Dr. Ginni Mansberg

Pregnancy is incredible. While reproduction of is common to all living beings, the very concept and complexity of it is one of the most astounding natural phenomena. And it is that complexity that means we don’t understand everything about it.

What we do know is that:

  • Both female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone levels are significantly up during pregnancy. They also cause Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone (MSH) to increase – a hormone that reduces inflammation but can also increase pigmentation and Melasma,
  • Higher Progesterone levels tend to increase oil production which in turn can cause an acne flare up; and,
  • The appearance of “Messenger Proteins” (which help the placenta attach to the womb) as well as other immune system changes (which allow the mum’s body not to reject her foetus) result in certain immune cells to go up and down in a complex dance. This can result in eczema, increased skin sensitivity and dermatitis either getting worse or happening for the first-time during pregnancy. Strangely, some conditions like Psoriasis can improve!

These conditions affect about half of pregnant mums and usually resolve themselves within a year of the pregnancy. And then there are stretch marks. They usually recede to fine silvery lines but may be with you for the long haul.

Dr. Ginni Mansberg is a Sydney-based GP, author, and co-founder of Evidence Skincare (ESK)

Which skincare ingredients should you avoid during pregnancy?

There is near universal agreement on the recommendation to avoid Vitamin A (used for anti-aging and acne) and Hydroquinone (used for pigmentation) during pregnancy. If you do accidentally use Vitamin A creams when you are pregnant, the risks are VERY low, and the recommendation is made using an abundance of caution. So, don’t fret.

  • The other ingredients for which caution is often urged for expecting mums are:
  • Salicylic acid (for use in acne, exfoliation, anti-aging and pigmentation), with some countries having regulations which suggest against use in pregnancy while others don’t)
  • Benzoyl Peroxide (for acne)
  • Certain chemical sunscreen ingredients (e.g. Oxybenzone)
  • Parabens and Phthalates

Because so much uncertainty persists, I’d say why take the risk?

Skin needs a little extra TLC during pregnancy.

How should you tackle the common skin conditions in pregnancy?

Keep in mind that your skin may become more sensitive during pregnancy, so you may want to make some changes just to adjust for that…

Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) – for Acne, Pigmentation/Melasma, Eczema and sensitive skin

  • Reduces excess oil production which in turn reduces the likelihood of follicles becoming blocked and acne forming
  • Decreases hyperpigmentation by reducing the transport of melanin from where it is created (melanocytes) to where it is deposited in the skin (keritoncytes)
  • Improves skin barrier function helping manage Eczema
  • Vitamin B3 can be used morning and night, with the best evidence being for concentrations of between 3 percent and 5 percent. It can be found in products Like ESK’s B Calm, B Quenched and Enlighten.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (less then 5 percent concentration) – for Acne and Pigmentation/Melasma

  • They help exfoliate the skin and increase the opportunity for the skin to clear blocked pores and flush melanin trapped in the skin.
  • Because they may increase sun sensitivity, we recommend using them at night (ESK’s Smooth Serum).

When not appearing on Channel Seven’s Sunrise, you can find Dr. Ginni discussing all things weird and wonderful on her podcast, Things You Can’t Talk About on TV.

Azelaic Acid – for Acne and Pigmentation

  • It is antibacterial, supresses the precursor to Melanin and has antioxidant properties so it is effective in the management of acne and pigmentation.
  • It is safe for use during pregnancy and (at 15 percent – 20 percent concentration) is available from pharmacies, but it may cause skin irritation.

4-n-Butylresorcinol (4-n-B) – for Pigmentation

  • A (pregnancy) safe and effective alternative to Hydroquinone. It inhibits tyrosinase, one of the key building blocks of melanin.
  • This class of ingredients can take some time to start working (2 to 3 months) but is considered the most effective in targeting pigmentation.
  • It can be used in both the morning and evening.
  • ESK’s Enlighten is the first of its kind in Australia to us 4-n-B.

Zinc Oxide Based Sunscreen

  • Sun exposure is the primary cause of pigmentation (and premature aging) and sun damage can cause inflammation of the skin which will make acne flares worse.
  • Zinc oxide is not photo active (doesn’t degrade in sunlight), it is also gentle on the skin and has a good safety profile, so it tends to be recommended by Dermatologists. You can find it in ESK’s Zinc Shade.

Hyaluronic Acid – for Stretch Marks

As our bodies stretch to accommodate a new life our skin sometimes struggles to keep up – resulting in stretch marks. The evidence seems to indicate that early treatment using moisturisers and Hyaluronic Acid may help. There is some evidence for using Vitamin A (which will have to wait until you’re no longer pregnant or breastfeeding) and some cosmetic procedures like laser.

To learn more about a tailored skincare regimen and the ingredients best suited for you, please visit Evidence Skincare (ESK) and complete the free 3-minute quiz.

Now that you’re up to speed with pregnancy-safe skincare, enjoy the journey ahead!