Caring for your crazy pregnant skin

By Michelle, GAIA skin naturals

Congratulations, you’re pregnant, how exciting! You will notice your body starting to change in many different ways during the early weeks, in the middle and then closer to the end of your pregnancy.

Sudden and dramatic increases in estrogen and progesterone, as well as changes in the amount and function of a number of other hormones, will affect a lot of things in your body, including how your skin behaves, or doesn’t!

Your face and hair suddenly maybe come oily and you may find the skin on your belly becomes dry and itchy due to hormone fluctuations, as well as being stretched beyond normal limits by the growth of your baby and the enlargement of your breasts in preparation for breastfeeding. 

Majority of pregnant women will tell you that they got stretch marks during their pregnancy, mostly on their belly and some on their breasts, hips and thighs. A stretch mark is a form of scar and is totally normal during pregnancy - even the ancient Egyptians wrote about stretch marks in pregnancy.

The best way to support your skin is to keep it more pliable and well hydrated. Wearing a supportive maternity bra will also help minimise stretch marks to the breast area. 

At first stretch marks may show up as reddish or purplish lines that may appear indented and have a different texture from the surrounding skin. Fortunately daily massaging with a hydrating cream or body oil will help lighten and fade stretch marks over time. 

There is an assortment of products which claim to reduce your stretch marks. While some claims are more legitimate than others, you can minimise new stretch marks from forming and reduce existing ones with great natural moisturisers, time and persistence.

Many natural oils are powerful stretch mark reducers because they contain highly moisturising essential fatty acids, skin healing and collagen regenerating properties and natural antioxidants to repair damaged skin.  If you consistently apply these oils to your skin, your stretch marks should fade or disappear naturally over time. 

Look out for products containing the following oils:

Rosehip Oil - very hydrating and high in linoleic and linolenic fatty acids, which encourage regeneration and repair of skin tissue, even out skin tone and reduce the redness and appearance of scars. 

Jojoba Oil - similar properties to skin's natural sebum, it’s easily absorbed with a nice texture and feel.  Regenerative and firming, it is useful for improving the tone and condition of skin.  It provides important nutrients, i.e. Vitamin E and B group, minerals and essential fatty acids.

Wheat Germ Oil - a very nourishing oil that contains very high amounts of vitamins E as well as being high in essential fatty acids. Useful in healing damaged or scarred skin, reducing the appearance of scars and improving suppleness and elasticity.  

Cocoa Butter - softening and protecting and is especially good for dry skin.  Helps maintain suppleness and elasticity of skin and minimises stretch marks.

Aloe Vera - a skin nutrient renowned for its soothing and hydrating action, it is used to soothe minor cuts and burns, moisturise dry damaged skin, reduce redness and provide long-lasting moisturisation.

Vitamin E provides nourishment, hydration, helps reduce redness and smooths scars.

And the following pure essential oils are considered safe for use during pregnancy:

Lavender - known for its calming and soothing properties, encouraging relaxation. Used to provide relief for mild skin disorders, it contributes to the healing process by stimulating the cells of a wound to regenerate. Particularly soothing for inflamed skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis and is beneficial in relieving itchiness. 

Frankincense - recommended for use on scars and dry skin. It’s regenerative and promotes the healing of wounds and the formation of scar tissue. 

Mandarin and Tangerine - recommended in massage blends to prevent stretchmarks during pregnancy. It is often blended with Lavender or Neroli.

Neroli - reputed to have a rejuvenating effect on the skin as it has an ability to stimulate the growth of healthy new cells.

Patchouli - recommended for treating conditions such as sores, fissures and scars due to the regenerating, moistening and cooling action is has on skin tissues.  

A common question often asked by pregnant women is when they should they start using a cream or oil? The best time to start would be when your skin shows signs of changing, usually by about the three month mark. Apply once a day up until about six months then apply twice daily until your baby is born.

If you do develop stretchmarks, you should continue to use your cream or oil after your baby is born until you are happy with the reduction in colour or severity of the scarring. This can take time, mine took over a year to fade, but remember a stretch mark is a scar and it will take time to fade but with the right care and consistency, you will see a difference.

Remember that although most rashes are harmless and resolve quickly after bub is born, some skin conditions may be associated with premature delivery or problems for the baby.  If you experience severe itchiness with or without a rash, it is best to consult your medical practitioner to rule out conditions such as intrahepatic cholestasis or pemphigoid gestationis.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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