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How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

Skin changes and what to expect when you're expecting

Most everyone’s heard of the “pregnancy glow,” but what exactly does it mean?

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Curology Team
Sep 13, 2019 · 9 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Let’s talk about skin changes to expect when you’re expecting. 

If you’re pregnant, first of all, congratulations! This is such an exciting time with many changes in your body to come, and we’re more than happy to help prepare you for some of the skin-related ones. 

If you’re a Curology member, we recommend you let your provider know and stop using your formula during the first trimester. We want to play it safe! We got you with ingredients that are generally safe from the second trimester onward. That said, always consult your OB/GYN and inform your dermatology provider regarding changes to your fertility journey.

If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive, you’ll want to pay extra close attention to what’s in your skincare products. Talk to your medical provider about what makes sense for you. For now, we’re here to tell you what we know about the pregnancy glow.

Cheerful american girl touching belly

What is pregnancy glow?

Pregnancy glow is neither a miracle nor a myth. Expectant mothers sometimes enjoy glowy, rosy skin due to increased circulation because higher estrogen hormone levels (and other factors) cause blood vessels to expand.¹

The increase in blood volume during pregnancy may result in more blood flow to the skin.² An increase in hormone levels can cause the skin to look flushed, which adds to the glowing effect.³ 

Not only does your complexion look more radiant, but your face may even appear fuller. You can thank your baby-to-be for your smooth-as-a-baby’s-bottom complexion. That said, when people say you’re glowing, they could also be referring to how happy and vibrant you look!

How long can pregnancy glow last?

As far as we know, there’s really no known set time frame for pregnancy glow. You might be glowing for nine months or notice it lasts for the first few months. Everyone is different!

Other skin changes during pregnancy

As if that gorgeous glow weren’t enough, here are some other changes many expecting mothers also experience to their physical appearance. (Again, remember, everyone is different, so don’t worry if these do or don’t happen to you!)

  1. Fuller lips. During pregnancy, your face might fill with extra blood flow, possibly making your lips look plumper than usual.⁴

  2. Thick, shiny hair. Hormones also affect your hair growth, so you might notice your hair feels thicker and grows faster than usual.⁵

  3. Stronger nails. Long healthy nails can be another change you notice with pregnancy. Diet and vitamins could also contribute towards these extra healthy nails.⁶

  4. It may help skin conditions. If you suffer from eczema or psoriasis, you may notice that your symptoms are temporarily improving.⁷

What also to possibly expect (from your skin) when you’re expecting

While many women experience pregnancy glow, some also encounter other types of changes to their skin, which can vary throughout the pregnancy stages. And while we wish it were all glisten and glimmer, unfortunately, it’s not. Some people also experience dark spots on the breasts, nipples, or inner thighs; brown patches on the face around the cheeks, nose, and forehead; linea nigra (more on that below), and other changes in their skin like stretch marks, spider and varicose veins, and acne.⁸ But there’s no need to fret! These skin-related pregnancy symptoms aren’t necessarily going to happen to you. And if they do, remember: it’s all normal, as your body dedicates itself to nourishing that little one growing inside you.

Hyperpigmentation

The hormonal changes that happen when you’re pregnant are mystifying—skin included. When you’re pregnant, the increase in hormones can lead to pigmentation changes. One common skin change that some pregnant women experience is melasma, which typically appears as symmetrical brown pigmentation on the face as a result of hormone levels that occur during pregnancy.⁹ Melasma may improve after delivery for some but may be more persistent for others.¹⁰

The vertical line at the center of the abdomen, or the linea alba—a pale line that runs through your belly button, which is so subtle that it usually goes unnoticed—can also darken during pregnancy. When that line darkens between your belly button and your pelvis, it’s called linea nigra (black line).¹¹ You might also notice that your inner thighs and underarms get darker, and the color of the skin on your breasts and genitals may change, too. These changes may be temporary in some but may remain darkened in others after pregnancy.⁴

Problem of dark spots on the face of woman

To reduce or avoid hyperpigmentation, remember to wear sunscreen every day (which you should be doing, anyway!)

Pregnancy acne

If you’re prone to adult acne or hormonal acne, pregnancy can actually improve it (thanks, baby!). However, acne can also flare up in some cases—especially during the third trimester.¹² The tricky thing is that not all acne-fighting ingredients are recommended for use while pregnant. Any product you apply to your skin may be absorbed into the body in small amounts, so it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients before using any product to treat breakouts.

It’s typically fine to use topical acne treatments with low concentrations of glycolic acid, lactic acid, and other AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids).¹³ You can get these over the counter—at the drugstore, for example, or at cosmetic stores like Sephora. Low concentrations and small amounts of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are also generally considered safe.¹⁴ Of course, always check with your obstetrician if you have any concerns.

Pregnant Woman Looking In Mirror At Her Problem Skin

For body acne, aka “bacne,” we often recommend a pyrithione zinc soap bar—it’s great for treating bacterial and fungal acne (it works for your face, too). If you’re currently pregnant, check with your medical provider before starting zinc soap.¹⁵ If zinc pyrithione isn’t for you, another option would be a body wash with salicylic acid (like the acne body wash by Curology). However, we recommend you check with your OB/GYN before using a product with this ingredient.

Curology Acne Body Wash bottle against a neutral gray background

Niacinamide and azelaic acid are two more acne-fighting, anti-inflammatory ingredients you may be prescribed in your custom Curology cream. Remember, niacinamide is generally considered safe to continue using during pregnancy.¹⁶ It’s an essential nutrient that we normally get from our diet, and only a small amount of it is absorbed into the body when applied topically to the skin.¹⁷ Azelaic acid, which also has low absorption into the body, has been assigned to pregnancy category B by the FDA¹⁸ and may be used in the second and third trimester, with your obstetrician’s approval.

