Skin Changes During Pregnancy: What to Expect

September 27, 2023

woman experiences skin changes during pregnancy

Have you ever heard a pregnant woman referred to as glowing? The pregnancy glow does happen for some, but others find themselves struggling with changes to their skin’s appearance that are less appealing. According to Dr. Taylor Dickerson of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Tyler, Texas, “I wish all my patients the pregnancy glow, but I certainly see more expecting mothers who are dealing with dark spots, acne, and other concerns. If you’re not getting that pregnancy glow, there are some products and treatments available to keep skin healthy throughout pregnancy.” In this blog, Dr. Dickerson discusses some of the most common skin changes that occur during pregnancy, why they happen, and how the right skincare routine and a trip to the dermatologist can help you look and feel your best.

Embracing Your Skin: Changes During Pregnancy

Every woman has different experiences during pregnancy, but many skin conditions in pregnancy are common, including:

  • Acne – Hormonal shifts that occur during pregnancy, like those during the teen years, can trigger oil production and inflammation that cause acne breakouts.
  • Melasma – Sometimes called the mask of pregnancy, melasma causes dark spots to develop on the face. This is related to hormonal changes and increased skin reactivity to sun exposure.
  • Changes in moles and freckles – As the skin of the abdomen stretches, moles and freckles may change in size, color, or shape, and new moles and freckles may develop. All new freckles and moles should be evaluated by a dermatologist.
  • Hemangiomas – are extra red blood vessels in the skin. These usually appear as birthmarks on infants, but they may also appear during pregnancy.
  • Stretch marks – As the skin on the stomach, breasts, buttocks, hips, thighs, and other areas expands rapidly as the baby develops, stretch marks can appear.
  • Spider veins – Increased blood volume during pregnancy can lead to the appearance of small red veins on the face, neck, and arms.
  • Varicose veins – Pressure caused by weight gain compresses veins, preventing blood flow to the legs and lower half of the body. Veins in the lower body may become enlarged and blue in color. Some women also experience discomfort.
  • Dry skin – Dry, itchy skin is very common during pregnancy. Apply moisturizer more frequently and talk to a dermatologist about other possible treatments.
  • Increased hair growth – Hair will likely become thicker during pregnancy, and hair may begin to grow on the face, neck, back of hands, tops of feet, and other areas that don’t usually have much hair.
  • Rashes – Many different types of rashes may develop during pregnancy. Consult with a dermatologist before treating rashes to ensure they are safe to use during pregnancy.
  • Skin tags – These are benign skin growths that commonly develop in areas where the skin rubs together or where clothing, bags, seatbelts, and other objects may repeatedly brush against the skin.

The Science Behind Your Skin Changes During Pregnancy

These skin changes during pregnancy have a variety of causes, but Dr. Dickerson says, “The majority of skin changes that occur during pregnancy are related to hormonal changes, weight gain, and changes in the way the body is processing nutrients. By understanding the underlying causes of skin health concerns that occur during pregnancy, patients can minimize the impact on their skin health.”

Nourishing Your Skin: Care Routines During Pregnancy

When you find out you’re pregnant, there are some ingredients you should eliminate from your skincare products, including:

  • Salicylic acid (In concentrations >2%)
  • Retinols/Retin-A/Tretinoin
  • Hydroquinone


In general, Dr. Dickerson recommends, “Look for gentle, hydrating ingredients. Your dermatologist can help you find the right products and develop the best skincare routine during pregnancy. The right skincare routine will address any skin health concerns you’re struggling with and keep skin generally healthy and beautiful.”

A good daily pregnancy skincare routine should include:

  • Cleanser – Use a gentle cleanser with safe ingredients. ALASTIN Skincare Gentle Cleanser , CeraVe Hydrating cleanser, or La-Roche Posay offers a thorough clean without unnecessary irritation.
  • Hydrating serums – Look for hydrating serums with vitamin C that will protect against sun damage, minimize the risk of dark spots, and promote moisture retention.
  • Moisturizer – Apply a hydrating moisturizer to the skin. You can use the same moisturizer in the morning and evening, or you can use a lighter product in the morning and a heavier moisturizer at night.
  • Sunblock – Skin may be especially sensitive to sun damage during pregnancy, so it’s even more important to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher every day and reapply periodically throughout the day.

Those who experience acne breakouts may wonder which products are safe to use to keep skin clear during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Safe product ingredients include:

  • Benzoyl Peroxide (5% or less, as a face wash or leave-on treatment)
  • Salicylic Acid (2% or less, as a face wash or leave-one treatment)
  • Azelaic Acid

Cerave Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser and LaRoche Posay Effaclar Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Serum are two options recommended by Dr. Dickerson as safe for acne patients who are pregnant or lactating.

When to Consult a Dermatologist: Skin Changes in Pregnancy

According to Dr. Dickerson, “One of the scariest things about skin changes during pregnancy is that the new moles and discoloration of the skin can mimic the way that skin cancers like melanoma develop. It’s always best to have any concerning new or changing moles and lesions examined by a professional, but in most cases, the hormonal shifts that occur during pregnancy are the cause of these changes. If you suspect skin cancer or are at higher risk, go see a dermatologist. You may also want to visit your dermatologist to develop a skincare routine that will keep your skin looking great throughout pregnancy. Finally, if you are in significant pain or have sores or rashes that may increase the risk for infection, make sure you see a dermatologist.”

Embracing Your Pregnancy Glow: The Word on Skin Care

While pregnancy means a lot of changes both skin deep and throughout your body, Dr. Dickerson says, “The good news is that most skin health concerns related to pregnancy will clear up relatively quickly after you give birth. During pregnancy, the most important thing you can do is maintain a consistent daily skincare routine. If you have serious concerns or you’re interested in more advanced treatment options, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist to explore your options.”

Visit Your Dermatologist for Skincare Recommendations

We hope you’ll share this blog with any friends or loved ones who are expecting, so they know more about the ways that pregnancy can impact skin health. Visit our blog regularly if you’re interested in more skin health tips and recommendations. If you’re in need of personalized skincare recommendations or treatment, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a local U.S. Dermatology Partners location. Getting started is quick and easy. Simply take a few moments to complete our online scheduling request form. Once the dermatology office receives your request, a team member will be in touch to finalize the details of your visit.

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