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Image / Self / Health & Wellness

What pregnancy and a facial taught me about skincare


By Lauren Heskin
03rd Jul 2024
What pregnancy and a facial taught me about skincare

There’s an expectation that during pregnancy you go round floating on a cloud, with skin that looks like you’re using an AI filter and long, glossy hair. The reality is somewhat different.

I cannot name one friend who enjoyed her pregnancy and maybe could only name two who feel neutral about the experience. For the most part, pregnancy means swinging wildly between wanting to consume everything and a sneeze setting off your gag reflex. It’s being so exhausted that you can’t make it through the day without at least one nap and even then, bedtime can’t come soon enough. And with all the hormonal changes, yes your hair does stop falling out, but if your hair is bushy and wild like mine, it just means you have more busy and wild hair.

Your skin inevitably gets left by the wayside as you struggle to just manage daily tasks like walking up the stairs and wondering if you’ll ever regain full control of your bladder movements (thank you, relaxin). For me at least a second pregnancy, moving, a home renovation, a parent who is working away a lot and a toddler to run after, have all meant my skin has taken a backseat. If I’m honest, I haven’t given it much love since I had my first child and the result is dull, dry skin and very little time to do anything with it. And with so much conflicting advice out there about what products you can use during pregnancy and what you can’t, I gave up the ghost completely.

But there are so many reasons why your skin (alongside your teeth) should elbow their way to the top of your to-do list. Namely, your skin can be much more sensitive during pregnancy and prone to sun damage and melasma – an enduring and complicated skin reaction that is difficult to undo even with the most advanced skin treatments.

Plus, your 30s, when most people get pregnant, is the beginning of when your skin begins its downward descent, but also a great time to starting putting in the hours and see but the short- and long-term benefits.

Which is what led me to booking a skin appointment with Valerie Osborne in Elysium in Galway. Valerie has been running her skincare clinic for nearly 21 years, offering everything from facials and peels, micro needling, BLL, laser injectable, and aesthetic procedures such as injectables and fillers, Profile and PRP.

Pregnancy Safe?

The first thing she breaks down for me, with the professional certainty I have been yearning for but is noticeably absent on the internet, is what skincare products I can and can’t use during pregnancy. Simply put, “You can’t use retinol or Vitamin A”.

Some products will have a combination of active ingredients so you’ll have to read the fine print, but again Valerie comes to the rescue and recommends Ultraceuticals, an Australian brand and one of the only skincare brands whose products are all white-labelled as safe for use during pregnancy (with the exception of its explicit retinols and vitamin As). While plenty of brands offer pregnancy-safe skincare options, it’s handy to know one place you can go for top-quality skincare without needing to squint through the ingredients list. 

SPF

SPF is vital for long-term skin health but even more so during pregnancy when many women’s skin can become extra sensitive and prone to developing melasma, especially on the face and neck. These dark spots are tricky to get rid of and therefore prevention is the best medicine.

However, not all SPFs are born equal. Valeria explains that I should look for a broad spectrum SPF that will protect against both UVB and UVA rays. Many over-the-counter SPFs, only protect against UVB (i.e. prevent sunburn) but they don’t stop the more dangerous, cancer-causing UVA rays from penetrating. La Roche Posay, she says, might be the only over-the-counter SPF’s she would stand behind in terms of its protection. 

However, during pregnancy Valerie recommends opting for a mineral broad spectrum SPF, rather than a chemical one. This is because a chemical sunscreen allows the sun’s rays to penetrate the skin, where the sunscreen converts it to heat and releases it, whereas a mineral sunscreen acts as a complete barrier bouncing the rays back before they can be absorbed. The heat generated in the skin by the chemical sunscreen can cause issues during pregnancy as your hormones are  in such flux.

Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse

As someone who doesn’t wear a lot of make-up (mostly out of exhaustion) I rarely cleanse my face in the morning, focusing on a nighttime routine instead. However, Valerie explained that my SPF and moisturiser are barriers and need to be rinsed away before any fresh application, otherwise you’re just layering more product on top of old product and dead skin cells. A number of trapped black heads that my skin had grown over were an obvious fall out for this.

She also advocated for a double cleanse (one with a cloth and then a second, quicker one with a splash of water to clean it off) and said that face cloths are fine but water should be neither hot nor cold but rather lukewarm to avoid aggravating the skin with extremes in temperature.

The facial

Valerie then gave me a blissful hour-long facial tailored to my skin type and needs as well as a revamped at-home process that was neither complicated nor extensive. I have (so far) managed to stick to it pretty well and I can already see results after three weeks. My skin looks brighter and doesn’t feel as dry or tight as it has been lately.

I haven’t quite stretched to the midday top-up of sunscreen that she suggested but baby steps!

Valerie’s recommended products

Without a retinol in my routine during pregnancy Valerie kept it simple, leaving me with my existing moisturiser and eye cream but adding in an extra serum and a mineral sunscreen to my daily routine as well as a weekly enzyme mask.