While it's easy to become obsessed with your skin during pregnancy, when new outbreaks of acne, odd blotches and rashes related to your skin's increased sensitivity appear almost daily. But pregnancy might not be the time to try microdermabrasion, the removal of the layer of damaged skin by scraping and vacuuming dead cells. Because doctors disagree on the safety of microdermabrasion in pregnancy, always ask your own physician before undergoing any type of treatment during pregnancy.
Pregnancy can sometimes give you a "glow" that comes from increased blood flow, but it can also make your skin lifeless and dull looking, especially if you develop the mask of pregnancy, a brownish discoloration around your eyes and nose that's medically termed melasma or chloasma. Microdermabrasion can remove the discoloration, at least temporarily. However, because melanocyte production is intensified during pregnancy, as long as your hormone levels remain high, as they will throughout your entire pregnancy, there's a good chance the discoloration will return.
Pregnant skin is easily irritated; the normal side effects of microdermabrasion, which include redness, dry skin, itching and mild swelling, might be intensified during pregnancy. Removing skin discoloration might have only a temporary effect; the mask of pregnancy could recur. Increased skin sensitivity and irritation, as well as the slower skin healing that occurs in pregnancy, can also increase your risk of developing a skin infection. Certain drugs used to prepare your face for treatment shouldn't be used during pregnancy, according to Dr. Mark Schusterman, a plastic surgeon in Houston, Texas.
Microdermabrasion can be safe if your doctor makes certain modifications to the process, Dr. Shustermann emphasizes. These include using something other than an alpha or beta hydroxy acid cleanser in the pre-treatment cleansing phase. Also avoid chemical peels, which are often used at the end of the microabrasion process, because they contain potentially harmful chemicals, such as salicylic acid, which could affect your baby.
Hormonal changes as well as the decreased activity of your immune system caused by pregnancy can make wound healing slower than normal. A new layer of skin must form after microdermabrasion; if this process slows, your skin will stay pink and will sting and feel slightly raw for a longer period of time. You're also more likely to end up with scars or areas of hypopigmentation if the treatment used causes severe irritation, Dr. Schusterman cautions.
Don't use home kits for microdermabrasion while you're pregnant; while the chemicals contained in over-the-counter microdermabrasion kits might cause less irritation than those used by professionals, they might also be unsafe for use in pregnancy.
Suzanne Robin is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology. She also has extensive experience working in home health with developmentally delayed or medically fragile children. Robin received her RN degree from Western Oklahoma State College. She has coauthored and edited numerous books for the Wiley "Dummies" series.