Add in wanting to continue fighting aging (because let's face it, most of us are over 30 while pregnant rather than in our early 20s)... and.... our options have dramatically shrunk.
First, a quick little review of what I think should be included in everyone's skin care routine and any modifications for pregnancy.
1. Gentle Cleansing: Pick a cleanser that removes all of your makeup (especially in the eye area, it's amazing how much eye liner and mascara can be left behind and look horrible), rinses off easily and leaves your skin non-irritated with no redness or after wash tightness.
2. Exfoliation: Usually done either physically (with a scrub or wash cloth or even a BuffPuf) or chemically. In my usual life I prefer chemical since it is more predictable and my skin can tolerate it well. However since the hydroxy acids are a no-go during pregnancy I've opted for physical exfoliation. This means a few times a week I'll use a scrub (I prefer to do this in the shower for easy rinsing, my current favorite is Your Best Face's Prep) and in between I simply make sure I scrub my face a little bit more with my washcloth.
3. Moisturization: The mythical glowy complexion of pregnancy can be achieved (I think I had it for a few weeks somewhere around week 24), and one of the keys is moisture! Keeping your skin nice and plump helps with minimizing any signs of aging as well, even if the effects are temporary. My favorite ingredient in a moisturizer is Hyaluronic Acid (aka- Sodium Hyaluronate) since as a humectant it attracts and keeps moisture in the skin rather than sealing it in (and looking greasy) like an emollient. I love emollients on my body though. Just not on my t-zone.
4. Sun Protection: This is always important. At a bare minimum I think everyone needs a SPF 15 with broad spectrum UVA and UVB coverage, SPF 30 is even better if you can get it. I do not think that you should be looking to your makeup for SPF (chances are you're not going to use the huge amount of foundation or powder to obtain that rating, if your product has SPF in it just consider this a little added bonus). I think you need to have your sunscreen in your daily moisturizer or a separate sunscreen product. Note that during pregnancy with your hormones run amok you are at risk of developing the dreaded "mask of pregnancy", Melasma. I'll be featuring a full post about this (along with the recs of a few dermatologists on how to deal with it) in a few weeks, but your main defense against it is sunscreen. So slather up!
So, I'm sure if you read my blog regularly you recognize my anti-aging checklist. It lists the ingredient categories that I like to include in every anti-aging routine (not necessarily in 1 product). My ideal is to have the routine above, to have peptides and anti-oxidants +/- hydroxy acids in a moisturizer, sunscreen in my day time moisturizer, and then to add in retinoids as a concentrated product that I can then use as my skin tolerates (my skin is usually a bit sensitive to retinoids, I usually end up at every other night). Obviously this can't happen with all of the ingredients to avoid.
So, by the time we take into account what to avoid, the anti-aging checklist turns into the image on the bottom. We're still allowed peptides and anti-oxidants, but retinoids are all a big no-no and the hydroxy acids are typically avoided, especially if you're erring on the conservative side like me. Yes, it sucks to not be able to use a retinoid, but it's only for 9 months so not a big deal. It's the hydroxy acid avoidance that is actually much more annoying. Do you know how hard it is to avoid hydroxy acids?? They like to pop up everywhere. Throw in avoiding all of the other ingredients (especially those skin whiteners) and suddenly there aren't a lot of options.
So, what have I found that works with this? Some of these were old stand-bys that I like to keep on hand to use in between product testings, and some of them were actually things that I tested. The first products in each category are the ones I actually used while pregnant, then I listed a few that I've used in the past and after checking ingredient lists I found they would have worked too.
• Olay Foaming Face Wash: Honestly, this one contains citric acid, an AHA, but I missed it on the ingredient list. It's basically the last ingredient (leading me to believe it is there to balance the pH) and therefore in super low amounts. Plus, you wash this off immediately. I used this in my third trimester, I'm trying not to feel guilty.
• Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser
• Cetaphil Cleanser
• Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash
• Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser
• StriVectin SD
• Your Best Face Control
• Neutrogena Light Night Cream
• Olay Regenerist Anti-Aging Eye Roller
• Elizabeth Arden Intervene Eye Cream
• Your Best Face Refresh Eye Cream
• Neutrogena Ageless Restoratives Anti-Oxidant Eye Cream: I haven't used this one before but I really wanted another eye cream to recommend and this one fits the bill
Day Moisturizer with SPF
• Olay Regenerist UV Defense Regenerating Lotion SPF 50
• Aveeno Ageless Vitality, SPF 30
• Kiehl's Ultra Facial Moisturizer SPF 15
• Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture SPF 15
What to do with Blemishes?
So... What are your favorite topical ingredients to treat blemishes? Because it sure seems like all of mine (Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic acid) were both on that list of no-no ingredients. Just try finding an acne treatment that doesn't contain either of those or a hydroxy acid. Pretty much impossible. A reader asked me about Witch Hazel the other day, and that is safe in pregnancy, so that is an option if it doesn't try you out like crazy (like it does me, so I avoid it like the plague).
So.... those hormone induced bumps... you pretty much need to wait them out. To help things along I did do some warm compresses, I did have a facial and let my esthetician do some extractions, and I tried to keep my pores as cleaned out as I could. So, exfoliation, I used my Clarisonic every day and did some masking. Especially during the month that blemishes were a problem for me, I was using a clay containing mask to help suck up all the nastiness about 2-3 times a week (I love the Borghese Fango Mask or the Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask, which might be the best $3 you'll ever spend).
I've had a lot of people asking me about pregnancy safety for specific products in the comments. I've actually shut the comments down because some were so long that they ended up in the Spam comments folder (where I get about 1,000 spam comments a day) and I REALLY don't have time to dig them out. Please email me at cemikese at yahoo.com and I'll get back to you!
In order to let you know if a product is safe or not I'll need to have an ingredients list! If there isn't one on the company's website, sometimes the info is available on an online retailer's site, but sometimes not. I can't give you an answer for sure without a list! (Some people have been very unhappy with me not being able to say something is safe without seeing the ingredients. I thought that was the point??)
For questions regarding specific ingredients, please refer to my skin care ingredients to avoid while pregnant post!
Some of the items mentioned in this post were sent to me for consideration, some I bought. Some were sent to me and I bought again them later.