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Play it safe with pregnancy skincare

It’s important to carefully choose skincare products when pregnant or breastfeeding, so here are some skincare ingredients to avoid while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

If you’ve been using a retinoid, your Curology provider will advise you to stop using it during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is typically recommended to stop the use of topical and oral vitamin A derivatives during this time due to limited safety data available regarding them.¹⁹ This includes prescription retinoids such as tretinoin (aka Retin-A) and tazarotene (aka Tazorac/Average) and over-the-counter retinoids such as adapalene (aka Differin/Epiduo) and retinol. Of course, it’s always worthwhile to be cautious when it comes to pregnancy.

Curology Custom Formula Cleanser Moisturizer and Lip Balm Acne Body Wash

Tips to enhance the pregnancy glow

Want a glowing-skin look no matter what trimester you’re currently in? Here are a few tips to keep your skin healthy both during and after pregnancy.

  1. Use a gentle cleanser (as always) when washing your face. 

  2. Use your favorite moisturizer. When it comes to your favorite face moisturizer, it is always an essential part of your skincare routine. You want to keep your skin hydrated to avoid aggravating breakouts.²⁰

  3. Keep your diet healthy. You’re probably already eating lots of super-nutritious food during pregnancy, and your skin will be happy to have all the nutrients.

  4. Exfoliate. Another thing that you can typically keep from your regular routine is a gentle exfoliator (like a konjac sponge) that will help wash away build-up and dead skin cells.

  5. Gentle warm showers. We get that a hot shower can be so relaxing sometimes, but a super hot shower could irritate your skin. Instead, try a gentle warm shower to pamper yourself and your skin.²¹

  6. When in doubt, see a dermatologist. If you feel overwhelmed about your skincare, a dermatologist can help you find the right products. Let them know you’re pregnant so they can create the best treatment plan for you.

Take the guesswork out of skincare during pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a little complicated (albeit joyous too!), but we believe skincare should be simple. An easier skincare routine means more time for beauty rest—and as all new parents know, sleep is truly precious. 

With Curology, you’re paired with a dermatology provider to create personalized skincare that is designed for your specific skin concerns. Just take a quick skin quiz and snap a few selfies and one of our licensed medical providers will evaluate your skin. If Curology is right for you, we’ll send you a free 30-day supply of your Custom Formula—just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping and handling.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology now!

Subject to consultation. 30-day trial. Just cover $4.95 in S&H. Cancel anytime.

FAQs

What is pregnancy glow?

The increase in blood volume during pregnancy may result in more blood flow to the skin. An increase in hormone levels can cause the skin to look flushed, which adds to the glowing effect. 

You can thank your baby-to-be for your smooth-as-a-baby’s-bottom complexion. That said, when people say you’re glowing, they could also be referring to how happy and vibrant you look!

How long can pregnancy glow last?

As far as we know, there’s really no known set time frame for pregnancy glow. You might be glowing for nine months or notice it lasts for the first few months. Everyone is different!

• • •

P.S. We did the research so you don’t have to:

  1. TUNZI M., and GRAY G.,  Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. (2007 January 15).

  2. Monika Sanghavi and John D. Rutherford. Cardiovascular Physiology of Pregnancy. (2014, Sept 16).

  3. TUNZI M., and GRAY. G.,  Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. Ibid

  4. American Pregnancy Association. Skin Changes During Pregnancy. (n.d.).

  5.  TUNZI M.,  and GRAY. G., Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. Ibid.

  6.  TUNZI M., and GRAY G., Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. Ibid.

  7. Tunzi M. and Gray G., Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. Family Medicine Residency Program, Natividad Medical Center, American Family Physician. Ibid.

  8.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. (June 2020).

  9.  TUNZI M., and GRAY G., Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. Ibid.

  10. Cleveland Clinic. Melasma. ( 2020 July 7).

  11. Handel, A. C. et al. Melasma: a clinical and epidemiological review. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia. ( September-October 2014).

  12. Vaneeta M. Sheth, and Amit G. Pandya. Melasma: A comprehensive update. CONTINUING MEDICAL EDUCATION. (October 2011).

  13. ​​TUNZI M., and GRAY G.,  Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. Ibid

  14. Kutlu, Ömer et al. Acne in pregnancy: A prospective multicenter, cross-sectional study of 295 patients in Turkey.International journal of dermatology vol. 59,9 (September 2020).

  15.  Bozzo, P., Chua-Gocheco, A., & Einarson, A. Safety of skin care products during pregnancy.Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien. (June 2011).

  16.  Bozzo, P., Chua-Gocheco, A., & Einarson, A. Safety of skin care products during pregnancy.Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien. Ibid.

  17.  National Library of Medicine. Niacinamide. (2021, November 9).

  18.  National Library of Medicine. Niacinamide. Ibid.

  19. Food and Drug Administration. Azelaic acid. (n.d.)

  20. Jenny E. Murase, et al. Safety of dermatologic medications in pregnancy and lactation. Continuing Medical Education.(March 2014).

  21. American Academy of Dermatology. 10 Skincare Habits That Worsen Acne. (n.d.).

  22. Baylor College of Medicine. Hot Showers Can Damage Skin During Winter. (n.d.).

This article was originally published on September 13, 2019, and updated on April 28, 2022.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Trial is 30 days + $4.95 shipping and handling.

We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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