7 Ways Your Skin Changes in Pregnancy

by Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D. Health Professional

The hormonal changes that take place inside a woman's body during pregnancy may often show their effects on the skin (think back to puberty). In fact, about 95 percent of pregnant people will notice some changes in pregnancy. Here are six ways pregnancy may change your skin and what you can do about it.

Woman wash her face in bathroom sink.

Acne can flare during pregnancy

Some pregnant women find their acne gets better during pregnancy, while others find it worsens. This is largely due to hormonal fluctuations. This may also change based on the trimester you’re in.

Steer clear of any medicated astringents — they may contain acne medicine that may not be recommended for pregnant women. However, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid may be considered safe if they are used topically and for a very limited time. After cleansing your face, be sure to use an oil-free moisturizer.

Glowing pregnant woman.

Pregnancy glow is real

Pregnancy glow is a real thing. When you are pregnant your body produces 50 percent more blood, which results in more blood circulation through your body. This increase in circulation causes your face to be brighter. Also, your body produces hormones that cause your oil glands to work in overdrive, leaving your face shiny.

Stretch marks on pregnant belly.

Stretch marks may appear

55-90 percent of pregnant women will experience stretch marks. While stretch marks, also known as striae gravidarum, are common and do not pose a health risk, many people feel anxious and upset by their appearance. Stretch marks appear as pinkish or reddish streaks running down your abdomen, breasts, thighs, and/or bottom. Whether you get them will depend on some genetic factors, your age, and how much weight you gain in pregnancy.

Woman using lotion on belly to help prevent stretch marks.

Treating stretch marks

The topical lotions and creams that are commercially available do not prevent nor make stretch marks better. However, they can relieve the pain and itching associated with them. Stretch marks usually fade to barely noticeable lines after pregnancy. Tretinoin, a derivative of Vitamin A sometimes used to treat acne, should be stopped about a month before you want to get pregnant and may be used in the second and third trimesters. There are more treatment options available after pregnancy, including laser therapy.

Melasma in pregnancy.

Melasma in pregnancy

Also referred to as the "mask of pregnancy," melasma causes dark splotchy spots to appear on your face, mostly on your forehead and cheeks. This occurs with the increase in hormones, and as many as 50 percent of pregnant women experience some form of it. To prevent this change in pigmentation, be sure to wear a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 whenever you're out in the sun.

Linea nigra on pregnant womans belly.

Linea nigra in pregnancy

About one-third of women also get linea nigra, a dark line down the center of their abdomen, usually from the umbilicus down. This will typically fade after you give birth.


Varicose and spider veins

Varicose veins are bulky bluish veins that usually appear on the legs during pregnancy. This happens because your body is compensating for the extra blood flow that is going to your baby. To prevent this, avoid standing for long periods of time, walk as much as possible, wear support stockings, and make sure you're getting enough vitamin C. About 20 percent of people will experience varicose veins in the pelvic area in pregnancy.

Skin tag

Skin tags in pregnancy

Skin tags are very small, loose growths of skin that usually appear under your arms or breasts. They are caused by a hyperactive growth of a superficial layer of skin (during pregnancy, this is caused by hormonal changes). If these don't disappear after you give birth, you can have them removed by a dermatologist, either surgically or chemically, in their office — but don't try to get rid of them while you're pregnant.

Skin care while pregnant.

Skin changes in pregnancy are normal

It's common to experience some of these skin changes during pregnancy, from acne to stretch marks. If you're concerned about any of these skin changes, speak with your doctor; they can help you determine what's normal and whether there are any treatments available.

Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D.

Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D., LCCE, CLC, AdvCD(DONA) is a childbirth educator, doula, founder of Childbirth.org, and the award-winning pregnancy and parenting author of “The Complete Illustrated Guide to Pregnancy” and more than 10 other books. Between her nine children, teaching childbirth classes, and attending births for more than two decades, she has built up an impressive and practical knowledge base. You can follow Robin on Twitter @RobinPregnancy, Instagram @Robineliseweiss, and Facebook @childbirthtrainings.