The Pregnancy Glow: When It Doesn’t Happen for You

The Pregnancy Glow: When It Doesn’t Happen for You

Motherhood changes everything, and the skin changes from pregnancy might not be what you had expected.

You most likely had an image in your head of what pregnancy would look like: a beautiful bump, radiant skin and of course that pregnancy know!  

“Pregnancy in some women is associated with a ‘glow,’” explains Kemunto Mokaya, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Knoxville, TN. “This is due to increased hormones such as estrogen, which causes the skin’s oil glands to produce more oils, making the skin look shinier and greater blood volume, leading to increased blood flow in the skin’s blood vessels, making the skin ‘glow’ and look more flushed.”

But as is true with most big changes in life, pregnancy can come with many surprises and well...pregnancy skin!

Skin Changes During Pregnancy

The many skin changes that pregnancy brings can range from acne, oily skin, an uptick in skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis to increased sweating, stretch marks (which crop up in some 90 percent of pregnant patients!), spider veins, rashes, and hyperpigmentation also known as melasma or "mask of pregnancy", says Kim Langdon, M.D., an ob-gyn who works with the online doctor and pharmacy site Medzino.

And if you notice more of the latter and less of the glow, it can be really frustrating!



Fortunately, while your body’s busy growing a baby, there are ways to give your skin some TLC, because you deserve to look—and feel—your best, mama! 

To get the pregnancy glow you were promised, consider this your ultimate guide.

Find Products that Are Safe for Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a critical time to be mindful of chemical exposure as it can adversely affect both mom and baby in many ways, such as increasing the risk of certain cancers or birth defects. To avoid this, choosing safe products is of paramount importance.


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The average woman uses 12 different beauty products every day — many of which contain hormone-disruptors that can adversely affect #fertility, reproductive health and cause birth defects. ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ *A product that includes “organic” or “natural” ingredients, isn't necessarily safe.*⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ If you're thinking of, trying or already pregnant, now’s the time to pay attention to your chemical exposure from what you’re putting on your body every day and how it could affect your health. ⁠⠀ _⁠⠀ Research via @environmentalworkinggroup shows that toxic pollution begins before birth, with about 287 different chemicals being found in umbilical cord blood, entering via the placenta. ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Of those chemicals, 180 are known to cause cancer, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Visit the link in our bio to learn about the ingredients we’ve eliminated from our products and our commitment to keep you and baby safe. #ewgpartner #safeskincare⁠⠀ ⁠⠀

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If you’re using medication, it’s important to read the label first. In the past, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has categorized medications based on their safety during pregnancy (giving medications A, B, C, D and X ratings with category A medications being the safest and category D and X being unsafe). But soon, medications will have new labels with more helpful information about a medicine's risks.

As of now, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends avoiding the following prescription skin medications during pregnancy.

  • Hormonal therapy, due to the risk of birth defects.
  • Isotretinoin, a form of vitamin A that may cause severe birth defects.
  • Oral tetracyclines, an antibiotic that can cause discoloration of your baby’s teeth and affect bone growth.
  • Topical retinoids, a form of vitamin A.

Additionally, you'll definitely want to skip any OTC products that contain any of these five ingredients!

Groups such as the Environmental Work Group (EWG), which has one of the strictest criteria for transparency and health, have some very useful resources that can guide mothers in avoiding products with ingredients that have been flagged for potential health concern or contaminants. 

As safety is our top priority at Matrescence, we've implemented a rigorous safety screening for our products and excluded any ingredients linked to reproductive or developmental harm to make them safe for mom and baby.

How to Get Your Glow

No matter which skin issues you face during pregnancy, there are ways to nourish your outermost layer, find some moments for self-care, and feel more comfortable in your skin.

You'll want to start our proven strategies for these skin issues that pregnancy and postpartum skin are prone to.

Increased Sensitivity

Even persons who never had sensitive skin before can experience heightened sensitivity and intense reactions to skin products they used prior to pregnancy as they suddenly bring about rashes and bumps that itch and burn.  This is normal and due to the increased hormone levels.

It's important to avoid products with artificial fragrances and preservatives which can be harsh and irritating for sensitive skin and opt for ones with natural ingredients, are fragrance-free and specially made for pregnant skin.

Acne and Inflammation

If you're experiencing more breakouts during this time, the first step to clearing things up and getting that glow is to start with a gentle cleanser that will deliver deep purification, soothe inflammation and remove excess oils without ever stripping your skin of its natural oils.   

You'll also want to keep an eye on your diet, as well, since sugary foods, processed carbs, and dairy in some people can all exacerbate acne. 

Melasma, Acne Scars/Spots and Hyperpigmentation

Melasma is notoriously difficult to treat and with acne comes scars and dark spots. The first defense here is to be meticulous with sun protection and use sunscreen (preferably a physical blocker with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) regularly, recommends Dr. Mokaya. 

Ingredients such as kojic acid and vitamin C can be safely used for melasma, so you should look for skincare products that include those.  

Dull Skin

You may be one of the 'lucky' ones to bypass the breakouts and instead only experience dull skin or an overall lack of glow.  If your skin isn't looking bright or radiant—and in fact appears lackluster or falls flat, to safely treat this you'll want to consider gentle exfoliation with a nourishing essence.  This will naturally brighten and refresh the skin by removing impurities and dead cells to give an instant healthy, pregnancy glow!

Dry Skin

Another common pregnancy and post-pregnancy complaint is excessive dryness.  Hormone changes are to be blamed here again as they cause your skin to lose elasticity and moisture. This can lead to flaky skin, itchiness and other symptoms often associated with dry skin.  

Replenishing moisture and then protecting your hydrolipidic layer to prevent further moisture loss is important.  A rich moisturizer with super-hydrating and protective ingredients will quench thirsty skin and help you regain the brilliance.

Stretch Marks

Hydration is the best defense against stretch marks. The continual and plentiful use of products rich in Omega 3, 6 and 9 is key in building skin’s strength and elasticity. Dr. Mokaya suggests keeping your belly and other areas like breasts moisturized to help keep your skin soft and nourished.  Adequate hydration will also alleviate the pesky itchiness that comes as the skin stretches.

Of course, internal hydration is just as important as external hydration so be sure you’re drinking enough water to keep your skin cells plumped and happy on the inside too! Add some fresh lemon for a Vitamin C boost or soothing cucumber and mint to refresh and ease any digestive issues you may be experiencing.


Spider veins

Also known as varicose veins, these pesky enlarged veins commonly occur in the legs, but  can also appear on the buttocks and vaginal area.  To ease swelling, soreness, and keep them from getting worse, move around from time-to-time and try not to sit with your legs crossed for too long.

Elevating your feet and legs when you can, exercising regularly, wearing supportive socks or tights, and staying regular by keeping enough diet and hydration in your diet, may also be helpful according to the ACOG.


    Finally, Get some TLC!

    You know self-care matters. But we know it can be hard to find that time. That’s why we recommend that you try to make your skincare routine simpler—a few moments (five max!) and an easy three-step process of cleansing, brightening, and hydrating to help you feel your best and transform your skin even if you only have a few precious moments.


    Cassie Shortsleeve is a freelance writer and the founder of Dear Sunday, an online platform that helps women adjust to new motherhood. She's a regular contributor to Men's Health, Women's Health, Parents, and other national publications. She lives in Boston, MA with her husband and daughter Sunday.

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