Pregnancy: skin problems

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Your skin is your body’s largest organ so almost everything that happens to your body affects your skin – especially your hormones.

Your skin is a hormone-sensitive organ. Throughout your life, it’s under the influence of hormonal changes in the body. As hormones levels wax and wane, so your skin will have its ups and downs like it did during the onset of puberty – when hormones were responsible for the sudden increase in oil production and acne outbreak.

Oestrogen

Oestrogen is an important skin regulator. A good supply of oestrogen means skin is more likely to be soft, supple and resilient. Any major changes in this level and it can play havoc with your skin. Both oestrogen and progesterone rise and fall during the menstrual cycle, peaking during the last 10 days, which is when you’ll usually notice flare-ups.

When women first go onto the pill, it can lead to breakouts and spots and even stretch marks, which are hormone-related, not weight-related.

On the other end of the scale, as oestrogen levels decline dramatically at menopause, many women resort to hormone replacement therapy to put the glow and moisture back.

And then there’s pregnancy and those few months afterwards when all hell seems to break loose on your face. During the first months of pregnancy, oil secretion on the face diminishes and water loss increases.

Dione Penprase, trainer for Clarins SA says, “Dry skin becomes more dry, while oily skin often balances out, gets thinner and gains a nice glow. Skin loses tonicity and hormone actions lessen skin resistance. Stretch marks can appear, especially if your skin is thin and if you’re young.”

Pigmentation and red spots

As if that’s not enough to deal with, the risk of pigmentation increases. ‘The number of cells that colour your skin increase in certain areas. It first appears with the linea negra, a dark line running up your tummy between the belly button and the bikini area.

At the same time, the nipple area becomes darker. Brown patches can appear on the forehead and the cheeks and they constitute what we call the ‘mask of pregnancy’.

Dione explains, “This is more common in darker-skinned women. The mask is not constant, but is accentuated by sun exposure.”

In addition, blood vessels dilate more easily, so redness on the face and hands is common. Small red, star-shaped dots can also appear on the face, neck and shoulders, says Dione, but they are generally short-lived. She suggests, “Try to avoid sudden temperature changes and protect yourself from the sun.”

After birth all new mothers know that it takes a while for things to get back to normal and it’s no different with your skin.

Dione says, “Your skin remains “impregnated” for several weeks after the birth, at least until your first period. Slowly, however, it recovers its nature, tonicity and colour.”

Hormone-challenged skin

How to treat hormonally-challenged skin

  • Hormone function is also dependant on nutrition so try to eat as healthily as possible
  • Stick to a regular and simple “cleanse, tone, moisturise and protect” routine when your body is undergoing changes
  • The key to maintaining good skin is daily cleansing. It’s very easy to collapse into bed at night having not washed your face or applying moisturiser on an unwashed face. But remember that poor cleansing allows bacteria to grow and sebum to accumulate, leading to blackheads, whiteheads and spots
  • If your skin suddenly reacts to products, stop using them until it returns to normal
  • Your skin reacts to medication so if you had an epidural or caesar, it may break out or become unusually dry afterwards
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