Common Skin Changes During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but often it can be rather daunting to experience the various skin changes associated with pregnancy. The most common skin changes include stretch marks, change in skin colour, increased skin sensitivity, itchy skin, acne and broken veins. These are usually caused by hormonal factors and changes to the circulation and immune system.

But don´t worry – the majority of these “less desirable” changes will normally clear up or slowly improve after the delivery of baby – just give it time and/or implement some of the My Lilli Pilli skincare products that can safely help your body alleviating some of these skin issues.

Pregnant woman at the beach. Common Skin Changes During Pregnancy.

What the heck are these itchy red-purple lines on my growing belly and thighs? Am I about to rip?

Yes, my dear friend, you have guessed right – it is STRETCH MARKS – the most feared skin changes among pregnant women. These marks are very common during pregnancy as they are caused by the stretching of skin in order to accommodate your little growing baby. Initially, the dermal lesions are pink to violet and sometimes slightly raised. They mostly appear on the belly, breasts, upper arms, lower back, buttocks, thighs and groin – and they can be sooo itchy! Apparently, stretch marks are more common in younger women, women with larger babies and women that are over-weight, but all in all it really depends on your genetics. After the delivery of your baby it might take over months or years for the stretch marks to mature into white, shiny and crinkly streak that are permanent.

There are currently oceans of skincare products specifically for the growing belly – we highly recommend the safe SOOTHING Belly Oil in combination with the CALMING Belly Lotion and the GENTLE Belly Cleanser that will help calm and hydrate your stretching skin. They all are great for itchy skin!

My skin colour has suddenly darkened different places on my body!?! What is that dark line on the middle on my belly? What are these dark spots doing on my face? What´s going on?

If these are some of your questions – then keep reading…..

What you are experiencing here are pigmentation changes that are highly likely due to your pregnancy. Some areas of your skin such as the nipples can turn darker, which is often one of the first signs that you are pregnant. The various pigmentation changes are most commonly found in women with darker skin. Here are some examples:

Hyperpigmentation is the darkening of skin in areas such as the nipples and their surrounding skin, genitalia, neck, upper chest, around the belly button and of course the linea nigra which is the dark vertical line appearing on the middle of the belly. Additionally, moles, freckles and some scars tend to darken. Hyperpigmentation is very common and occurs in around 90% of all pregnancies.

If you have difficulties getting rid of the dark line on your belly even though it has been months since the delivery of your precious baby – try out our POLISHING Gel to Milk Belly Scrub.

Melasma also called “the mask of pregnancy” is describes as small irregular dark-brown patches on the face. They are normally less than 1 cm wide and can be located on the nose, cheeks, upper-lip, forehead, chin and/or eyebrows. About 50-75% of the mums-to-be will experience this.

Sunlight may play a significant role in the development of these kinds of skin changes. You should therefore avoid heavy sun-tanning and use sunscreen and sun-hat when going outside. The degree of melasma also depends on your genetics. Fortunately, the brown patches often completely disappear within a year of the delivery of your precious baby – however, some studies have shown that the brown spots can stay up to 10 years after having your kid. Often in the skincare industry hydroquinone and tretinoin are used to lighten the skin, however, we do not recommend pregnant and breast-feeding mums to use products containing these ingredients.

CAUTION! Be aware that some changes in skin colour can be caused by other conditions, unconnected to your pregnancy. So always check with your doctor or midwife if you notice any changes in the colour or size of a mole or if any pigmentation changes are accompanied by pain, tenderness or redness.

How come some of my veins are sore and bulging out from my inner thigh? What´s going on with these blood vessels that look like a spider web?!?

If these are some of your complaints during pregnancy, you might be suffering due to the vascular changes that are happening in your body. Vascular changes such as varicose veins and spider veins are quiet common.

Varicose veins are blood vessels that have become enlarged and twisted and may bulge out near the surface of the skin. They are commonly blue/purple and are most likely to appear in the legs and sometime near the vagina or anus (also called haemorrhoids – augh!!!). Varicose veins can make your legs feel heavy and achy, and the surrounding skin can be experiencing some kind of burning sensation and/or be a bit itchy. The risk of getting varicose veins increases if other family members have had them, and they tend to worsen with increasing numbers of pregnancies and age. Fortunately, the varicose veins usually improve after the baby is born – especially if you didn´t have any before you got pregnant.

Vascular spiders are small swollen blood vessels that are found slightly beneath the surface of the skin especially in areas such as the neck, throat, face (around the eyes) and arms. They often contain a central red spot and red extensions that radiate outwards like a spider´s web or like tree branches. They have been found to start developing during the second and fifth months of pregnancy, and they have a tendency to increase in size and number throughout the pregnancy. Around 75% of the vascular spiders that developed during pregnancy spontaneously fade away by the seventh week after delivery.

OMG – check out my “cankles”- they are massive! Give me some ugg-boots, please!

