If you've been hoping for that beautiful pregnancy glow but ended up with dull and lusterless instead, a lack of moisture is probably the culprit lurking behind your less-than-gleaming facade. The demands on a woman's body during pregnancy, the hormone fluctuations, morning sickness and the stress of no longer being able to see your toes all work together to drain the body of nutrients and moisture and can leave you with dry, flaky and itchy skin instead.
Hydration and Nutrients
Your first line of defense against moisture loss during pregnancy is your diet. "Staying hydrated and eating a balanced diet are essential to being healthy, which includes skin health," says Jaime Schehr, a naturopathic doctor and registered dietitian based in Greenwich, Conn. "When we are deficient in any particular nutrient or if we are dehydrated, it is likely that our skin will feel these effects."
The minimum of eight glasses of water each day that you need during pregnancy will also give your body the very basics to keep skin moisturized. "Before lotions or supplements, a diet high in fruits and vegetables and with adequate water is the first step to a healthy pregnancy glow," Schehr says.
Look to your diet to keep your skin in good shape and full of moisture while you're growing your baby bump. In addition to fruits and veggies, omega-3 fatty acids, found in flaxseed, walnuts and enriched eggs, contribute to the barrier that keeps moisture in your skin. Foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as berries, broccoli and tomatoes, help to protect skin cells from damage. As you sit down with your morning coffee, remember that caffeine dries out your skin, giving you a good reason to consume it in moderation.
A steamy hot shower or bath may seem like the perfect way to unwind at the end of a long and stressful day, but all that heat is going to zap the moisture right out of your skin. "Heat can strip the moisture from [the] skin, making skin feel more dry, itchy and uncomfortable," Schehr advises. "Staying hydrated is a key factor in combating the drying effect of heat." To help keep as much moisture in your skin as possible, turn the temperature down a few degrees and stick to no more than one shower or bath a day. If you're feeling a little blue about giving up all that heat, there's another really good reason to stick to lukewarm showers. Hot showers and baths can raise your body temperature, and this increase in body heat is actually dangerous for your unborn baby. So now you can feel good about keeping your little squirmer safe while you're soaking in tepid water and get the benefit of more moisture-rich skin too.
Sunscreen can be a pregnant gal's best friend because it helps to protect the skin from the dryness that is caused by sun exposure. That sun exposure can also make a pregnancy mask (chloasma) worse, so slather on some extra high SPF on your face. While it's best to avoid the sun altogether whenever possible, that doesn't mean you have to pass on your day at the beach with the family. Plan ahead for long outings in the sun and pick up a sunhat and one of those extra-large umbrellas to keep your skin shaded from drying rays.
While keeping your skin moisturized will bring out that pregnancy glow, there's another benefit to investing the extra time in skincare. Soft, supple and well-moisturized skin is also more resistant to stretch marks that will end up marring your skin for a lifetime. With plenty of moisture, your skin is generally healthier, and that gives it a little more stretch before those marks start to show up. Give yourself a good dose of moisturizer right after a bath or shower, when your pores are freshly unclogged and ready to take in as much moisture as possible. Schehr recommends "simple clean olive oil." She says it is "safe, natural and can help lock in moisture."