The pregnancy skin (and hair) issue no one tells you about.

Image: iStock.

When I was pregnant with my daughter in 2013, it seemed that every day, a new, strange thing would happen to my body. “Surprising” is the word I would use to describe my pregnancy experience.

There were the really weird symptoms, like feeling so dizzy that I kind of drove my car into our garage wall. And then, on the less life-threatening side, there were the changes to my skin.

During the first trimester of my pregnancy, I had the worst skin of my entire life.

Related: Stop attacking female celebrities for having bad skin. 

My facial skin was covered in grease and pimples, and they wouldn’t go away, no matter what I did.

Just to put this into context, I’m ethnically Chinese, and I very rarely have pimples. My skin is clear, yet very dry. My usual skin routine involves lots of rosehip oil and two layers of moisturiser.  But, during my pregnancy greaseball stage, I had no idea how to treat my skin.

While it was startling to see so many pimples, my concern wasn’t so much about my appearance. Rather, it was the sensation that I was, quite literally, uncomfortable in my own skin. It felt like my skin wasn’t mine anymore.

Related: Drew Barrymore: ‘My post-birth body makes me feel like a kangaroo.’  

It turns out that I wasn’t the only one to notice this slimey symptom. A quick survey of the office showed that there were other women who had experienced the same thing, and were also taken aback by this new, oleaginous experience. Sure, we expected nausea, but pimply skin? What happened to the famous, pregnancy glow? Why can’t we all just look like Kate Middleton?

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Some staff members said that even their hair became greasy, so much so that it looked like they’d dunked their hair in Johnson’s Baby Oil. And that was after they’d washed it!

We just had to get to the bottom of this, so we spoke to Emma Hobson, Education Manager for the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica. It turns out that this is a normal pregnancy symptom that will eventually go away, caused by naughty hormones. It can be easily treated, too, with the right products. Phew!


Why does our skin and hair get so greasy during pregnancy?

You can thank the hormone, progesterone, for that.  It’s one of the major hormones of pregnancy, and is primarily produced by the placenta.

Levels of progesterone in the body rise as pregnancy progresses. An increase in progesterone may lead to an increase in the volume of sebum building up inside the hair and sebaceous follicles.  This can result in the development of blackheads or, for some, more breakouts.

Oddly enough, some women prone to oiliness, acne and regular breakouts say that their change in hormones during pregnancy results in them having a dryer, better skin! (Carla: I’m SO jealous!)

 What can we do to treat this oiliness and greasiness, in a way that won’t harm our baby? 

I’d recommend using a clay-based cleanser and mask. These are great at ‘mopping up’ excess oil off the skin.  There are some breakout control products that are free of salicylic acid, and contain ingredients such as zinc sulphate, lactobacillus ferment and niacinamide. Also, consider using sebum-regulating, oil-free mattifying moisturisers, ideally with SPF30+.

If you are using active treatment products, it’s recommended to always first check with your obstetrician. Many treatments for oily, congested skin contain salicylic acid, and you will need to avoid these, unless you have permission by your obstetrician. Other products to avoid are those that contain retinol and its derivatives, as well as benzoyl peroxide. In the first trimester, avoid pure essential oils.

 When will the oiliness and greasiness go away, or will we be stuck like this forever?

Once your hormones have settled back to normal levels, your skin should resume ‘normal service’! For some, this is post-pregnancy, while for others, it will be a few months after you finish lactating.

Related: 1 in 3 women are faking orgasms for this very sad reason.

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