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When I woke up one morning in my first trimester with more pimples than I sported as a teenager, I freaked out. But to my surprise, there was actually a lot that could be done to soothe my pizza face, including topical antibiotics that my doctor deemed safe and an amazing oxygen facial that restored my cheeks to their pre-pregnancy smoothness. Here are the top 10 skin conditions you may experience during pregnancy and how you can treat them.
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Youre an adult, youre going to be someones mother for gods sake, but for some reason, your skin has decided that its 1987 all over again. But stop before you pop — NYC dermatologist Michele Green, MD says that there is treatment available thats safe for you and your baby. Make an appointment with your dermatologist rather than self-treat and go over the best options for your condition, no matter how severe.
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2: Stretch marks
During pregnancy, your skin is being stretched to its limits, and the visual evidence often comes in the form of stretch marks — scars that are caused by tears in the dermis. Green says that red stretch marks can be treated with lasers, but if the marks are white, that means theyre old, and theres little you can do to eliminate them. And as for those cocoa butter creams you see advertised on TV? Although they may smell nice, Green says to save your money because theres no proof that they actually do anything.
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Youre already constipated, irritated and nauseous so the last thing you want to see when you wake up and look in the mirror are icky spots on your skin. But hyperpigmentation the darkening of an area of skin caused by an increase in melanin is common during pregnancy. The good news, says Green, is that its preventable. The first thing to do is to avoid too much exposure to the sun. Green says that during pregnancy, the increase in estrogen can make you very photosensitive, similar to what some women experience when going on the Pill. If you do go out in the sun, apply sunscreen and reapply it. Wear a hat and a long-sleeved shirt, she suggests.
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Known as the mask of pregnancy, melasma is a more severe skin discoloration thats thought to be partly due to genetic predisposition. Hyperpigmentation is when you get dark freckles. With melasma you actually get sheets of it, usually on your upper lip or your cheeks, says Green. For some women, the condition will fade away when the baby is born, but for others, treatment may be required. There are great bleaches, hydroquinones [topical depigmenting agents] and lasers that can get rid of it, says Green. Still, prevention is your best defense — so stay out of the sun and keep applying that sunblock.
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5: Spider veins
Theyre unsightly and can cause even the most stylish women to wear tan-colored pantyhose. But, spider veins are easily treated, says Green. I tell patients, if youre going to have more kids you might want to wait til youre all done. Laser treatment, sclerotherapy (which involves injecting a liquid chemical into the vein) or saline injections are the most common treatments. Spider veins are different than varicose veins, which are deeper in the legs and are usually treated surgically.
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What goes along with your sexy new maternity wear? How about a rash! One of the most common rashes is heat rash, says Green. If your rash is very mild you can try using hydrocortisone but if its getting worse and youre pregnant, you want to seek professional help to make sure nothing else is going on. Green says that other skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea can also be triggered during pregnancy. Women get rosacea during pregnancy. They get lots of broken blood vessels on their face. After the baby is born, they can come in for laser treatment to get rid of it.
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7: Skin tags
Did you know that youre more likely to develop skin tags — those tiny flaps of skin that seem to sprout on your neck and in other areas where the skin creases — during your pregnancy? Thankfully, skin tags are benign and no treatment is necessary. But if youre like most women, youll want the dermatologist to remove them. Just wait until after the baby is born, says Green, since this treatment is purely cosmetic in nature.
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8: Unwanted hair growth
Theres no more womanly time in your life than pregnancy, so how come youre sporting facial hair and maybe even a moustache to rival John Stossels? Again, its about the estrogen, says Green. Though unwanted hair growth is very common during pregnancy, Green suggests waiting until after the pregnancy to get laser hair removal.
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Thinking about skin cancer while pregnant sounds depressing, but Dr. Green insists that you must. Theres an increased risk of melanoma during your pregnancy which is related to estrogen, she says. The estrogen makes cells grow and theyll make cancer cells grow as well. Green says she sees lots of young women in their 20s and 30s who come in because they notice a new mole. Sometimes, theyre unaware of a mole or that anythings wrong. The treatment for melanoma is usually excision of the lesion. Nobody should die of melanoma, says Green. Its easily identifiable and very treatable.
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10: Linea Nigra
Just in case your belly wasnt noticeable enough, many women develop a dark line down the center of their abdomen during pregnancy. This hyperpigmentation is caused by increased estrogen levels — the same thing that causes darkening of the nipples and labia in some women. Like many mysterious skin conditions during pregnancy, the purpose of the linea nigra is unknown. Though theres nothing you can do to prevent or get rid of it, for most women, the dark line typically fades within six months to a year after birth.
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