Every woman has her calling card. For some, it’s their gorgeous blue eyes. For others, it’s their cascade of long, flowing hair. For yet others, it’s their figure.
While I have grown comfortable in my own features and overall level of attractiveness with age, it’s been my skin that has become my calling card in the past few years. Whether it’s because of good genes, lifestyle (I rarely drink, and I’ve smoked once in my entire life), or religious use of skin care products (I’ve been using them since I was 13), I feel damn good about my skin.
And then, last June, I got pregnant. All of a sudden, my even-toned complexion became mottled with sunspots, despite religious use of vitamin CE serum. My skin, once glowing, soft, and smooth, became patchy, dry, and irritated. And don’t even get me started on the leg cramps, weight gain, and puffiness!
Luckily, I have enough of a background with skin care to understand what was causing my plight. Without further ado, here are the five products I’ve been using to reverse my symptoms:
Yes, I do manufacture and sell my own vitamin CE serum here at FutureDerm.
But, with all due honesty, after I got pregnant, my skin didn’t react as well to the ingredients. It needed the six-ingredient list of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic to deliver 15% vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid, 1% vitamin E, and 0.5% ferulic acid to my skin — and not much else.
Let’s keep in mind all of the benefits vitamins C and E have been shown in peer-reviewed, independent studies to have with one another. Vitamin C is necessary for normal collagen formation because it is necessary for your cells to synthesize two components of collagen: hydroxyproline (which stabilizes the collagen triple helix) and hydroxylysine (which is needed to create the intermolecular crosslinks in collagen) (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
The study also found that, when L-ascorbic acid was applied to human cells in vitro, L-ascorbic acid increased collagen production eight-fold. Though this study was small, others have looked into why this phenomenon might take place. One study suggests L-ascorbic acid may upregulate collagen because it increases the transcription rate of procollagen’s coding genes and procollagen’s mRNA levels (Journal of Investigative Dermatology).
Whatever the reason, when you’re pregnant, your circulation to your face is strained. And every bit of collagen production that I can boost and/or maintain during this crucial time (in a healthy way for myself and my baby), I will do so!
In addition, vitamin C might actually help smooth skin that’s already been damaged. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study using five percent ascorbic acid found that it helped to improve the appearance of photo-damaged skin over time (Experimental Dermatology). The study’s researchers hypothesized that over time, application of vitamin C may even activate dermal synthesis of elastin fibers.
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study, participants applied a solution with ten percent ascorbic acid and seven percent tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate to one side of their face and a placebo to the other half. The side with the vitamin C had a statistically significant improvement in the signs of photodamage, including the smoothing of wrinkles (Dermatologic Surgery).
Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, and ever since I switched back to it in month 2, I’ve been noticing more clear, bright, even-toned skin. And, yes, no new sunspots have been forming.
When I first tried Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 last year, I thought that it was way too heavy for my normal-to-oily skin type. It seemed, at the time, super thick, and rather unnecessary for my 30-something skin.
And then, lo and behold, enter pregnancy.
Your skin naturally contains lipids like triglycerides, fatty acids, squalane, wax esters, and cholesterol. These lipids are an important part of your skin’s ability to retain moisture and to keep bacteria out that can lead to inflammation, breakouts, and infection (Cosmetic Dermatology).
But as you age, your skin naturally retains fewer lipids, and, what’s more, it also produces fewer lipids. And the lipids your skin does produce lack integrity, meaning they may not have the same structure, be able to function as well, or be able to perform at the same level they did when you were young.
When you’re pregnant, typically either oil production increases, or it decreases. Very rarely are pregnant women lucky enough to have hormones, lipid production, lipid retention, circulation, and weight gain balance in such a way that the dryness/oiliness of their skin is as it was pre-pregnancy.
That said, my skin was parched after I got pregnant. For the first time in my life, my skin was so dry, it hurt and was peeling.
I tried everything: belif The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb. Clinique Moisture Surge. Clinique Moisture Surge Intense. Olay Regenerist. Josie Maran Argan Oil.
Finally, I remembered my experience with Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 from last year, and decided to give it another go. Almost overnight, my dry, peeling, painful skin turned around. I wish that I had, like, made a video about this, because it was that dramatic of a difference.
And the clinical data, while from the parent company and limited in nature, backs up my own experience. It was shown in Skinceuticals’ own in-house studies that use of Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 will help to refill skin stores of essential skin lipids, restore the skin’s external barrier, and support skin’s natural repair. In fact, in-house Skinceuticals studies have shown a 57% increase in ceramides, a 50% increase in cholesterol, and a 12% increase in fatty acids after regular use for 8 weeks. Better yet, there was a 30% immediate improvement in barrier recovery and 39% improvement in hydration after 24 hours!
All I can say is, this is my miracle cream. I’m using it daily after my vitamin CE serum (and before sunscreen), and nightly after my AHA serum (see below).
