Safely Protect Pregnant Skin from the Sun

by Tara M. Bloom

pregnant woman ready for the beachEverything changes in pregnancy -- including your skin and even how it reacts to sun.

I'm sure you know that over-exposing your skin to sun at any time increases your risk of skin cancer, dries out skin, and speeds aging (and thus wrinkling). Those are reasons enough to be cautious about the rays, but did you know that when you combine sun with the hormone cocktail coursing through your body during pregnancy that it can cause hyper-pigmentation in your skin? This extra darkening is called chloasma (also melasma), and because it commonly manifests as patches around the skin of your forehead, nose, and cheeks, it's also known as "the mask of pregnancy."

Here are a couple quick facts:

  • Up to 70% of pregnant women will develop these darker skin patches
  • The darker your skin's complexion, the more prone you may be
  • Your risk increases with each subsequent pregnancy (so just because you didn't have chloasma with your first baby, doesn't mean you'll avoid it the next time)
  • Skin bleaches are contraindicated during pregnancy (so prevention is key!)

As if chloasma weren't enough of a problem, sun exposure during pregnancy can also result in faster sunburns, heat rash and bumps.

Sunshine in pregnancy isn't an all-together bad thing, though. Soaking up some sunshine allows your body to develop much-needed vitamin D, which has benefits for both you and your baby. In fact, recent studies suggest that women aren't getting enough vitamin D during pregnancy, and that the recommendations for a supplement should be increased.

So how do you balance the vitamin-D-craving for sunshine with protection from it's potential damage? It's not so hard. Catch the benefits of sunshine but mitigate the risks by:

  1. Keeping your face covered with a wide-brimmed hat when out of doors.
  2. Wear mineral makeup (which usually has an SPF of 15 or so) and a barrier sunscreen (like Anti-Chloasma Facial Sunscreen or Organic Anti-Aging Mineral Sunblock) on your face.
  3. After you've had 15 minutes of sun on your arms, legs and hands, cover up with UV-protective clothing (first choice) or apply barrier sunscreen (second choice).

Tara M. Bloom has a passionate desire for women to have safe, healthy, confident experiences of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. She's the founder and CEO of Maternitique, a resource for women seeking naturally safe and beautiful maternity products through their childbearing years. Read more of Tara's maternity guides on her blog, Materni-Talk.

Copyright © Tara M. Bloom. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.