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Pregnancy and Skin Changes

For many women, pregnancy brings glowing skin, rosy cheeks, and shiny hair. But others can experience skin changes that aren’t so attractive, including acne, dark spots, and stretch marks.

Here are some of the common skin conditions in pregnancy, along with some practical tips on managing those that can be troublesome.


Increased blood flow and oil production are the factors behind the radiant pregnancy glow. But that radiance sometimes comes with a price, as the increased oil production can result in acne.

Just as when you were a pimply teen, keeping the affected skin clean and oil-free can help, but certain acne and skin care products should be avoided in pregnancy:

  • The prescription anti-acne drugs isotretinoin and tretinoin can cause birth defects and should never be used during pregnancy.

  • Avoid abrasive scrubs or defoliants, as these can irritate sensitive skin.

  • Generally, most over-the-counter acne cleansers and treatments are safe to use in pregnancy, but you should check with your health care provider first.  The good news is that acne typically goes away shortly after delivery.

Dark spots

A natural increase in melanin during pregnancy is responsible for areas of darkened skin, especially on the face. To minimize this “mask of pregnancy,” called chloasma:

  • Be sure to wear sunscreen or wear a hat while in the sun.

  • Decrease the amount of time you spend in the sun. Avoid the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most direct.

Most of these brownish-colored areas fade over time, often within a few months after giving birth.

Stretch marks

Although most women expect to have some stretch marks on their belly with pregnancy, many are surprised to also find these pink or red stripes on their breasts, buttocks, and thighs.

In fact, stretch marks can occur anywhere there is rapid growth and stretching of the skin. Unfortunately, no methods are proved to prevent or erase stretch marks, despite the abundance of lotions and creams advertised.

The marks will fade over time, and any irritation can be minimized by using a moisturizer.

Other conditions

Itching skin

Itching skin is common, especially in the winter, when skin is dry and easily irritated. But some women develop a rash or itching bumps that are caused by a variety of conditions. Although most are more irritating than dangerous, you should always ask your health care provider about any itching problems.

Hair growth

Hormones of pregnancy can increase hair growth, and many women notice that their hair is thicker and healthier looking. But sometimes those hormones cause hair growth in other places, too, such as on the face or neck. Talk with your health care provider if you notice excessive hair growth in new places. Most hair-removal methods are safe in pregnancy, including waxing, tweezing, shaving, and laser treatments.

During pregnancy, some women experience less hair growth. Two processes are involved. First, the actual rate that hair grows decreases. Second, fewer hair follicles than usual enter a resting, or dormant, state. After pregnancy, however, more hair follicles enter the resting state, and many women notice an increase in the amount of hair they shed for one to four months. This isn’t a sign of hair loss: Normal hair growth should return within six to 12 months.