Welcome to Bo-Talks, our feature series where we talk with industry professionals about the treatments, tips, and tricks that can change your skin for the better.
Pregnancy is a very weird but very special time in a woman’s life. The body changes alone are insane. Even though you have a full nine months to adjust into your “new normal,” it somehow ends up feeling like not enough time and way too much all at once. A growing midsection, among many, many other strange bodily happenings that no one talks about, is a lot to adjust to. Suddenly you’re 40 weeks, you look down and holy shit there’s an actual baby in there, ready to be born into the world.
Lena Metcalfe, PA-C, provider at FACILE dermatology + boutique, is not only an expert in skincare and cosmetology, she also just had a baby almost 8 months ago. She knows first hand about dealing with those pesky pregnancy hormones and all the change that comes along with it.
“Of course expect to grow — everywhere! Every woman has such a unique experience but some of the lesser-known bodily changes include: linea nigra, especially if you have more pigment to your skin. This is a harmless brown line that forms in the center of your belly down to your pubis. I actually still have mine 7 months postpartum! It’s faded quite a bit and eventually will go away on its own.”
Body changes are huge and so are the physical manifestations — literally. “Some women’s feet will grow and don’t go back to their original size. Another side effect of pregnancy is darkening which can happen all throughout the body. Your nipples and even vulva can get darker as your body is in overdrive and your melanocytes produce more pigment,” explains Metcalfe.
“Be sure to wear a non-chemical SPF that is zinc or titanium based, as you are much more prone to melasma during pregnancy.”
Probably the most well known and frustrating pregnancy effect is melasma. “Known as ‘the mask of pregnancy,’ melasma is harmless but a frustrating stubborn pigment that paints the cheeks, forehead, and upper lip.” Hair loss is another one. “I remember losing maybe one hair per shower, much different from the postpartum experience,” confesses Metcalfe.
As for what’s off limits? “Avoid retinoids, prescription or not, there just isn’t enough evidence to say whether these topicals are safe, so it’s best to stay away. Avoid hydroquinone for the same reason. Excessive sun exposure should also be avoided, and be sure to wear a non-chemical SPF that is zinc or titanium based. You are much more prone to melasma and hyperpigmentation during pregnancy.”
Lena also advises to stay away from injectables. “Avoid procedures such as botox and filler as they’re also not studied in pregnancy. That being said, if you were pregnant and didn’t know yet and got botox, fear not — your baby is going to be just fine. Many women accidentally get botox before finding out they’re pregnant, (myself included) and end up having perfectly healthy babies. We just don’t want to inject knowing you’re pregnant because we truly don’t know the effects it may have on your baby.”
Lena also dishes on acids and how they play into pregnancy skincare. “A few products that are on the fence, that I believe to be safe during pregnancy, include low concentrations of glycolic acid and salicylic acid (2% or lower) and benzoyl peroxide. I think these are great options for women who need a bit more exfoliation. iS Clinical makes a great Active Serum with natural forms of these ingredients and is considered pregnancy safe.”
When asked for a good pregnancy safe routine, Lena let us in on what worked for her and advises to keep it simple:
Cleanse with gentle cleanser (Avene Cleansing Foam)
Apply either a AHA/BHA serum or a retinol alternative (iS Clinical Active Serum or Herbivore Bakuchiol)
Hyaluronic Acid Serum (FACILE Essence)
Moisturize (La Roche Posay Lipikar Balm or PCA Skin Rebalance)