As you're holding that new bundle of joy, skin care is probably the last thing on your mind. However, as the days and months pass and you're busy with diaper-changing and feedings, you'll probably notice that the hormonal changes from pregnancy have taken a toll on your skin. "Adjusting to motherhood can leave you tired and stressed, which leads to appearances on the skin, but these can go away when tending to your skin’s needs," says Dr. Howard Sobel, director of the New York Institute of Aesthetic Dermatology and Laser Surgery. "Simple things can make all the difference in your skin after pregnancy." Revive and recover that fresh glow by kicking up your beauty regimen in between cuddling and swaddling your little one.
Common Skin Conditions
During and after pregnancy, your skin continues to change. Some women in particular may experience redness or flakiness caused by changes in hormones. "After pregnancy, your hormones are still working their way back to before you were pregnant, therefore unwanted skin conditions may still occur," says Dr. Marina Peredo, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. "Hyperpigmentation is highly likely after birth, showing signs of flakes around your forehead, eyes or even mouth."
Due to elevated estrogen and progesterone levels mixing together, you may also notice defined stretch marks and a rough texture to your skin. Late-night feedings and the lack of sleep that goes with them may also impact your skin's condition, warns Sobel. "Dark under-eye circles and roughness are likely as well due to your body adjusting to this new life with a new baby."
One of the best things you can do for your mind, body and skin is get adequate sleep. "Get as much sleep as possible and drink plenty of water," advises Sobel. "This will help with any inflammation you may encounter."
Adequate sleep, whether at night or afternoon naps, will help revive your skin and lead your body on its way to recovery after pregnancy. Marina Krikota, aesthetician and owner of Mauve Skin Care in San Jose, California, says that rest is often the cure for skin recovery after pregnancy. "The best way to start a skin-recovery regimen is to have enough sleep and rest, which is so difficult to have for the first few months after baby arrives," she points out. "But skin is the largest organ in our body and of course, your lifestyle will affect the skin condition tremendously."
Once your sleepy eyes are open, step up your cleaning routine to begin the skin's journey on the road to recovery. Since you are likely more prone to breakouts, oiliness or extremely dry skin, now is the time to ease your way back into a structured cleansing regimen. "Everyone's skin reacts differently, but in general, the skin sensitivity increases, so you might experience skin dehydration, sensitivity, acne or even hyperpigmentation," Krikota explains.
Soothe your skin with mild cleansers, scrubs and exfoliants with chamomile and aloe vera. Serums and moisturizers with vitamins E and C also provide a much-needed boost for your skin, says Krikota. If hyperpigmentation is plaguing your skin, protect yourself and recover your skin’s condition by applying sunscreen every day. Just avoid hydrocodone products while breastfeeding, Krikota cautions, as the side effects of these products may not be suitable for the baby.
Get back that smooth, silky skin with pampering treatments to make you feel refreshed. Apply moisturizer daily after cleansing and after weekly exfoliating treatments. "Be sure to use a smoothing moisturizing body lotion all over to help with rough patches and flakiness," says Sobel. He recommends a light, oil-free hydrator with a minimum of SPF 45 and body lotion to lock in moisture with a lightweight feel.
You can also resume a regular skin-care regimen after pregnancy if you are not breastfeeding, according to Peredo. If breastfeeding, stick to organic ingredients free from parabens. "You should not use any products containing salicylic acid or retinoids," she says. "Alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic are perfectly safe to use and a physical sunscreen containing titanium dioxide and zinc because they do not penetrate the skin."