During my first pregnancy, one of the nurses I worked with on Labor and Delivery came up to me and said “you must be having a girl because you look ugly”. Direct quote. Yes, I had a few blemishes here and there but nothing that wasn’t corrected by some great concealer.
And I already knew I was having a boy … so I think she was incorrect (and rude!) on a few accounts.
But there are 2 interesting questions to be answered here:
- What was she talking about? Why would having a girl make me ugly?
- How can we treat our misbehaving skin during pregnancy? What remedies are safe to use?
What was she talking about:
One old wives’ tale says you can predict the sex of your baby by how your skin behaves during pregnancy:
- if your skin is horrible and you break out, you’re having a girl because she is “stealing” your beauty.
- If you have the glowing pregnancy skin then you are having a boy.
- She thought my baby was stealing my beauty so I must be having a girl. I have to admit that my son is (was?) awfully cute, so maybe she was on to something!
- BTW, there is no scientific data to support this tale.
Now on to one of my favorite topics: skin treatments!
Can you safely get rid of your blemishes and spots during pregnancy?
Let’s talk about options:
One caveat: Full blown acne vulgaris is a separate topic in and of itself, so we’ll skip the hard core stuff and stick with the simple (but still troubling to some) blemishes / spots treatments.
The following are considered SAFE to use during pregnancy when used as recommended (ie not overdosing)
- Salicylic acid: probably my favorite. It penetrates deep into the follicle to get to the base of the problem area. It’s the gentlest of the hydroxy acid group of skin care treatments (the others are lactic acid and glycolic acid, both of which can work wonders in limited doses as well). It’s found in all sorts of skin care products – cleansers and scrubs, lotions and creams, masks and spot treatment. Apply once or twice a day. Don’t over use. The potency ranges from 0.5-2%. For mild blemishes, it probably doesn’t matter a ton which potency you use.
- Benzoyl peroxide: Stops oxygenation that bacteria needs to grow, and bacteria can cause acne. It also decreases irritating fatty acids in the skin. It can cause skin irritation / skin flaking. It can bleach clothing, bedding, even hair if it gets in contact! Use it only 1-2 times a day and the lowest potency you can find (usually 5% for spot treatment). Keep your skin well moisturized and pull your hair back!
- Sulfur: no one is sure how it works. There is little scientific evidence that it actually does work. Anecdotally I have used the Mario Badescu sulfur powder and it has helped, but I prefer my salicylic acid.
- Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial activity. In one study, overall it worked just as well as benzyl peroxide, it just took a little longer to take effect. Don’t apply the tea tree essential oil directly on your face. It is too potent and will cause more irritation for sensitive skin. Buying a dilute solution is probably easiest and safest (about 5% is usually recommended). Or if you want to DIY, mix one to two drops in clean water and apply with a Q-tip, or add to a base like unscented moisturizer.
- Witch hazel? Some people claim witch hazel helps clear any skin ailment. It is a naturally occurring astringent, but the formulations you buy in the store contain alcohol. Alcohol astringents can be irritating on the skin and cause more redness, so I’m not one for recommending it.
Your skin should always be freshly cleansed when applying any of the above potions. They can’t penetrate through make up and moisturizers (which serve as a barrier to the outside world).
Cleanse, apply, moisturize.
- Don’t pick! Picking at your blemishes can irritate them even more, causing more redness and yes, making them more noticeable. It can cause scarring too. Use your treatment of choice, use concealer, and have patience. They will clear!
- Use a good concealer. Just like millions before you, check out Lisa Eldridge’s YouTube video about using concealer properly (I know, I’m a bit obsessed with her. She’s just so helpful!).
- Take care of your skin and it will thank you. Wash your face every night and apply your lotions and potions to a clean surface for max efficacy. Keep well hydrated. And DON’T PICK!
I am a board certified OBGYN at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles.
I am co-founder of Female Health Education, a platform offering digital courses, striving to empower females through health education.
My passion is promoting and demystifying health information to the public. My blog, Dr. Sara Twogood’s LadyParts Blog, provides comprehensive information about fertility, pregnancy, and gynecology topics. I am on the medical board for the period tracker app Flo; contribute as a medical expert for pregnancy app and website The Bump; and serve on the Byrdie Beauty and Wellness Review Board (Byrdie.com). I have been featured as an expert for the podcasts The Dream and Her body, Her Story and quoted in numerous online and print publications.
I am honored to be named “Top Doctor” in Los Angeles magazine for years.