Pregnancy and new mom

Your Guide to Skincare for Pregnancy and Postpartum

By Vanessa Grant
Your Guide to Skincare for Pregnancy and Postpartum

Legend has it that women glow from within when they’re pregnant, but many of us just sweat a lot, have acne breakouts and get melasma moustaches. And postpartum skin doesn’t often get better. Sleepless nights and hormonal roller coasters can lead to dull, dry skin—and more pimples. We spoke with Dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett of DLK on Avenue, in Toronto about what expecting and new moms need to know to keep their complexions healthy, plus the best ways to get the glow you were promised.

Pregnancy Skin: Not Always Glowing

Don’t expect to glow. Because of hormonal changes, many women experience acne, says Dr. Kellett. Melasma, or “pregnancy mask”, a skin condition that causes blotchy freckle-like patches on the skin—especially when exposed to UV rays—is also common. It shows up most often on the cheeks, forehead, chin and sometimes above the mouth, like a moustache.

Postpartum Skin: The Adjustment Continues

The roller coaster ride continues after giving birth. Not only is there a whole new completely dependent and unreasonable person under your care, but your hormones are up and down and you don’t sleep much. All of this can contribute to dry, dull skin and breakouts.

New Mom Skincare Musts

  • Keep it Simple: Forget elaborate skincare routines. Focus on gentle cleansing, daily sun protection and good hydration.
  • Sleep—and eat—When You Can: Sleeping when the baby sleeps is always easier said than done but beauty rest is real. But it’s not all about sleep. It can feel hard to eat well when you’re busy keeping a baby alive but proper nutrition is also key. Dr. Kellett says that your sleep reflects your overall health and vice versa. “The more sleep you get, the better your nutrition is, the better your skin will look.”
Your Guide to Skincare for Pregnancy and Postpartum

Best Skincare Products for Pregnancy and Postpartum

  • Gentle Cleansers: Keep pores clear and remove dead skin cells with an exfoliating cleanser, recommends Dr. Kellett
  • Vitamin C: This antioxidant brightens your skin and protects it from damage. Is vitamin C safe during pregnancy? Yes. Unlike other brightening treatments, vitamin C is safe while pregnant and breastfeeding.
  • Sunscreen: Sunscreen is non-negotiable. Not only will it help prevent melasma but it also protects against skin cancer and skin damage. Use it now and for the rest of your life. And start protecting your baby’s skin right away.
  • Gel-Based Products: Fragrance-free, gel-based moisturizers and sunscreens keep your skin hydrated without clogging pores. Dr. Kellett says, “for people prone to acne, I tell them, ‘no creams, lotions or oils. No liquid foundations.’ They can use exfoliating cleansers and a 5 percent topical benzyl peroxide, which is safe during pregnancy and the postpartum period.”

What Skincare Products Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding?

  • Retinol: These are off-limits due to potential harm to the baby. Dr. Kellett says to avoid all retinol and vitamin A derivatives until you are done breastfeeding.
  • Exfoliating Acids: Pregnancy hormones can make your skin extra sensitive so Dr. Kellett recommends skipping exfoliants like glycolic and lactic acid.

Don’t Forget Skin Cancer Checks

Pregnancy hormones can make moles appear darker but that doesn’t mean that they’re harmless. “You should check your skin once a month looking for new moles or changes to the size, shape, colour and border of existing moles,” says Dr. Kellett. And visit your doctor or dermatologist as soon as you notice anything new.

Your Guide to Skincare for Pregnancy and Postpartum

Effective Treatments for Busy Moms

Once you’re done breastfeeding, you can look at some simple, at-home or in-office treatments that will brighten your complexion and give you that glow you’ve been waiting for.

At Home

  • Retinol: Once passing vitamin A onto your baby isn’t a risk, now’s the time to introduce a 1% retinol product. It slows down the natural breakdown of collagen and helps skin look firmer, reducing the appearance of fine lines.
  • Alpha Arbutin: This naturally occurring antioxidant brightens skin and helps improve hyperpigmentation.


  • Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): This in-office treatment targets sun damage, reduces redness and minimizes pores.
  • Microneedling with Radiofrequency (Potenza): This minimally invasive procedure improves skin texture and reduces acne scars.

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