A pregnant woman prepares to rub lotion on her stomach.
A pregnant woman prepares to rub lotion on her stomach.
A pregnant woman prepares to rub lotion on her stomach.

Pregnancy and Skin Changes

For many women, pregnancy brings glowing skin, rosy cheeks, and shiny hair. Others, however, can experience skin changes that aren’t so attractive, including acne, dark spots, and stretch marks.

Here are some of the common skin conditions in pregnancy, along with some practical tips on managing those that can be troublesome.


Increased blood flow and oil production are the factors behind the radiant pregnancy glow. That radiance sometimes comes with a price, as the increased oil production can result in acne.

Just as when you were a pimply teen, keeping the affected skin clean and oil-free can help. But certain acne and skin care products should be avoided in pregnancy:

  • The prescription anti-acne drugs isotretinoin and tretinoin can cause birth defects and should never be used during pregnancy.

  • Avoid abrasive scrubs or exfoliants as these can irritate sensitive skin.

  • Generally, most over-the-counter acne cleansers and treatments are safe to use in pregnancy, but you should check with your healthcare provider first.  The good news is that acne typically goes away shortly after delivery.

Dark spots

A natural increase in melanin during pregnancy is responsible for areas of darkened skin, especially on the face. To minimize this “mask of pregnancy” called chloasma:

  • Be sure to wear sunscreen or wear a hat while in the sun.

  • Decrease the amount of time you spend in the sun. Avoid the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun’s rays are most direct.

Most of these brownish-colored areas fade over time, often within a few months after giving birth.

Stretch marks

Although most women expect to have some stretch marks on their belly with pregnancy, many are surprised to also find these pink or red stripes on their breasts, buttocks, and thighs.

In fact, stretch marks can happen anywhere there is rapid growth and stretching of the skin. Unfortunately, no methods are proven to prevent or erase stretch marks. And this is in spite of the abundance of lotions and creams advertised.

The marks will fade over time and any irritation can be reduced by using a moisturizer.

Spider veins and varicose veins

Spider veins come from hormonal changes and increased blood volume during pregnancy. They appear as tiny red veins on the face, neck, and arms. The redness should fade after the baby is born.

Varicose veins happen because of the weight and pressure of the uterus compressing the veins. This decreases the blood flow from the lower body. The veins in the legs become swollen, sore, and blue.  Varicose veins can also be found on the vulva, vagina, and rectum (hemorrhoids). Typically, varicose veins are cosmetic and clear up after delivery.

Other conditions

Itchy skin

Itchy skin is common, especially in the winter, when skin is dry and easily irritated. Some women develop a rash or itchy bumps that are caused by a variety of conditions. Although most are more irritating than dangerous, you should always ask your healthcare provider about any itching problems.

Hair growth

Hormones of pregnancy can increase hair growth. Many women notice that their hair is thicker and healthier looking. Sometimes those hormones cause hair growth in other places, too, like on the face or neck. Talk with your healthcare provider if you notice excessive hair growth in new places. Most hair-removal methods are safe in pregnancy. These methods include waxing, tweezing, and shaving. Your hair growth should return to normal about 6 months after giving birth.

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