Are your feet, legs, hands or face swollen? Then you might have edema – that´s when excess fluid collects beneath your skin. It`s quiet normal to have a certain amount of swelling during pregnancy because of the increased water and salt retention. Additionally, the growing uterus puts pressure on the pelvic veins and other large veins slowing down the returning of the blood from the legs. This causes the blood to pool, which forces the fluid from the veins into the tissue of the feet and ankles. Pregnant women are mostly likely to get edema during the third trimester – and especially those who are carrying multiple babies. When having edema it tends to be worse at the end of the day and during the hot summers. If you have swollen feet, you should try to elevate your feet while relaxing, do exercises, get some massage (especially from your partner!), avoid excessive intake of salt and keep hydrated. The swelling normally disappear after you have had your baby.

I remember having the worst and sorest cankles EVER during my second trimester – I had just been flying interstate due to work commitments and my feet were so fat that I had to walk bare-foot out of the airplane and through the airport – great!! Why didn´t I bring my comfy ugg-boots??? So, please take care and do some feet exercises while flying!

CAUTION! If you notice excessive or sudden swelling around your eyes, feet, or ankle please get checked by your health provider, as it could be a sign of preeclampsia.

Why is my skin more sensitive now that I´m pregnant?

During pregnancy the skin tends to get more delicate and sensitive to various stimuli. Soaps and skincare products that have been used for a prolonged time prior to pregnancy, may suddenly cause the skin to flare up in irritation. Sensitive skin is characterised by inflammation of the skin accompanied by redness and itchiness. There are several sensitive skin types; rosacea, acne, stinging type and allergic type. If you have some of these skin conditions prior to getting pregnant, they may either improve or worsen when you are pregnant.

Oh no, my rosacea seem to worsen during pregnancy!

Rosacea  is recurrent redness, itchy and swelling of the face and often combined with papules, pustules and small dilated blood vessels near the surface of the skin on the nose, cheeks and chin (also called telangiectasias). People with rosacea often experience hot sensations of the face. This skin condition commonly affects 25-60 year olds, around 10% of the population. There are a big number of triggers associated with the flaring up of rosacea such as spicy food, alcohol, skincare, tobacco, hormonal changes, emotional factors, sunlight, extreme weather conditions etc. The course of rosacea in pregnancy is rather unpredictable – and only few cases have been studied, hence not much data is available.

My PIMPLES are back!?! But I´m not a teenager anymore!!!

Acne This skin condition, also known as acne vulgaris, is generally found in the 11-25 year age range, but people at other ages can still suffer from this due to hormonal fluctuations. It is characterised by:

  1. increased sebum production (sebum = the natural oil your body produces to keep your skin waterproof and lubricated),
  2. clogging of pores from dead skin cell inside the hair follicles,
  3. the presence of the bacteria called Propionibacteterium acnes and
  4. inflammation

which all result in the lovely creation of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and greasy skin.

Acne primarily affects areas of the skin with a high number of oil glands, which includes the face, back and upper part of the chest.

During pregnancy women can start developing spots or acne after years of not having any. In general around 40% of pregnant women will do so, and the majority of those would have had acne or spots at some stage in life (such as puberty). Interestingly, often the women who normally suffer of “adult” acne might find that the spots improve during the first trimester, and then only to worsen in the third trimester. Fear not, in order to reduce the amount of sebum on the skin, you can try using a mild cleanser and/or a spritzer containing ingredients that are astringent and have anti-inflammatory benefits. You can also use a light exfoliant – just be very very gentle to your skin, as it is very sensitive during pregnancy! Additionally, exfoliation can remove the dead skin cells that can block the hair follicles, decreasing the amount of blackheads and pimples. People with moderate to severe acne can be subscribed antibiotics (either topical or oral) from the doctors, if they a very bothered by it. However, remember to mention that you are pregnant as the doctor then has to be careful about the selection of antibiotics – for example tetracycline is a big NO! Also, during pregnancy please stay away from any anti-acne products containing high levels of retinol (vitamin A / retinoids).

Stinging/irritant type – People who has a tendency to experience an almost immediate stinging or burning sensation after applying skincare, might suffer from this condition. It´s recommend to avoid the following ingredients: AHA, propylene glycol, the detergent sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), etc.

Allergic type – The allergic skin type exhibits redness, swelling, itching and skin flaking when exposed to something to which the skin is allergic. Around 23% of women from Great Britain suffer of this type – and the majority of these reactions are caused by skincare ingredients – primarily preservatives such as diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, bronopol, quaternium-15, phenoxyethanol, parabens and other ingredients such as phthalates, triclosan, paraphenylenediamine (from hair dyes), fragrances etc. A true allergic reaction can take up several days to form, as opposed to the stinging skin type that is immediate. Read more about ingredients to avoid here.

ALWAYS REMEMBER TO CONSULT A DERMATOLOGIST IF YOU SUFFER OF MODERATE TO SEVERE FORMS OF DERMATOLOGICAL DISEASES!