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We all have those Instagram accounts we check daily, turn post notifications on for, and refer to in conversation as if they’re our actual friends. If you’ve ever scrolled to one of these photos and wondered, How does she do it? you’re in luck. Welcome to our series Insta Stalking, in which we talk to the women behind the accounts we’re obsessing over about their beauty secrets. Next up, four women reveal their pregnancy skin care routines.
Movies get a lot of things wrong about pregnancy. For one thing, I don’t know anyone who found out they were pregnant because they unexpectedly puked into their trash can at work. For another, the pregnancy glow definitely does not happen to everyone. Pregnancy skin changes can run the gamut from excessive dryness and melasma (brown patchy discoloration) to constant hormonal acne (raises hand) to, yes, the fabled glow. (But heads up: If someone is glowing, it might be sweat. Baby bumps are like portable space heaters.) The bottom line is, the way pregnancy hormones affect your skin—and odds are, they will—is different for almost everyone.
Personally, I experienced loads of angry little breakouts in my first trimester, which I was hesitant to treat because I was trying to clean up my beauty routine while baking a baby. Many ingredients in skin care products I might normally have used are not recommended for pregnant women. For acne, most notably, anything with salicylic acid is a no-go; anything with vitamin A or retinol is also off-limits. Other common ingredients to avoid include benzoyl peroxide and hydroquinone. Derms also say to avoid in-office treatments like certain chemical peels, laser treatments, and Botox while you’re pregnant.
I wanted to not just be mindful of this, but make an effort to put as few additives as possible on my skin. So I switched from my old routine of cobbling together an assortment of spot-treating products to fully embracing the Drunk Elephant life. (Gentle is the keyword when it comes to pregnancy skin care.) As for my acne, I decided to just wait it out (or bury it under my beloved Dior foundation). Blissfully, it disappeared some time in my second trimester. From then on out, between my new regimen and my lack of pimples, I might say I had the glow—but mine was definitely, definitely sweat.
However pregnancy changes your skin, it’s an adjustment to say the least. And it might be totally different once again after you give birth. We talked to four women to get the low-down on their pregnancy skin care routines—and how they adjusted to the changes it caused in their skin.
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Taylor Giavasis, 22, photographer and influencer
Before my pregnancy I didn’t have much of a skin care routine beyond trying to fight breakouts as they happened or making sure my face was clean. I probably could have benefitted from having more of a routine! You live and you learn.
During my first trimester, I was in acne city. I’ve heard that having a girl takes your glow, but for me it was the hormone overload [Giavasis gave birth to her son in late September 2019]. I’ve always leaned more toward not wearing makeup, and having makeup on while I was pregnant felt disgusting, so I let my skin do a lot of breathing. I was also sensitive to a lot of products, so I tried to use only the most natural things, like witch hazel and rosewater.
After my first trimester, my acne cleared up. My water intake was at an all-time high, and I was taking prenatal vitamins every day. That combination became my beauty secret. In my second and third trimesters, my skin was very unproblematic. Pregnancy comes with so many changes, so I let go of all expectations of myself physically. And I did feel glowy—when I wasn’t exhausted.
I also started wearing sunscreen daily for the first time. After 22 years I finally understood the benefits. I like the Farmacy Green Defense Daily Mineral Sunscreen. Pregnant or not, we should all be wearing sunscreen every day.
Cathy Peshek, 34, style blogger and cofounder of The Blog Societies
We’ve been undergoing fertility treatments since early this year. Thanks to all those progesterone shots and estrogen pills, my skin was all over the place. One day my skin would be glowing, and the next I’d have intense cystic acne. It was a daily struggle, because I knew there wasn’t much I could do. I went to my esthetician and got a gentle treatment, but honestly, you can only do so much when you’re mid-IVF. Not only the hormones but the stress of it all—your skin can only take so much. I made sure to keep up with my daily skin care routine and stay as hydrated as possible. The biggest thing I changed is definitely drinking more water (and less wine!), which no doubt helped my prepregnancy and current pregnancy skin.
My routine is the same as it’s always been and is pretty simple: I use CosMedix Benefit Clean Gentle Cleanser face cleanser (I’ll use a towel to help gently scrub if I’m wearing makeup), its Surge Hyaluronic Acid Booster Serum and its Humidify Deep Moisture & Firming Hydrator moisturizer. That’s it!
My skin is still adjusting to pregnancy life, so I’m trying to give myself a little grace that this is just part of the process. I certainly don’t have a pregnancy glow, more like a few hormonal acne spots and undereye bags. I have had lots of issues with nausea and exhaustion, so I don’t have the energy to stand at the sink and do a long skin care routine. Three to five minutes, and I need to be done.
Triena Deniese Smith, plus-size fashion influencer
I’ve always been obsessed with beauty products. My prepregnancy skin care routine was pretty intense. I would try new brands and products every few weeks. If it was new and trending, I wanted in.
But with pregnancy, you have to be careful about what might be harmful to you and baby. Early on during my pregnancy, I learned that I had to stop using tea tree oil, which I used faithfully on my breakouts, because it could potentially send me into early labor. It’s a muscle relaxant, and my doctor immediately alerted me that the scent alone could be a trigger.
Finding products that are safe and useful during pregnancy can be tough, so my pregnancy skin care philosophy became “get back to basics.” Clinique’s 3-Step System was one of my go-tos, since it had worked for me in high school when I had crazy hormonal outbreaks. I also indulged in my fair share of vitamin E oil. I really liked Nature’s Truth. The oil really helped with the extreme dry skin that pregnancy brought on.
That was probably the biggest change I had to deal with–I found that throughout each trimester, my face slowly became more and more dry. So every few weeks I found myself adding more moisture to my skin care regimen. I vividly remember my skin's feeling rough and scaly the last week of my first trimester. It was so hard to camouflage the changes, especially because I kept my pregnancy a secret until 16 weeks. [Triena’s son, Brave, was born in late October 2019.] I indulged in facial masks, steam sessions, and heavy creams and oils. The Clinique Moisture Surge 72-Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator was one of my favorites.
My favorite part of my pregnancy was my second trimester. It was prime time! I had the mom-to-be glow, and my skin tone was even and radiant. I felt beautiful.
Aadilah Tootla Saley, founder of South African modest apparel brand Zaynah
I have always been a firm believer in taking care of my skin through nutrition. Vitamins and raw foods are the best ingredients for hydrated, youthful glow. And eating a clean, balanced diet—including a lot of greens and protein—has always contributed to my skin's being clear and bright. In the morning I have a green smoothie with spinach, cucumber, green apple, and vegan protein powder. After my workout I usually have eggs. Lunch and dinner consist of fish or chicken, rice, and broccoli. In between I eat plenty of fruit, and I keep away from dairy. I also take a marine collagen with vitamin C. I actually started my own supplement brand, called FitForce, to get the exact mix I like. It really makes a difference.
This is my second pregnancy, and my skin is still pretty clear and glowing, but relatively dry compared to normal. I don’t have specific brands I’m loyal to—I change it up depending on how my skin feels. But I do always use a face wash and a konjac sponge, followed by an SPF. At night I use a cream, and I add a lemon antibacterial night serum to deal with my skin dryness.
Sara Gaynes Levy is a writer in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @saragayneslevy.
Originally Appeared on Glamour