Watching your body change during and after pregnancy is perhaps one of the most fascinating and challenging journeys in motherhood. Gravity pulls, nature calls, and hormones rebel. It can be quite shocking to go to bed with nearly perfect skin and wake up with the opposite — or to find more hair in our brush than normal.
While these changes are just the body’s way of adjusting to internal factors, it still doesn’t stop the desire to find solutions after baby has arrived. If you are searching for non-invasive remedies to help restore your hair and skin post-pregnancy, here are a few to get you started.
Remember: While many of these solutions can address common post-pregnancy concerns, always consult a board-certified doctor or dermatologist first to find the best treatment plan for you. Many skin treatments — including skin-lightening hydroquinone and all retinoids — can be harmful to a baby in development, and you should not use them during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Be sure to ask your doctor when it’s safe to start or resume treatments, especially if you are breastfeeding.
The “mask of pregnancy,” or melasma, refers to a discoloration or dark spots on the skin due to increased estrogen, progesterone, and melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) levels. The manageable skin condition is common for pregnant women. It should fade a few months after delivery.
After pregnancy, if your melasma doesn’t go away on its own, you can explore treatments with your doctor, including over-the-counter and standard prescription-strength hydroquinone, laser technologies like IPL, and chemical peels.
According to licensed aesthetician Candace Marino, who works in Los Angeles dermatologic surgeon Dr. Jason Emer’s office, melasma is a post-pregnancy woman’s biggest skin concern.
“Cosmelan peel is one of the most popular treatments we do in Dr. Emer’s office,” Marino says. “It is a chemical peel which contains a high dose of hydroquinone and retinol. Hydroquinone speaks to the melanocytes (the area in skin that creates pigment) and suppresses it. At the same time a high dose of retinol is delivered to the skin to increase cellular turnover.
“Normal skin sheds every 21 to 28 days, and during the Cosmelan peel your cellular turnover rate is every three to four days,” Marino adds. “With the action of suppressing pigment production and increasing cellular turnover, we see lightning and brightening of the skin, which evens out the complexion.”
Since heat and sun can exacerbate melasma, using sunscreen is critical. Look for sunscreens with active ingredients that are physical blockers, like zinc and titanium dioxide. Our RealSelf sunscreen guide is a good place to start.
Fluctuations in weight and hormones can cause pressure in the veins that enlarge blood vessels. Though usually harmless, varicose veins can become more visible during pregnancy. Common treatments include sclerotherapy and lasers, especially Yag lasers. Sclerotherapy injects a liquid directly into the veins to redirect the flow of blood to healthier veins. A laser beam targets the blood vessels, causing them to shrink and disappear.
“The Vbeam laser or sclerotherapy injections can be used to treat varicose veins, depending on the vein severity, disease progression and skin tone,” says New York dermatologist Dr. Michele Green. “The Vbeam laser uses pulsed dye technology to deliver light to the skin being treated. The light is absorbed by the blood vessels, which coagulate and then diminish during the healing process.”
Acne and/or dull, flaky skin
Hormonal spikes can cause the skin to produce more oil than usual, resulting in acne. Changes in hormones can also cause flakiness. Over-the-counter remedies that have soothing, anti-inflammatory components are a great option. Try plant-based products and mild facial cleansers first.
“Being on the proper skincare during and after pregnancy also helps prevent and treat hormonal breakouts and pigmentation,” said Marino. “A few of the skincare lines I recommend during pregnancy are Restorsea and iS Clinical. Both lines are botanical-based and safe for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding.
“Restorsea’s products all contain an enzyme derived from salmon eggs that digests dead skin, this gentle exfoliation will help to keep the skin hydrated and bright,” she adds. “Their 10x treatment is a great alternative to retinol, as it speeds up cellular turnover and addresses pigment and textural issues.”
Dr. Green adds that PRP (platelet-rich plasma), also known as the “vampire facelift,” is an excellent way to get your glow back and rejuvenate the face. “The treatment result is firmer, younger-looking skin,” she says. “The procedure is noninvasive, with almost no downtime. This platelet rich plasma (PRP) is nutrient-rich and filled with growth factors to rejuvenate the skin. The PRP is infused into the dermis via the Eclipse microneedling.”
Again, it’s important to note that you should definitely not use products containing retinoids at all during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Check with your dermatologist for a safe acne fighter or skin-brightener during this time.
Postpartum Hair Loss
Many pregnant women experience hormonal fluctuations that can result in hair loss. Fortunately, “PRP injections mixed with stem cells is an advanced aesthetics practice which injects your own natural growth factor into the scalp to stimulate hair growth,” said Marino.
“Whenever receiving PRP injections of any type, I recommend my patients to be on a clean diet leading up to the treatment,” she adds. “This ensures you’re delivering healthy, nutrient-rich cells to the area. Viviscal is a professional hair growth supplement that helps strengthen the hair and promote growth.”