Your skin during pregnancy: the most common issues and the best ways to tackle them

During pregnancy, your skin needs special care and specifically designed treatments.

Pregnancy often bestows a unique allure on women.

As early as the first trimester, the rush of large quantities of hormones has huge benefits for the skin, which appears plump and glowing. During pregnancy, it is not unusual for dry skin to become more hydrated, oily skin to find a balance, and for acne to improve.

However, this is a time of huge alterations for the body, and it can cause some problems which can be prevented and managed by using specifically designed treatments.

The growing foetus and weight gain put significant pressure on the skin, particularly in a few critical points such as the abdomen, breasts, hips and buttocks. This pressure can sometimes be accompanied by an irritating itch in the areas affected.

During pregnancy, therefore, the skin needs hydrating and protective treatments and, above all, preventive treatments to avoid dryness and the appearance of stretch marks.

It is also possible for brown patches known as melasma to appear on the face.

During the last trimester in particular, it is common to experience the sensation of heavy legs, another ailment related to the significant weight gain, which can be relieved in a number of ways and through the use of a specific cosmetic treatment.  

Still focusing on the third trimester, if the mother wishes to breastfeed her child, it is advisable to pay special attention to the nipples.

To learn more about preparing for problem-free breastfeeding, read our dedicated article: Breast skin during pregnancy

 

Itchy skin during pregnancy

This is a fairly common skin symptom, particularly during the final months of pregnancy, and it tends to vanish immediately after giving birth. In general, it is caused by the physiological alterations to the woman’s body, i.e. the hormonal and physical changes. Often, the most affected areas are the abdomen and the breasts, as these are the areas where the skin is subjected to the constant “stretching” which is at the root of this itching sensation.

There are a number of different tips for finding relief from itching:

  • use delicate cleansing products which do not dry out the skin;
  • try a gentle massage with an oil-based product specifically designed to relieve itching;
  • use hydrating products every day, which will help to keep skin toned in addition to relieving the discomfort;
  • wear comfortable, breathable clothing, and try to avoid synthetic fabrics in favour of cotton/linen.

Stretch marks: how they occur and how to prevent them

Stretch marks: how they occur and how to prevent them

The medical term striae distensae describes a skin condition consisting of linear, parallel streaks which are slightly indented and which vary in length and width.
The commonly used term “stretch marks” is certainly a good description, as they are indeed a result of the skin experiencing sudden stretching.
In fact, stretch marks spring from the structural element of the skin, the thick and fibrous dermis layer (collagen, elastin). Stretch marks are the result of damage to the connective tissue, manifesting as parallel “streaks” on the abdomen, pubis, hips, breasts, arms and legs.

Stretch marks adapt over time, even changing colour: while they initially appear flat and red-violet in colour (inflammation stage), they later become deeper and take on a silvery-white hue (scar stage).

Once they appear, stretch marks can be treated to make them less visible, but only while they are in the first stage. Therefore, it is important to take preventative action to try and prevent them from forming.

During pregnancy, with its significant weight gain, the stretching of the skin tissue is the leading cause of stretch marks; although it has been shown that some women have a greater genetic predisposition to developing this condition.
Therefore, it is good practice to use preventative treatment against stretch marks from as early as the third month on the abdomen, hips and breasts.

The most effective preventative treatments will act synergically on two fronts:

  1. toning and stimulating the skin’s structure to increase its elasticity. Thanks to active ingredients which stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin, they increase the production of hyaluronic acid;
  2. boosting microcirculation in the affected areas, thanks to active substances which improve circulation in the skin and capillary tone, countering atrophy in the skin’s structure.

These treatments often come in the form of oils or as rich emulsions for those who prefer a creamy texture. In any case, they are suitable for the prolonged massages which serve to maximise absorption of the active ingredients, as well as boosting the vitality of skin during pregnancy.

Skin patches during pregnancy: melasma or chloasma gravidarum

Melasma is a skin imperfection which manifests as a brown mottling or general dyschromia.
It is a hyperpigmentation of the skin caused by a build-up of melanin. When it occurs in expectant women, it is called chloasma gravidarum or, more commonly, the “mask of pregnancy”.

Its true causes are still unknown.
Melanocytes, the cells responsible for melanin production, generate excessive quantities of the pigment following an alteration in the synthesis mechanisms.
It is thought that oestrogen hormones may be involved in triggering this.

In fact, melasma can occur in women who use the contraceptive pill or as a result of hormonal alterations resulting from pregnancy. This is why it is common among expectant women.
The dark patches appear mostly on the forehead, the area below the eyes, above the lips, and on the cheeks and chin, creating the impression of a “map” with irregular borders.
In the case of chloasma gravidarum, the patches generally appear between the fourth and sixth months of pregnancy, and usually disappear after giving birth. Sometimes, however, they can last for up to six months after the baby is born and, in rare cases, even longer.

To prevent or limit their appearance, it is advisable to use a daily treatment and/or a foundation with a sun protection factor. During exposure to the sun, it is important to use a high or very high level of sun protection to prevent the blemishes from becoming even darker. In cases of persistent melasma, the use of specific products to help reduce this imperfection may be considered.

To find out more, read our articles:
Skin Blemishes: what they are, how they are caused and how to tackle them
Skin Blemishes: how to treat them

Remedies for heavy legs

A common complaint among women is a discomfort in the legs, ankles and feet: a feeling of heaviness, tension and swelling. This sensation is linked to weak vascular tone, and is a result of the body struggling to pump blood upwards during the “venous return” stage, leading to blood pooling in the legs.

The problem can be exacerbated by certain behaviours and situations such as taking hormones (contraceptives and replacement therapy), tight clothing, smoking, alcohol or an imbalanced diet. Moreover, it often occurs during pregnancy.

In fact, there are two specific conditions which affect the circulation of blood during pregnancy. On the one hand, there is the pressure exerted by the growing baby on the veins in the pelvis; on the other, there is an increased blood volume (around +20%), resulting in a slower return flow of blood from the lower limbs.

Although this sensation usually arises during the evening or on warm days, it can also cause considerable disruption to everyday life and may even indicate a predisposition to more serious problems in the circulatory system

The sensation of “heavy legs” can be relieved considerably in a number of ways:

  • healthy diet (lots of water, low salt intake);
  • moderate physical exercise;
  • wearing footwear with a slight heel;
  • comfortable clothing;
  • lukewarm showers with intermittent blasts of cold water;
  • elevating the legs while sleeping;
  • massages using specific cosmetic products.

Massages, perhaps the simplest form of therapy, can provide enormous benefits in relieving swelling and the sensation of heavy legs, particularly when using a specific cosmetic product formulated with substances which encourage physiological draining through their protective and toning effect on the capillaries.