Aside from the obvious bodily changes, pregnancy also brings about a number of shifts in your skin. And an increase in sensitivity, both to smells and certain ingredients can limit what skin care you use. As consultant dermatologist Dr. Mary Sommerlad recalls, “In both my pregnancies, my first trimester of pregnancy was essentially just a time of nausea and vomiting. I needed simple skin care that worked fast.” Hormonal fluctuations can bring about breakouts and pigmentation, as observed by dermatologist and mum of two, Dr. Zena Willsmore; “I found myself far more prone to breakouts than ever before.” Sometimes, the mere thought of an elaborate routine is just overwhelming, as was Harrods beauty director Katie Service’s experience; “I just wanted something that didn’t make me want to bring up my eighth packet of salt-and-vinegar crisps of the day and also calmed down my newfound acne and irritation.”
There’s also the issue that some active ingredients such as retinoids are not suitable for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. So, we asked eight experts, from dermatologists to influencers, for their pregnancy skin-care must-haves. Read on for the best mask, moisturiser, multi-use product, and more.
Best Overall Vitamin C
Given that retinoids, the gold-standard anti-ageing ingredient, are banned during pregnancy, three of our experts suggested a vitamin C serum. “Prior to pregnancy I would be using a retinoid daily to help bat off the signs of premature ageing, but instead, I invested in Skinceuticals C E Ferulic,” said Dr. Willsmore, adding that it’s advisable to stop using retinoids when trying to conceive. “Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect our skin against environmental attacks and tackles pigmentation, which is common in pregnancy. The addition of Vitamin E and ferulic acid in this serum helps boost its antioxidant power, and I liked the non-tacky texture. I felt my skin was visibly brighter with it,” she added.
Dr. Sommerlad was also a fan, echoing the appeal of the light texture and fragrance-free formula, but said she also used Sunday Riley C.E.O Vitamin C Serum; “It really staved off the dull skin that sometimes occurs in pregnancy, and the texture is so luxurious. I found it really reduced the dark patches I got during my first pregnancy and gave me a more even skin tone.”
Best for Anti-Ageing
Another unique benefit of retinoids are their collagen-boosting power, which can be hard to find in other products. The next best thing? Peptides. “Medik 8 Liquid Peptides is a lightweight, non-greasy serum. It’s easy to tolerate and I applied it at night after cleansing to my face, neck, decollete and around my eyes, so there’s no need for individual products for these typically sensitive sites,” explained consultant dermatologist and mum of one Dr. Justine Kluk. Peptides work by acting as “messengers”, sending signals to the cells. In the case of this serum, the message is to tell them to produce more collagen. Medik8 has used encapsulated peptides in this serum, sometimes referred to as “drone technology”, which means that peptides only break down when they reach the layers of the skin where they’re most needed. “It’s also very hydrating, so I hardly ever needed to use a separate moisturiser afterwards,” added Dr. Kluk. The serum is also vegan- and cruelty-free.
Best for Pregnancy Acne
Aside from retinoids, some other anti-acne ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are also not safe to use during pregnancy. “I’ve suffered with acne since my teens and had to come off my treatment before falling pregnant. This made me a little nervous as nine-plus months felt like a really long time to be exposed to a greater chance of breakouts,” said Dr. Kluk. “The Ordinary 10% Azelaic Acid Suspension was my go-to over the counter solution during pregnancy. Azelaic acid is good for redness, reducing inflammation, fighting blemishes, smoothing the skin and reducing post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The cream gel texture means it sinks in quickly and it’s great for layering under sunscreen in the morning.”
Best Face Mask for Pregnancy
Founder of Pfeffer Sal skin health clinic and new mum Andrea Pfeffer said for her, pregnancy skin care needed to be equal parts relaxation and results. “Vestige Verdant Organic Peat Mask is unmatched in its ability to reduce congestion and clear the skin,” explained Pfeffer. “It’s made from sustainably farmed 100 percent organic Estonian peat, and it has humic acid, which is a naturally occurring anti inflammatory ingredient,” she added. Humic acid also has a mild astringent effect, which Pfeffer explained made it good as an on-the-spot treatment and gentle exfoliator. “We use this in the clinic for all our pregnancy treatments, too.”
Best Face Moisturiser for Pregnancy
The hormonal surges during pregnancy that cause oiliness and breakouts often preclude you from using a heavy, thick cream. “I loved Caudalie Resveratrol Life Cashmere Crème,” said Dr. Sommerlad. “It doesn’t have any mineral oils which can cause congestion, and I loved how fresh and hydrated it made my skin feel. The texture is so soft but not greasy, and the scent is really uplifting.” The cream has an antioxidant from grapes called resveratrol, vegan collagen and hyaluronic acid to moisturise and soften the skin.
Best (Less Expensive) Face Moisturiser for Pregnancy
The whole of this affordable range has an expert seal of approval and is specifically formulated for sensitive skin. “I loved this range during pregnancy, firstly because it’s fragrance-free and so didn’t make me feel queasy,” said Service. “I found that the Ultra Overnight Cream dramatically reduced the redness I was getting around my chin and hormonal spots along my jawline.” The range also has the Allergy UK Seal of Approval, which Service applauded: “My skin was so sensitive during pregnancy, but this cream seemed to make my skin less so and more resilient the more I used it. It felt soothing immediately and continued to get better, even though I gave birth in the height of a very cold winter.”
Best Exfoliator for Pregnancy
If nature hasn’t given you the pregnancy glow, you can make one for yourself. Dr. Sommerlad suggested Pixi Glow Tonic: “I used this a few nights per week to keep breakouts to a minimum and to help keep my skin looking glowing.” The active ingredient in this cult-favourite (and often-duped) toner is glycolic acid, which is derived from sugar cane. Glycolic acid helps to break up surface impurities and promote cell turnover, which gives the skin a brighter and more refreshed appearance. Despite being an acid exfoliant, Dr. Sommerlad said, “It was gentle enough not to dry or irritate my sensitive skin in pregnancy.”
Best Cleanser for Pregnancy
Dr. Ifeoma Ejikeme, founder and director of the Adonia Medical Clinic said it was best to go back to basics with cleansing during pregnancy. “CeraVe Foaming Cleanser is good for normal to oily skin, and the addition of ceramides means it pulls moisture back into the skin,” she explained. As a mum of three (her youngest is just 4 months old), she found that her skin was quite dry during pregnancy, and so she gravitated toward products that could offer hydration while still battling the hormonal oiliness. “The ceramides in this are really hydrating and moisturising, which I found I needed far more than usual during pregnancy, and the niacinamide is a wonderful antioxidant,” she added.
Best Multi-Use Product
Freelance fashion and beauty editor Jessica Vince said during pregnancy she was too exhausted for endless steps, and so Neal’s Yard Remedies Mother’s Balm became a staple in her routine. “It made my skin feel as nourished as if I’d used a handful of different serums, and it felt so instantly soothing and hydrating. My cousin actually gave me her pot from her pregnancy, so it felt like a lovely tradition being passed on.” The balm can be used all over and has a blend of coconut and sweet almond oils and beeswax to support skin elasticity and help keep your skin feeling soft and smooth. It’s also certified organic, as Vince noted, “As a new mum, I had a sudden urge to go back to basics and use natural products as much as possible.” It also has the sensitive skin seal approval from AllergyCertified.
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