There are two main reasons to reconsider what you put on your skin while pregnant. The first is that a surprisingly high percentage of what we apply topically to our skin is actually absorbed into our bodies (two major studies, one by the Environmental Working Group and the other at the University of Pittsburgh, place the percentage as high as 70 per cent for skincare). I’m a realist, but when pregnant with both my girls I stopped using some of my less-pure serums and creams, and wanted to go as clean and pure as possible.
Interestingly, the second reason I did this was because my skin simply couldn’t tolerate anything fragranced, ‘fussy’ or aggressive. With my first child I had two bad skin sensitivity reactions – one to a foundation I’d been using for years – and the other to my regular cleanser, which I realised had a vitamin A derivative in it, and which was just too strong for my tender skin (look for retinoic and retinyl acids on the label).
So, I started from scratch. Out went anything at all that made my skin red or tingly – my worst triggers were too-strong essential oils, even those deemed ‘safe’ – such as peppermint and tea tree. Incidentally, there are several essential oils that are to be avoided altogether and two of these were in my regular routine – rosemary and jasmine, all of which can affect blood pressure and even bring on contractions. While I knew it was very unlikely, I wasn’t taking any chances! I also cut out fragrance – I was fine with natural blends with safe and gentle oils – Annee de Mamiel’s Pregnancy Facial Oil, £55, for example – but high-end ‘designer’ cosmetics always sent my skin into a sensitivity spiral.
I also simplified the entire routine – I didn’t exfoliate nearly as much, but when I did I used either natural yoghurt (which contains lactic acid but in doses small enough to make any allergic reaction unlikely) or a gentle fruit enzyme mask. I never used any abrasive mechanical exfoliants. My routine was quick, simple, but effective – an organic cream cleanser, a spritz of hydrating mist, then a gentle massage with oil, or an organic rose face cream, by MV Skincare. These products, along with 100 per cent organic The Organic Pharmacy and Tata Harper products, form the basis of my purity pamper too – they deliver beautiful results without a single toxic ingredient.
After pregnancy, but while breastfeeding, my concerns shifted entirely. My skin was drier and having not had a single blemish while pregnant, my over-active sebaceous glands soon kicked in (thanks, hormones) and I started getting little breakouts on my forehead. I needed to re-feed my skin (supplement-wise I added lots of essential fatty acids to my regular breastfeeding daily vitamin by Vitabiotics), and did this by swapping out my cleansing cream, and using a rich nourishing cleansing oil instead (cleansing oils are actually great for oily skins too – like balancing like). I also switched my pregnancy face oil for a deeply hydrating serum, followed by a balancing face oil at night. And I changed the masks I was using – I needed to exfoliate more often, so continued to use the gentle enzyme masks, but I followed it with balancing mineral mud masks (MV Skincare make a brilliant one) or a thrice-weekly thick layer of a hydrating mask.
Oh and don’t forget SPF when pregnant – higher levels of progesterone mean you’re much more likely to develop skin discolouration such as melasma – but if you’re always protected from UV by a good natural broad spectrum SPF, it’s unlikely to happen.
As a facialist, friends often ask how I find the time to look after my skin. How does someone find the time to watch a TV show, or read a book, or make a phone call? It takes me five minutes in the morning and five at night (cleanse, balance, treat, hydrate) – with an additional 5 if I want to do a steam, extraction or massage – and that’s time I can find, even with a hectic home and working life. It’s often in the evening when both kids are in bed. If I’m going to put on a mask that needs to be left on for longer than a couple of minutes I’ll choose a ‘leave on’ one (Origins Drink Up Overnight, £23, is great) – good enough to sleep in, hurrah!