Every mother deserves to treat themselves, but never more so than during the journey of pregnancy.
With pregnancy can come a whirlwind of emotional and physical changes to your body, but this new and exciting chapter of your life can also signal the time to treat yourself to a dedicated beauty routine as a means of self-care. Pregnancy can be a swift nine months, full of appointments, planning and anticipation, so it’s important to take the time to unwind and refill your cup before life becomes fuller. “Our lives are so hectic these days that, unless you take a moment to pause, stress can really snowball,” says Liv Slee, owner of Oak & Eve, an ethical beauty salon in New South Wales’ Illawarra region.
But booking a facial isn’t always top of the list of priorities for new mums, and it’s not only due to being time-poor. Dermatologist Dr Nina Wines says many mums-to-be are cautious about what they use on their skin, but reassuringly she says you don’t have to stop your beauty regime altogether.
“There is a common misconception that you have to stop all active ingredients in pregnancy, but this is absolutely not true,” says Dr Wines. “There is also a misconception that if you have a skin condition in pregnancy, such as acne or rosacea, it cannot be treated.”
The pregnancy glow is real for some lucky women, yet just as likely are those less documented skin changes thanks to fluctuating hormones – acne, pigmentation, redness and spider veins. While your skin might flare up during your first trimester, Dr Wines says things tend to settle in the second. But with hormones soaring, even the most fleeting and mild of breakouts can cause a blow to your self-confidence.
Dr Wines says that acne can usually worsen during these nine months due to hormonal changes. “Eating a balanced diet, de-stressing, meditating and using safe medications can help,” she says.
There are ingredients to steer clear of during pregnancy, such as vitamin A derivatives, BHA (beta hydroxy/salicylic acid) and hydroquinone, and it’s worth erring on the side of caution when it comes to essential oils. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t safely take care of your skin until bub arrives or you stop breastfeeding – there are just some things to keep in mind.
Many of Oak & Eve’s pregnant or breastfeeding clients opt for organic products, as “they feel more confident in being able to use them”, says Liv. “So they tend to do this more regularly and put them into their regime so that it becomes more of a habit. Organics have come so far even in the last five years and they are very effective. We don’t have to compromise on health to get a really good result.
“Your skin is more prone to being sensitive when you’re pregnant, which is why it’s good to look for the gentlest options. Organic skincare generally doesn’t have those hormone-disrupting chemicals that you find in a lot of skincare and even some sunscreen, yet it’s still very effective.”
Dr Wines says to look for products with vitamin C, vitamin B3 (niacin), AHAs (glycolic acid and lactic acid), and azelaic acid. Opt for a physical sunscreen which will sit on the skin, instead of a chemical sunscreen which sinks into it. She also recommends gentle exfoliation treatments and the use of topical oils to help soothe stretchmarks, which can be itchy and uncomfortable for some mums-to-be.
Liv is also a fan of vitamin C in skincare and the use of oils. “Anyone can use vitamin C, which is healing and great for brightness, and rosehip oil is amazing on stretchmarks,” she says. “You can pop it under your moisturiser – it’s a dry oil, so it won’t make you greasy – and you can use it from top to toe.”
Because your skin has likely changed in pregnancy, what has worked for you in the past might not be the best choice for you now. You might now find that the more rigorous your skincare routine is, the more your skin will rebel. This can lead to a cycle of inflammation and breaking out, trying to address the breakouts, and creating more as a result.
Beauty is not having a radiant complexion – as a form of self-care it can serve to make you feel nourished, relaxed, calmer and more self-assured. Rather than stressing your skin with lots of products, take a softer approach. “It’s important to be gentle with your skin so you’re not irritating it, because your skin is so much more sensitive during pregnancy,” says Liv.
It is best to steer towards milder treatments right now. “Take the soft and gentle approach during pregnancy,” says Liv. “It will be more relaxing and very much a pampering experience where you get that bit of ‘me time’.”
A visit to the day spa or beauty salon can be a wonderful gift to yourself (or a perfect present for a pregnant pal – leave this article in sight of a loved one if you want them to get the hint!). Treatments considered safe to do during pregnancy include oxygen facials, hydrafacials and LED light therapy, as well as medicated facials from a dermatologist. Talk to your beauty therapist or dermatologist about what is appropriate for you during the stage you’re in.
Enjoying your skincare regime can make you feel more comfortable (quite literally) in your skin during pregnancy. And beauty is not having a radiant complexion – as a form of self-care it can serve to make you feel nourished, relaxed, calmer and more self-assured. It can also add a sense of routine and normality to your life and help you feel like yourself, despite the changes you are experiencing.
A nurturing beauty routine as a means of self-care can also provide the quiet stillness you crave, so enjoy this time, even if it just comes in micro-moments, and nourish yourself inside and out along the magical journey that is your pregnancy.
Words by Samantha Allemann