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Pregnancy Side Effects: Cosmetic Changes in Skin, Hair, and Nails

Pregnancy Side Effects: Cosmetic Changes in Skin, Hair, and Nails


The various cosmetic side effects of pregnancy are as unpredictable as the food cravings and emotions of a mother-to-be. Because of all the pregnancy hormones running rampant, experts agree that results may vary – and there’s no universal formula to determine the effects pregnancy will have on the mother’s hair, nails, and skin. But DocShop explores some of the more common side effects of pregnancy, along with some helpful suggestions and precautions.


Weight Gain

Gaining weight during pregnancy is completely unavoidable but very much encouraged; the baby’s growth and development depend on the mother gaining a reasonable amount of weight. The American Pregnancy Association recommends that mothers who were at a healthy weight pre-pregnancy should gain approximately 25 to 47 pounds during their pregnancy. If the mother was previously underweight, this range increases to between 28 and 40 pounds; if she was overweight, the range of healthy weight gain is between 15 and 25 pounds. Mommies-to-be will fill out in areas like the bust, stomach, hips, and thighs.

What to do: Embrace your figure. But to maintain a healthy weight for the baby, and increase your chances of losing your baby weight quickly after the birth, follow a sensible exercise and diet plan.

Avoid: Stay away from any exercise involving heavy lifting or weights, not to mention a junk food-packed diet.

Visible Spider and Varicose Veins

Since the mother’s blood volume increases during pregnancy, and the baby continues to put more and more pressure on the veins, pregnant women can develop visible spider veins, varicose veins, and broken blood vessels.

What to do: Wearing support hose can help in some cases, but can also be uncomfortable. Consider laser treatment after the baby is born.


“Pregnancy Glow”

A mother-to-be is often complimented on her natural “glow” in the months before the baby’s birth. The glow comes from increased blood volume and oil secretions, which cause rosy cheeks and give the skin a slight sheen.

What to do: Enjoy your bright, dewy complexion! It’s an added pregnancy perk.


An unfortunate but common side effect, some expecting mothers experience red, blotchy breakouts as a result of the increased hormones in their bodies.

Avoid: Avoid antibiotics like Accutane, Retin-A, and tetracycline. Ask your doctor about a mild topical cream to clear up acne.

Linea Nigra

Latin for 'black line,' linea nigra is a dark line that extends from the belly button down the center of the abdomen to the pubic bone.

What to do: Wait. It should fade naturally after the baby is born.

“Pregnancy Mask”

Otherwise known as melasma, the “pregnancy mask” refers to areas of brown pigmentation all over the face, specifically around the eyes, cheeks, and above the upper lip. Pregnancy makes skin more likely to develop a darker pigment when exposed to ultraviolet light. The cells do not produce extra pigment uniformly, thus causing the face to have a blotchy appearance. To prevent melasma, use sunscreen and cover up with a hat when going outside.

What to do: Apply a topical steroid cream or have a glycolic acid peel to clear up dark patches. Talk with your physician before starting any treatment.

Avoid: Using a laser in an attempt to clear up dark patches could actually make them darker.

Stretch Marks

Light to dark reddish or purple marks maydevelop as the skin stretches to accommodate the baby, and the elastic fibers of the mother’s skin are damaged. Stretch marks can form anywhere on the mother’s body, but are most commonly found around the abdomen, hips, breasts, and thighs.

What to do: Massage skin with a brush or glove (to increase circulation); use thick emollient lotion (to moisturize skin); eat foods high in Vitamins C and E, zinc, and silica, which helps the body produce more collagen to ward off stretch marks.


Thicker Body/Facial Hair

Hair may become thicker (and develop in strange areas) during pregnancy. Again, pregnancy hormones are the culprit; the hormones slow down the rate at which hair naturally sheds.

On the other hand …

Limp, Thin Hair

Hair may lose thickness or volume during pregnancy.

In any case: Drink lots of water and eat foods with plenty of vitamin A (for a healthy scalp), vitamin B (for healthy hair growth), and vitamin C (for strength). You might consider switching to volumizing hair products or even getting a layered, shorter haircut. If you decide to color your hair, check with your doctor beforehand and ask your colorist about a process using vegetable–based products.

Avoid: You should avoid perms, body waves, or other treatments that contain ammonia; the chemicals could be absorbed through your scalp into your system. Plus, hormones could cause bizarre results.


After giving birth, some new mothers are startled to find handfuls of hair falling out in the shower or while brushing.

What to do: Relax. This is simply the buildup of excess hair finally shedding after childbirth. Hair usually returns to normal about a year post-pregnancy.


Strong and Healthy Nails

Nails may become stronger and grow faster during pregnancy. Some mothers-to-be find that their nails break and split more commonly during their pregnancy. But like hair, changes in the mother’s nails are not permanent – nails usually return to normal after the baby is born.

Avoid: Don’t use polish or remover containing harsh chemicals.

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