A woman's body undergoes significant changes during pregnancy, which are put to the test. These changes are influenced by hormonal fluctuations and also affect the skin. In this article, learn more about the effects of pregnancy on the skin.
Pregnancy: What are the effects on the skin?
Pregnancy can trigger acne flare-ups.
During pregnancy, an increase in the secretion of progesterone is observed, an essential steroidal hormone. It acts by binding to a receptor in the sebaceous glands, stimulating the production of sebum. Sebum is one of the components of the hydrolipidic film, present on the skin's surface, which helps to keep it hydrated and protected.
However, when sebum is produced in large quantities, the skin becomes a breeding ground for bacterial proliferation and theemergence of blemishes. Indeed, the bacteria Cutibacterium acnes, partly responsible for acne, feed on the triglycerides in sebum. Therefore, the intensification of progesterone production during pregnancy can sometimes trigger acne outbreaks, especially if your skin is naturally oily.
On the contrary, for pregnant women who naturally have a dry skin, this intensification of sebum production is rather beneficial. Indeed, in this type of skin, the synthesis of sebum by the sebaceous glands tends to be insufficient, which weakens the hydrolipidic film and by extension the skin. Thus, the increase induced by pregnancy is welcome.
The skin can gain elasticity during pregnancy.
Alongside that of progesterone, the level ofestrogenincreases during pregnancy. These steroidal hormones are capable of stimulating fibroblasts, cells in the dermis that contribute to thesynthesis of hyaluronic acid, collagen, and elastin. Found in the extracellular matrix, all three contribute to skin health. Hyaluronic acid is a macromolecule that works by retaining water in the skin, to prevent it from becoming dehydrated. The collagen and elastin fibers, on the other hand, provide tone and flexibility to the skin. Estrogens thus have a beneficial effect on skin hydration and elasticity and are the reason why some pregnant women notice an improvement in the appearance of their skin during pregnancy.
The occurrence of spider angiomas during pregnancy.
Stellar angiomas are small red spots surrounded by thin blood vessels, known as capillaries. They often have a star-like shape, which gives them their name. The cause of these angiomas is still not well understood, but it is hypothesized that stellar angiomas form in response to an increase in the presence ofestrogen in the body. These hormones are believed to have vasodilating properties. Stellar angiomas generally do not exceed 0.5 cm in diameter and are harmless. They are more of a cosmetic concern, but in most cases, they naturally resolve a few months after childbirth.
Pregnancy and Melasma.
It is important to note that both estrogen and progesterone are capable of stimulating melanogenesis, the mechanism of melanin synthesis. Melanin is a pigment found in the epidermis, giving it its color.
The skin of a pregnant woman is thus more prone to hyperpigmentation when exposed to the sun without sunscreen. Brown spots and the infamous "pregnancy mask", also known as melasma, then appear.
How are pregnancy stretch marks formed?
During pregnancy, to accommodate and protect the growing baby, the skin undergoes significant stretching. The skin tissues then experience high tension, leading to the rupture of collagen fibers and the emergence of stretch marks. These are also due to the increase in cortisol, the so-called "stress hormone," in a pregnant woman's body. Cortisol plays a key role in regulating blood glucose levels and in releasing sugar from the body's reserves.
When produced in excess, it can reduce collagen production, thereby promoting the appearance of stretch marks. At high concentrations, cortisol is indeed responsible for the inhibition of the TGF-β1 growth factor, which is involved in tissue development and stimulates collagen synthesis by fibroblasts.
To protect against this, it is recommended to apply a nourishing and hydrating treatment daily to the most at-risk areas (breasts, hips, stomach, thighs, and buttocks). Products containing shea butter, aloe vera, or calendula, for example, help to tone the skin and make it more elastic. This will then make it less prone to the development of stretch marks.
At Typology, we have developed a gel-to-oil formula enriched with aloe vera gel (INCI: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice) and also with baobab oil (INCI: Adansonia Digitata Oil). More rich and concentrated than a cream and less oily than an oil, this gel-to-oil provides flexibility and elasticity to the skin. It is important to note that this treatment will have no effect on white stretch marks, which are permanent.
TYLER K. H. Physiological skin changes during pregnancy. Journal of Clinical Gynecology and Obstetrics (2015).
LADYMAN S. & al. Neurophysiological and cognitive changes in pregnancy. Handbook of Clinical Neurology (2020).