Pregnancy is a journey full of constant change. As you are preparing, physically and emotionally, to bring a new life into the world, you may find your body changing in new and unexpected ways. Many women find that their skin and hair changes significantly during pregnancy—sometimes in welcome ways, and other times in ways that feel annoying or scary.
If you’re looking to calm your anxieties about the skin and hair changes that can occur, we’re here to soothe. In this article, we’ll walk you through common pregnancy skin and hair changes. Plus, give some tips for taking care of your skin and hair’s health and beauty, both during pregnancy and postpartum.
What Causes Hair And Skin Changes During Pregnancy?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), some of the skin changes that occur during pregnancy are due to the changes in hormone levels that are happening at the same time.
Increased blood flow and oil production that happens when you’re pregnant, often contributing to what’s referred to as a “pregnancy glow”, can lead to more acne. It can also naturally increase melanin production which can result in dark spots. And for many other skin changes, healthcare professionals are unsure of the exact cause.
Skin Effects of Pregnancy
Some of the common pregnancy skin changes include:
- Dark spots on your breasts, nipples, or inner thighs
- Dark patches on the face, also known as melasma
- A dark line running from the navel to the pubic hair, also known as linea nigra
Many women also find new stretch marks during pregnancy. These are pink or red stripes which can develop wherever there is rapid growth and stretching of the skin. Unsurprisingly, you might find these on your stomach, breasts, buttocks, and thighs as your body changes throughout your pregnancy.
Spider veins and varicose veins are other skin conditions some women experience while pregnant. Spider veins are very small red veins that can appear on your face, neck, and arms. They are most common during the first half of pregnancy and usually fade after delivery.
Varicose veins are swollen, sore, and blue veins in your legs, caused by the weight of your uterus decreasing blood flow to your lower body. They can also appear on your vulva or in your vagina or rectum (also known as hemorrhoids). You’re more likely to get varicose veins if someone else in your family has had them. And similarly to spider veins, they usually go away after your baby is born.
How Pregnancy Can Affect Hair
Pregnancy can make your hair grow more and appear thicker, both on your head and other parts of your body like the face, chest, abdomen, and arms. Due to an increase in estrogen, less hair falls out than normal, and many women report their hair feeling thicker around 15 weeks into their pregnancy. Some research even suggests that hair strands actually thicken during pregnancy. And some women report their hair texture changing and becoming more or less curly. It’s not perfectly understood why or how this happens, but it can be that hormone changes alter the shape of hair follicles.
Conversely, some women may experience a decrease in estrogen during pregnancy. This is due to stopping the oral contraceptive pill or a hormonal imbalance. This can lead to more hair falling out than usual.
Many women who experienced thicker hair during pregnancy notice unusual hair loss around 3 months after giving birth, as their hormone levels and hair cycles of growing and falling out are all returning to normal. Usually, your hair will grow back normally within 6 months post-delivery.
Tips for Healthy Skin During Pregnancy
When it comes to skincare during pregnancy, there are certain things you’ll probably want to avoid, and other things that will help your skin look and feel its best. Let’s start with the do’s.
- Wear sunscreen and/or a hat while in the sun to minimize the occurrence of dark spots. You may consider using mineral sunscreen over a chemical one, as oxybenzone (the most frequently used ultraviolet filter in chemical sunscreens) has been linked to endocrine disruption and fetal damage. You can also decrease the amount of time you spend in the sun. Pay particular attention to avoiding peak hours of 10 am – 2 pm.
- Wash your face daily with a gentle cleanser.
- Treat your pregnancy acne with over-the-counter products. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid are generally considered safe to use for a limited time. Though, they recommend you still consult your doctor before using them while pregnant.
- Use isotretinoin or tazarotene, which are vitamin A derivatives that can cause severe birth defects in fetuses.
- Take doxycycline, minocycline, or tetracycline, from once you’ve reached week 15 of your pregnancy until after delivery.
- Take acne medication, like spironolactone, that blocks specific hormones.
Tips for Healthy Hair During Pregnancy
Hair care during pregnancy doesn’t necessarily need to look much different than it did for you before. You shouldn’t have to change which shampoo, conditioner, or other hair products you use unless you use a prescription dandruff shampoo. In that case, you should consult your doctor, as some medicated shampoos aren’t safe for use during pregnancy.
Another reason you might switch up what you use on your hair during pregnancy is if the smells become overwhelming. Some women experience extra sensitivity to scent while they’re pregnant. If you find that to be true for you, consider switching to fragrance-free hair care products.
As for whether or not it’s safe to dye, highlight, or perm your hair during pregnancy, doctors’ opinions are mixed. Some recommend stopping, others say it’s fine to continue, and some say you should specifically avoid these treatments in the first trimester, after which you can do them. Very few studies have examined the effects of hair chemicals on pregnant women—so while there is a chance that harsh chemicals can absorb through your scalp and passed to your baby, the research is not definitive. Consult your doctor so you can make an informed decision that factors in your own risk tolerance.
One recommendation that has more consensus among doctors is to avoid hair straightening treatments that contain formaldehyde if possible, as it’s a known carcinogen.
How To Take Care Of Your Skin And Hair Postpartum
After giving birth, your skin and hair may want some extra pampering. Postpartum skincare and hair care is all about tuning into what your body needs, while still being mindful of products with harsh chemicals to consider avoiding if you’re breastfeeding.
Your skin and hair should return close to their normal state within 6 months post-delivery as your hormones return to their normal level, perhaps after some postpartum acne or hair loss. Do your best to be patient with this process and honor the monumental changes your body has gone through and continues to go through.
Additionally, stress and overall health are linked to your skin and hair health, so prioritizing things like drinking lots of water, eating nutrient-rich foods, and resting whenever you get the chance could contribute to glowing skin and strong, healthy hair.
If you’re worried about a skin or hair condition that is more serious, like rashes that won’t go away or excessive hair loss, speak with your healthcare provider. They can help you get to the bottom of what’s going on and take appropriate action.
Disclaimer: All content within this site is not intended as medical diagnosis or treatment and should not be considered a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any health or nutritional information obtained is accurate.