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Top 6 Annoying Pregnancy Skin Issues (and How to Deal)

What’s different about your skin now that you’re pregnant? Probably a whole lot. And it might not be that “glow” everyone’s always talking about.

Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

Newfound sensitivities

Go easier on your skin now that you’re pregnant. You might get red more easily if you scrub, your normal facial might verge on painful, and the perfumed lotion you wear might irritate your skin (and make you nauseated, but that’s a different story). That’s why many moms-to-be switch to unscented products and start choosing natural lotions and washes with less chemicals. Skip the body scrub and exfoliants, and instead use a loofah or a soft, textured washcloth. “You certainly don’t want anything causing micro-tears on your skin,” says Melissa Schweiger, coauthor of Belli Beautiful: The Essential Guide to the Safest Health and Beauty Products for Pregnancy, Mom, and Baby. “The more cuts and wounds on your skin, the easier it is for chemicals to be absorbed into your bloodstream. Ingredients to stay away from in soaps and body washes include triclosan, parabens and fragrance.” These ingredients aren’t just potential irritants; some believe they could pose health risks to baby -- we say believe because (not surprisingly) a lot of products aren’t tested directly on pregnant women.

Breakouts (sorry!)

Obviously, your hormones are all out of whack by now, and that might mean pimples like you got back in high school. The cruel joke, of course, is that some acne products are unsafe to use during pregnancy, so before you use anything, check it with your doctor.

The oral medication Accutane has been linked to birth defects, so it’s a big no-no during pregnancy. Retin-A and tetracycline are also not recommended during pregnancy. And the jury’s out on OTC creams, since they haven’t been tested on pregnant women (yup, you find that a lot with products). Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid have been linked to growth problems and birth defects in animal studies, so they might not be worth the risk either -- talk it over with your OB if you really want to use them. But there is stuff you can try: “To play it safe, use lactic acid, tea tree oil or sulfur to treat your acne breakouts during pregnancy,” recommends Schweiger. “All of those ingredients have passed teratology screening.” For more on treating acne during pregnancy, go here.

Dryness and the itchies

While some moms-to-be find themselves breaking out, others are dealing with drier skin than they’ve ever experienced (if you’re one of the lucky ones who’ve got a combo of the two, our sympathies). Make sure you’re drinking lots of water -- you need more now that you’re expecting -- and try running a humidifier in your bedroom at night to help your body keep in as much moisture as possible. Use a gentle lotion or moisturizer. And if you get nasty, itchy sensations because of your dry skin (and all that stretching!), try a warm (not hot!) oatmeal bath. Get more info on dry skin during pregnancy here.

Sun sensitivity

Sorry mama-to-be, but “pregnancy glow” does not refer to a bronzed, sun-kissed complexion. You should actually try to stay out of the sun as much as you can while you’re pregnant. That’s because your surging hormones make you susceptible to dark patches on your skin, called the mask of pregnancy (melasma, aka chloasma), and that’s triggered by sun exposure. So pull out the big floppy hat and find a big beach umbrella. Also, be sure to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day. “The sun protection that is safest to use during pregnancy is the physical or mineral blocks -- these are the ones made with either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide,” says Schweiger. “Chemical sunscreens, such as the kind with oxybenzone, homosalate and avobenzone, are thought to enter the bloodstream and potentially affect the fetus.” We know, we know: more annoying label-reading. But you’ll feel good knowing you made the safest choice for you and baby.

Stretch marks

Now you’ve got another big skin concern: stretch marks. Anytime someone’s body grows quickly, they’re at risk for stretch marks, so the fact that your baby is growing exponentially in there puts you right in the high-risk zone. Of course, not every mama-to-be gets stretch marks. “For most people, whether or not they get stretch marks has to do with genetic predisposition,” says Dr. Glenn Kolansky, a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey. But you can do your best to try to head them off by gently exfoliating and thoroughly moisturizing your belly, boobs, stomach, hips and thighs as much as you can. As for what moisturizer to use, it’s hard to make a recommendation. “A lot of products make claims,” says Kolansky. “Some may help but aren’t really proven to prevent stretch marks.” For more on preventing and treating stretch marks go here.

Weird and freaky rashes

If you’ve got red, itchy skin, it’s important not to ignore it. Itchy feet and hands could be a sign of cholestasis of pregnancy, a scary complication that can cause liver problems for baby. Your doctor can do a simple blood test to make sure that’s not causing your rash. Another common pregnancy rash is PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy), which often starts in the abdomen and spreads from there. PUPPP is actually harmless to baby, but it will be completely aggravating for you. We’ve got full details on how to deal with it here.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Make Over Your Beauty Routine for Pregnancy

Safe Skincare During Pregnancy

Is that beauty product safe? Find out!

-- Elena Donovan Mauer

See More: Pregnancy Health , Pregnancy Symptoms

Reminder: Medical info on The Bump is FYI only and doesn't replace a visit to a medical professional.