Hormones are amazing. They enable us ladies to become pregnant in the first place, given that they are the body’s chemical messengers. They also are the culprits in some of pregnancy’s less charitable contributions to our skin in the 9 months leading up to birth. The good news is that the vast majority of pregnancy-related skin woes will disappear post-birth. But in the mean time, there are some lovely herbal remedies for alleviating their presence here and now. (I’m writing these recommendations both as a pregnant woman and as an herbalist who makes skincare products.)
1. Acne. As if exhaustion and bloating weren’t enough to think about, acne of pregnancy can be an unfortunate curse for some women. Your hormones can cause your natural sebum (human skin oil) production to go into overdrive (as happens during puberty). This in turn can lead to plugged pores, infection and oxidized papules. Simply put, blackheads and pimples, along with an oily sheen can make your hard days much worse. NOTE: Because of serious risk of birth defects, the anti-acne prescription drugs, such as Accutane and Retin-A, cannot be used during pregnancy (and we don’t think those should ever be used anyhow).
How to holistically help: Avoid abrasive exfoliants; pregnant skin is too sensitive for these. Milder, oatmeal-based facial scrubs (like Sow Your Wild Oat) can help unplug the oily pores, and are much kinder to sensitive skin. Help balance your oil production by using a seed and fruit derived facial oil mixed with a hydrating mist for sensitive skin (Nourish & Replenish Oil works well, as does our Sense & Sensitivity Mist for expectant Mommas.) When a blemish does pop up, never squeeze it, which can cause infection and further inflammation. Instead use an activated charcoal clay spot treatment (Clear Complexion Clay) mixed with naturally anti-bacterial oil (Cow Fart Juice) to draw out pus without drying out the surrounding skin. Try to keep make-up to a minimum, but if you can’t get away from wearing it, be sure to completely remove it at night. Try double cleansing with a light oil (NO EVIL) to give your pores a breather at night.
2. Itching. As your skin stretches to accommodate your growing babe, itchiness is an unavoidable side-effect. Even if your skin isn’t visibly dry, it’s probably begging for some moisture to alleviate this discomfort. Some areas can become dry and flaky, especially during the cold months; others may itch because of a prickly rash, which can show up out of nowhere. The worst spots for this are, of course, the abdomen, but also on hips and thighs. Additionally, anywhere clothing is tight can cause irritation (like bra bands and waist bands).
How to holistically help: Treat yourself to some lingerie specially developed for pregnancy and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! We use a combination of products depending on the type and location of the itch. For all over body, try a goat milk lotion which is light and silky — our Vitality Body Lotion keeps dryness at bay, especially in the winter months. Specifically for Momma’s baby belly, Momma Moon Massage in a Bottle keeps the abdominal skin supple and hydrated. Avoid wearing polyester and other synthetics that don’t breathe well and can cause rashes and sweat irritation. Stick to cotton, linen and wool if at all possible.
3. Stretch marks. This one is every expectant momma’s worst fear. Anytime someone’s body grows quickly, they’re at risk for stretch marks, so the fact that your baby is growing exponentially in there puts you right in the high-risk zone. Of course, not every momma-to-be gets stretch marks. Ask your mom if she got stretch marks to see what the chances are that you will, since it is a genetic predisposition. Try to gain weight slowly throughout the 9 months. Inevitably, in the last trimester when baby is formed and putting on weight, your own weight gain usually accelerates. Cut out the Ben & Jerry’s after 8 p.m. for slower gain. (Note: the author does not practice what she preaches. At 8 months, she is crushed if she doesn’t get her nightly treat after a long day of baby-growing.)
How to holistically help: Gentle exfoliation of your belly, breasts, hips and thighs can help. Our Newfangled Ideas Coffee Body Scrub will additionally help with cellulite that commonly accompanies sudden weight gain. And keeping skin moist while it grows is your best bet towards minimizing the damage. A long-used traditional botanical oil for exactly this problem: Rosehip Seed Oil. We source and bottle a beautiful 100% Organic Rosehip Seed Oil from wild thorny rose bushes which are native to and grown in Chile. It’s also wonderful for scars and slowing wrinkles and other aging of the skin.
4. The pregnancy mask. So you think a nice tan will make you feel better about your bloated waistline? The sun has become your enemy for the next 9 months, specifically starting in your second trimester. Brownish spots called chloasma can appear anywhere on the face, but are seen most commonly on the forehead, upper cheeks, nose and chin. Yup, hormones estrogen and progesterone are the culprits. They stimulate the melanin cells in the skin to produce more pigment which can result in a splotchy tan.
How to holistically help: The best way to avoid this is to avoid the sun. We urban hippies have embraced the big floppy hat look and keep our faces covered while outdoors. But if you insist on a sunscreen, the only safe type to use during pregnancy is the physical or mineral blocks – these are the ones made with either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which make you look like an old-school lifeguard. Chemical sunscreens can enter the bloodstream and potentially affect the fetus. NOT worth the risk! (Probably best to avoid those even when not pregnant.) You can still get your vitamin D by letting the sun touch your arms, or taking off your hat for a few minutes a day (only 10 minutes of sunlight gives you all the vitamin D you need).
5. Super Sensitivity. Rosiness is a common hormonal effect – the “glow” that everyone talks about. If that’s all you’re suffering from, count yourself as blessed! Your skin is much more delicate while you are growing a baby than it normally is. Perfumed lotions and chemicals may cause irritation, not to mention nausea. Even your old anti-bacterial hand soap can now prove to be a risk. You certainly don’t want any triclosan, parabens or fragrance entering your bloodstream and possibly affecting the baby. Avoid scrubbing your skin, even your hands, especially in hot water, which can weaken your barrier to the outside world and cause micro-tears.
How to holistically help: Go get a box. Put everything in your beauty cabinet that has ingredients that you can’t pronounce and don’t recognize in the box. Stow it somewhere until after you have the baby. If you want to go back to it afterwards, fine, but at this point, chemicals are not a good idea. We recommend using a naturally anti-bacterial hand soap, and having it available for everyone to use when they enter your house post-birth. (Our Clean & Green castile soap with amazing essential oils also fights germs.) Try to use all natural products, escape from toxins and embrace a holistically healthy regime that you will want for your new little love.
For more information on herbal products and services, check out Brooklyn Herborium.
Triangulator image via Brooklyn Herborium. Botanicals image source.