When I got pregnant, I understood that there were two major secrets to preventing stretch marks:
- Keep the weight gain as slow and steady as my body (and baby, and physician) would allow. That means 1800-2200 calories per day, averaging 2000 per day, in all three trimesters.
- Use an oil-based product to support my expanding belly with cocoa butter and/or coconut oil, argan oil, and other omega-3 rich oils. In this case, Mama Mio The Tummy Rub Oil fit the bill.
If you want to know why I’m plugging this product, you have to understand the underlying physiology. During pregnancy, glucocorticoid hormones are released, preventing the skin cells from producing new collagen and elastin fibers. This makes the skin less firm and more easily stretched.
As the pliable skin continues to grow, this can induce tearing of the dermis (under the skin) or epidermis (upper layer of the skin). This tearing results in stretch marks — especially if it’s super fast.
Interestingly enough, numerous creams have been shown in very reputable, peer-reviewed, double-blinded studies to prevent the formation of stretch marks. These include cocoa butter, as established by a 2010 study in The International Journal of Obstretics and Gynecology, and a combination of Centella asiatica extract, vitamin E, and, interestingly, collagen and elastin hydrolisates, as proven by a 1991 study in The International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Cocoa butter is likely to have an effect because it is hydrating, and Centella asiatica extract has potent antioxidant activity that may aid in dermal wound healing, as suggested by research in the Indian Journal of Medicine.
So I use this oil everywhere that is stretching — belly, yes, but also pelvis, hips, thighs, breasts, and the sides of my torso. For someone who learned through puberty that she is prone to stretch marks, I don’t have any new ones yet well into my sixth month of pregnancy (knock on wood). And I think I owe it to gradual weight gain via a healthful diet and lifestyle, as well as this Mama Mio The Tummy Rub Oil.
As loyal FutureDerm readers know, 98% of products I recommend on here have scientific backing. Typically, I look for three things: Proven ingredients; high concentrations of said ingredients; and a top-notch or novel delivery system. Very rarely do I stray from this.
However, with Mama Mio Lucky Legs Cooling Leg Gel, I am totally in love with this product simply because it feels good.
I walk/jog five days a week, and I’m still working full-time. At the end of a long day, my legs and feet ache. This lotion feels like a gift from God. Seriously. It’s just so cooling and relaxing and relieving.
Well, if you can’t use a retinoid during pregnancy, then I go to the next best thing, which is AHAs.
First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Resurfacing Liquid 10% AHA is pretty sensational — it contains some of my all-time favorite ingredients, including AHAs glycolic acid and malic acid, plus colloidal oatmeal and oat kernel extract and cucumber to take down some of that initial inflammation that AHAs can often incur. For anyone who is pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant, AHAs are often a better solution than retinoids, since it’s iffy whether or not you can use high doses of vitamin A topically during that time. But this…well, this has the skin-refining, skin-softening, and wrinkle-removing properties of retinoids, without the risk.
Malic acid is derived from apples, and is an AHA that is less-commonly used in skin care because it has to be used in combination with other AHAs in order to have an effect (International Journal of Skin Science). However, studies show malic acid used in conjunction with other AHAs treats skin roughness, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation. At least one study has found that a combination of malic acid and other AHAs also increases collagen production over time (Journal of Dermatology).
As for glycolic acid, it’s famous for a reason: Glycolic acid is the smallest of the alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), so it penetrates skin better and faster than any of its AHA counterparts. Both in vitro and in vivo tests have shown glycolic acid may increase collagen production, fibroblast proliferation, and cell turnover rates (Dermatologic Surgery) when it is topically applied in concentrations of 8-10% or higher.
Glycolic acid acts as both a moisturizer and an exfoliator. With regular use, studies show glycolic acid will increase the skin’s natural supply of hyaluronic acid. It also exfoliates by increasing the separation of skin cells, a process called corneocyte desquamation, resulting in even more cell turnover! And you know what that means: smoother, more elastic skin (Skin Therapy Letter).
First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Resurfacing Liquid 10% AHA has a very light texture. It is slightly tacky in finish as it dries. It doesn’t have much of a scent, perhaps a faint bit of citrus extract. It absorbs quickly. For those with dry skin types (as I do now, during my pregnancy), definitely apply a moisturizer after. For those with normal to oily skin types, you might be able to get away with this plus a slightly heavier serum after — your call there.
Pregnancy skin care doesn’t have to be a nightmare. After using First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Resurfacing Liquid 10% AHA for a few weeks, I definitely noticed my skin felt smoother and exfoliated. Together with the Skinceuticals CE Ferulic and Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 Moisturizer, my skin is looking like it used to pre-pregnancy — and that’s saying a lot!
Looking for the best skin care? FutureDerm is committed to having its customers find — and create — the best skin care for their individual skin type, concern, and based on your ingredient preferences. Learn more by visiting the FutureDerm shop!