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Changes to your skin during pregnancy

8-minute read

Key facts

  • Your skin may look healthier during pregnancy, or it may become dry, blotchy, darker or more sensitive than before you were pregnant.
  • These changes usually go away after your baby is born.
  • Most non-prescription skin care products are safe in pregnancy, but always check the ingredients before you use a skin product while you’re pregnant.
  • It’s best to avoid products containing vitamin A (also called retinol). Ask your pharmacist if you’re not sure if a product is safe.
  • It’s important to use sunscreen during pregnancy, as always.

How will pregnancy affect my skin?

Your skin might look a bit different when you’re pregnant. This is because of extra blood flow and higher hormone levels in your body.

Some women find that their skin looks healthier. Other women find that their skin gets dry or blotchy, or that they develop acne or other skin problems. Your skin might also become more sensitive.

Some areas of your skin may get darker, such as your nipples, armpits, inner thighs, genital area and under your eyes.

What are some common skin conditions in pregnancy?

Acne is a common skin condition that usually begins during adolescence. If you have acne, it is likely to flare up during the first trimester of your pregnancy. Fortunately, pregnancy acne usually improves significantly or even disappears entirely during the last trimester. After giving birth, breastfeeding can help you keep acne away.

Read more about acne during pregnancy.

Eczema is the most common skin condition you can develop during pregnancy. It causes dry, scaly, itchy, red skin. It usually affects your face, wrists, ankles, elbow creases and the back of your knees. You are more likely to get eczema symptoms in the first 2 trimesters of pregnancy. Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis or atopic eruption of pregnancy.

Read more about eczema.

Linea nigra (the ‘pregnancy line’) is a dark line of skin down the middle of your abdomen. It starts from your belly button and continues down to your pubic area. It often develops during the first trimester of pregnancy. Linea nigra is not dangerous. It won’t cause any problems for you or your baby and doesn’t need treatment.

Read more about linea nigra.

Melanocytic naevi (moles) are normal growths of melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) on your skin. Most people have moles and they sometimes change in appearance or size during pregnancy. This is usually not worrying and should not affect your pregnancy. However, moles have the potential to develop into melanoma, a type of skin cancer. If you notice any of your moles change during your pregnancy, show them to your doctor.

Read more about melanocytic naevi.

Prurigo of pregnancy is an itchy rash that may develop during pregnancy. The rash feels dry and bumpy and may cover large areas of your abdomen, arms or legs. It usually appears in the first or second trimester. Your chance of developing prurigo is higher if you have family members with eczema, asthma or hay fever. Prurigo of pregnancy is not dangerous. While it can be uncomfortable for you, it won’t cause any pregnancy problems, and it is not harmful to your baby. See your doctor if you feel itchy during pregnancy since there are other itchy conditions that can be harmful to your baby.

Read more about prurigo of pregnancy.

Melasma are brown patches that can appear on your skin, usually on your face. It is also known as chloasma or ‘the mask of pregnancy’. Melasma is very common in pregnancy, usually in the second or third trimester. People who aren’t pregnant can also develop melasma. Melasma doesn’t cause any health problems, but it might be difficult to cope with emotionally, especially if it’s on your face. While melasma can be hard to treat, there are many different treatments that may help improve this condition, and they are often used in combination. Many treatments are not safe in pregnancy. Your doctor or dermatologist can diagnose and help you manage melasma safely.

Read more about melasma.

Stretch marks (also known as striae) are red, pink or purple lines that can appear on your skin. Stretch marks are common and around 9 out of 10 females will develop stretch marks during pregnancy. Stretch marks are most common on your abdomen (tummy) but they can also appear on your thighs, breasts, hips and upper arms. Sometimes they can feel itchy when they first appear. Stretch marks aren't harmful, so you don’t need to treat them. There are no skin products that have been scientifically proven to prevent stretch marks. If they bother you, there are some treatments you can try.

Read more about stretch marks.

Varicose veins are blood vessels that have collected too much blood. They mainly develop in your legs. They can look blue and swollen, and may cause aches and pains in your legs. Varicose veins during pregnancy are quite common — up to 4 in 10 women will get varicose veins. They often start to appear in the first trimester and your risk increases with the more full-term pregnancies you’ve had, if you are older or if they run in your family.

Read more about varicose veins.

How can I look after my skin during pregnancy?

Most non-prescription skin care products, moisturisers and cosmetics are safe to use in pregnancy. Chemicals in creams and ointments can be absorbed into your bloodstream, but usually only in small amounts. It’s a good idea to check the ingredients in the products you use. Ask your pharmacist if you’re not sure if a product is safe.

Remember that your skin may be more sensitive and react to the chemicals in some products.

Are there products I shouldn’t use on my skin during pregnancy?

It’s best to avoid using products containing vitamin A, also called retinol, since this can be harmful to your baby.

Don’t use a product if you can’t check the ingredients. Keep this in mind especially if you buy products online or without a brand name.

Other products to avoid include:

  • bleaching products containing hydroquinone
  • hair loss lotions containing minoxidil
  • acne treatments containing tretinoin

Can I sunbathe during pregnancy?

It's never safe to sunbathe, whether you are pregnant or not. It exposes you to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that can cause skin cancer.

A tan is a sign of UV damage to your skin. When you’re pregnant, you might find that you get a tan with less sun exposure than usual. It’s important to cover up and use sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.

You can use fake tan lotions. Don’t get a spray tan, because it’s not known if the spray is safe to inhale when you’re pregnant.

How do I treat sunburn in pregnancy?

If you develop sunburn, you can use cold packs, moisturiser and pain-relieving medicine such as paracetamol. See your doctor if it doesn’t improve.

Can I use hair removal products during pregnancy?

Waxing and hair removal creams are safe in pregnancy. Your skin might be more sensitive to these methods than usual.

Hair removal creams can cause an allergic reaction, even if you’ve used them before. If this happens, stop using the cream and try it on a small area of skin after your baby is born.

Will my skin go back to normal after I’ve had my baby?

Most skin changes that occur during pregnancy will gradually improve or go away after your baby is born. If you have a skin condition that got better or worse during pregnancy, it will probably go back to how it was before.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2022

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