesn’t dry out my skin or strip it from moisture like most soap-based cleansers do but it does clean my skin and remove makeup quite effectively.
After washing, I use Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Pore Perfecting Toner (P475 for 475ml, Healthy Options) which is probably the best toner I’ve ever used as it minimizes my pores and controls the oil on my skin. It contains natural ingredients and no harsh or harmful chemicals which is why unlike most toners, this doesn’t irritate my hyper-sensitive skin at all.
Contrary to popular belief, oily skin still needs to be moisturized. Why? Dry skin signals for more oil production which can lead to even more breakouts which is why it’s crucial to still apply a water based moisturizer to your skin even if your skin type is oily. I use Celeteque Dermoscience+ Hydration Moisturizer (available at all leading drugstores) as it is very light on the skin and doesn’t leave an oily residue after application.
I visited a dermatologist to see what options I have for my breakouts that are safe to use during pregnancy and I was prescribed Azelaic Acid. Azelaic Acid works for both acne and rosacea by decreasing swelling and redness and by decreasing the production of keratin which leads to the development of acne. It takes a while to see its effects (over a period of 4 weeks) but it does work. Of course caution should be exercised when using this during pregnancy and when nursing. It’s available by prescription as Skinoren 20% Azelaic Acid Cream (Mercury Drugstore) or in a lower dose through The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% (P995, online).
Another product I use once a week just to combat oily skin and breakouts is the cult-favorite and viral Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay (P525 for a tub, Healthy Options). Marketed as the world’s most powerful facial, it truly works wonders on skin and it is actually all natural and definitely safe for use during pregnancy. The active ingredient is Calcium Bentonite Clay which works like magic in pulling out impurities from skin, zapping acne and preventing breakouts. I mix the powdered clay with equal part of apple cider vinegar with a non-metal bowl and spoon (metal prevents activation of the bentonite) and leave it on for 10 minutes (for sensitive skin, although you can leave it for 15-20 minutes for normal skin.) I’ve been using it for a month now and it truly works wonders!
CONCERN #3: Eczema and Dry Skin
The effect of pregnancy when it comes to eczema and rashes goes three ways: they can either improve and go away completely, stay the same or get worse. I am on that unlucky spectrum where my eczema actually got worse after getting pregnant and let me tell you that it hasn’t been a ride in the park when it comes to dealing with the itch.
Steroid creams and formulated washes are out of the question because of possible teratogenic effects and while my allergy specialist did prescribe a very mild formulation, no way was I risking my baby for temporary relief. I minimize taking antihistamines (only those proven safe and ok’ed by both my allergologist and OB-GYN) only to when absolutely necessary to be on the safe side.
What I do exhaust though are the use of moisturizers and emollients to soothe the rashes, add moisture to the excessively dry skin and relieve the itchiness. My favorites are:
1) Aveeno Active Naturals Fragrance Free Skin Relief Body Wash- applied to skin with a loofah (especially on my back) to cleanse and sooth dry itchy skin. This is amazing and it lathers well. I love that it is fragrance-free and contains soothing oatmeal which is amazing for dry and active eczema.
2) Physiogel Daily Moisture Therapy Body Lotion and Physiogel Calming Relief A.I. Cream- applied all over the body after bathing to damp skin. This has been my tried and tested lotion through the years and it really works wonders. Most scented lotions usually worsen my rashes but Physiogel has always been mild enough not to irritate my skin while providing so much moisture. I use the Daily Therapy Lotion all over my body and the Calming Relief A.I. Cream for the more problematic areas where there is active eczema (on my back, palms and fingers and leg.)
3) Aveeno Active Naturals Skin Relief Moisturizing Lotion- applied before sleeping where there is chafed, cracked or chapped skin. This is something my brother recommended to me and I use it before sleeping when I feel my skin drying out again. The active ingredient in this is Triple Oat Complex which restores essential moisture to my extra dry and extra sensitive skin.
4) Colloidal Oatmeal Soaks- twice a week, I soak in the bathtub with a mixture of a cup of fine colloidal oatmeal added to lukewarm water to soothe my skin. It works with the itchiness and in preventing more new lesions to form. Colloidal oatmeal baths have long been recommended as an all natural treatment for eczema sufferers for its anti-itch properties especially for inflamed skin. You can purchase prepared colloidal oatmeal or make your own by placing one cup of plain rolled oats in a food processor and grinding until it has become a fine powder.
5) Lucas Papaw Ointment (P600 for a 75g Jar on Lucas’ Papaw MNL Instagram page)- my brand new obsession comes in the form of this homegrown Australian product which works as a topical application for minor burns, bites, chapped lips, splinters, rashes and cracked skin. With a consistency like petroleum jelly but with more natural ingredients (Fermented Papaya as its active ingredient), I apply this so religiously as my lip balm, over cracked skin in my hands and feet, on insect bites and to moisturize my dry elbows. I am so hooked on Lucas Papaw that I have it in all sizes and bring it with me everywhere!
CONCERN #4: Dry Hair and Sensitive Scalp
Pregnancy is also one of those times that you start to evaluate how much chemicals you put into your body. The skin is the largest organ and as such, whatever we apply to it, even if just topically, gets absorbed by the body and more importantly by the baby.
One of the things we take for granted are the products we apply to our hair. While one of the good things pregnancy brings forth is a thicker and more lush than ever mane like in my own experience, I did also noticed that I had a more sensitive scalp than ever. This meant that the formulations of shampoos and conditioners I typically used fared to be way too harsh for me and it was during this time that I was also more conscious to read labels and a quick scan of a shampoo bottle’s ingredients seemed like a rundown of harsh chemicals.
I decided to switch to SLS-free, Paraben-free and fragrance-free hair products which have gentler formulations and have been tested to be hypoallergenic and mild enough to be used by moms and by babies too. The ones I use now to maintain my mane are:
1) VMV Essence Skin- Saving Super-wash: Hair + Body Milk Shampoo
This leaves my hair shiny and super soft and compared to most organic shampoos, this lathers exceptionally well on hair. While one bottle is pricey, it only takes two pumps to effectively clean hair.
2) VMV Essence Skin-Saving Milk Conditioner
Aside from being completely gentle and hypoallergenic, this conditioner is safe enough to apply to the skin, scalp and hair without it being too oily or greasy but it does soften and detangle hair quite well.
3) Jason Fragrance Free Shampoo
Boasting of being organic, biodegradable and chemical-free, this shampoo is as vegan and environment-friendly as it can get and as it is free from SLS, Parabens and Phthalates, it’s great for my hair too. This doesn’t lather as well for hair though but it cleans very well. Best to use this with the conditioner from the same brand.
4) Aveeno Baby Light Scented Wash & Shampoo
I think that whatever is safe and pediatrician-recommended for babies is as gentle as it gets which is why recently, I also started to use Aveeno’s Baby Shampoo. It is very lightly scented, is very gentle on the hair and scalp and is on-drying which I love. More so, my hair has been very healthy and tangle-free lately. Bonus points because I smell like a baby.
So that’s it for my skin essentials for pregnancy. I focused on certain concerns that I’ve had so far in this pregnancy and how I’ve found products that have somehow helped improve my issues and troubles while being completely safe for me and for the baby. I do hope it helps and is somewhat relatable. I don’t doubt that there are some you’re experiencing that I didn’t get to include in my list and that there are probably a few more along the way that I will get to experience as I progress further and near my due date. This list, like most things in life, is a work in progress. Do feel free to hit me up on solutions I may have missed out on or that you’ve personally tried and that has helped wonders!