As a beauty editor, I do find myself surrounded with things designed to make us look and feel better. I was led to believe that pregnancy was like all the best products rolled into one big dose of hormonal loveliness – it was all ‘blooming’ and ‘glowing’, flushed cheeks, clear skin, illustrious, shiny hair… For me? Not so much. Some women undoubtedly see a difference, but for the most part, the pregnant glow is a myth. In between retching, working and obsessing over 72-hour labour stories, I didn’t care, either. But it was my daily ablutions and the little familiar rituals that reminded me of feeling well and strong. For me, it wasn’t about vanity, it was about the coping mechanisms, the much-needed treats and the miraculous lotions and potions that make you feel better.
Pregnancy hormones can over-stimulate cells, break down cellular components and weaken the skin’s immune system. So, essentially, skin’s natural balance and defences are upset. The problem is, you can’t try to tackle these hormones during pregnancy with the medications a dermatologist would usually prescribe – things like retinoids, glycolic acid, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Don’t be tempted by the alcohol-based toners aimed at teenagers, either – by stripping the oil your skin actually needs to function, your glands will go into overdrive producing more oil to compensate. You’ll end up with extra spots plus dry patches, redness and irritation. Instead, help your skin repair with some effective but gentle products, like REN’s ClearCalm collection, from £18.
Although you should avoid hot baths (above 37 degrees), wallowing in the tub can ease your aches and pains, and NEOM Cocooning Bath Oil makes it all the more pleasurable. You have to be careful when using essential oils, and this blend takes away the guesswork. Feel Amazing Treats for New and Soon to Be Mums (includes candle, bath and body oil), £52, NEOM.
SPF is essential to each and every woman, and never more so than during pregnancy. The pregnancy hormones estrogen and progesterone stimulate the melanin cells in the skin to produce more pigment. So basically, your skin can darken faster than usual, causing dark spots and the dreaded ‘pregnancy mask’ – A.K.A. melasma – of yellow and brown blotches. You’re also more prone to heat rash and burns, and my dermatologist said that sadly a vast number of pregnant women present malignant moles. I recommend Alpha H Daily Essential Moisturiser SPF 50 £27.
When I fell pregnant I was one of the (un)lucky few to experience what felt like a superhuman sense of smell. It tied in nicely with my morning sickness, and my usually beloved perfume became as offensive as the trashcan. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, think of it as a great opportunity to try out a new fragrance. Jo Loves Pomelo £95 is the perfect choice – citrusy, fresh and full of zesty energy. Kai Deodorant £15 – By far the best natural deodorant I have ever used, Kai’s jasmine and gardenia scent is far more appealing than all those synthetic, cloying aerosols, and yet it manages to keep you feeling fresh all day long. At last, a natural deodorant that doesn’t compromise on performance!
The right body oils and lotions can keep your increasingly dry skin smooth, yes but it can also provide some relief from pregnancy’s other charming little complaints! Bump itch, morning sickness, aching muscles, swollen ankles… simply put, if you didn’t moisturise before, now’s the time to start! It’s also a good time to focus on your body and see the changes taking place each day. If like me, you find pregnancy oils too slippery or greasy (let’s face it, they’re total carpet-ruiners) try adding a few drops to REN Neroli Grapefruit Body Cream £18 – Hydrating? Yes. Protective? Sure. But what’s really special about this natural lotion is the scent – neroli and grapefruit are great friends to the pregnant woman’s nose.
Now, don’t forget your legs – they’ll be feeling the strain of the extra baby weight and you might find them swelling, bruising, itching and aching by week 30. First keep them smooth and boost circulation with Bumps a Daisy Hand and Foot Pregnancy Scrub £25 then make sure you always have Bloom and Blossom Revitalising Leg and Foot Spray £14 to hand. A chemical-free tool to relieve water retention and refresh hot and itchy legs, this was a total leg-saver during my pregnancy.
There’s actually no proof that visiting your usual polish has any adverse affect on your unborn child – no appreciable amount of the toxins inside would penetrate your skin or access your blood stream. But there are still those that would rather err on the side of caution – it’s only 9 months after all, why not cut out as many chemical nasties as possible, especially when there’s Intensae Nail Polish £14.95. Free from lots of the regular polish toxins, these polishes are also highly pigmented, long-lasting, smooth and come in the most fabulous range of colours.