If you've had a baby, you'll know just how wonderful yet intense those first few weeks and months can be. While you get to know your new baby and settle into a new routine, you also go through a period of physical and emotional recovery—an essential part of the postpartum period.

Postpartum skin care is crucial as many women find that their skin changes a lot during pregnancy and even after having a baby. Skin concerns such as postpartum dryness, acne, and melasma are all very common and a natural reaction to changing hormone levels, increased stress, and a lack of sleep.

Here, we take a look at why postpartum skin care is so important during this time of transition, and the products that can help you recover.

How Can Pregnancy Affect the Skin?

During pregnancy, your body goes through a number of changes as it's flooded with hormones. This surge in hormones can create extra sebum in the skin, which can leave behind congestion and even acne.

You may also notice dark patches across your cheeks, forehead, and nose. This is a skin condition called melasma (or the "mask of pregnancy"), which is also very common during gestation. This is due to the way that a change in hormone levels makes the skin more sensitive to the sun and ultraviolet (UV) rays.

As the skin stretches to accommodate your growing baby, stretch marks often appear across the stomach, hips, and legs during pregnancy. Some women find that they get lots of stretch marks while others get very few. The good news is that they generally fade over time once the baby has arrived. Melasma and pregnancy-related acne also tend to resolve themselves during the postpartum period.

What Skin Changes Can You Expect Postpartum?

Once your baby has safely arrived into the world, your body may look very different than it did before you became pregnant. The most important thing to remember during this time is that you have been through an incredible journey—one that requires healing and recovery through rest, good food, and emotional support.

Caring for your skin during the postpartum period is a great way of establishing a self-care routine in your day while helping your body recover. Your skin may have lost elasticity where it has stretched and grown during pregnancy, and stretch marks may have appeared across your stomach and hips so they need extra nourishment and hydration. Your skin may also feel unusually dry as a reaction to disrupted sleep and stress. This happens because the rest period (the hours when we sleep) is when the skin gets to work repairing and renewing itself. So, it's no surprise that the complexion is one of the first things to suffer when your sleep is cut short.

These changes are all very common during the postpartum period and will return to normal as your body recovers, hormone levels balance out, and you start to enjoy more sleep.

What Products Can Help With Postpartum Dry Skin and Breakouts?

For the Face

If your skin feels red, dry, and sensitive, or if you're prone to breakouts, a skin care routine that is gentle, hydrating and clarifying will help. Start with a gentle cleanser to clear impurities from the pores without stripping the skin of moisture. This step will also remove any makeup or sunscreen that you've applied during the day. Next, follow with a hydrating serum like EltaMD's Skin Recovery Serum, formulated with soothing ingredients such as vitamin B5 (panthenol) and cica (also known as tiger grass extract). This calms inflammation and improves skin barrier function while also protecting against free radicals with powerful antioxidants.

Finally, end your routine with a lightweight moisturizer to lock in hydration. EltaMD's PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer can also help battle those enhausting nights with a formula enriched with niacinamide and antioxidants. These ingredients work to improve skin color and tone while also speeding the metabolism to maximize the nightly skin repair process. A broad-spectrum sunscreen is also essential for protecting your skin from harmful UV rays each morning.

For the Body

If you have stretch marks on your body, rest assured they will fade over time. You can, however, aid the process by applying a hydrating oil or moisturizer to the affected area each day. Hydrating the skin in this way increases the elastin and prevents marks from becoming too dark while helping them to fade.

What Should You Avoid Postpartum?

This isn't the time to start introducing harsh ingredients, such as retinols or alpha-hydroxy acids, to your skin—especially if you're breastfeeding, as they can be passed onto the baby. Your skin may also be extra sensitive and in need of gentle products that don't damage the skin barrier or create a reaction. The best thing you can do is to stick to a gentle skin care routine that will keep your skin hydrated and its protective barrier strong.

Don't forget that taking care of yourself is the most important part of the postpartum stage, so try not to put pressure on yourself to make your body look like it once did. Be kind to yourself and be proud of everything you've gone through—and the beautiful baby you've created.

Author

  • Catherine Hufton is a UK-based freelance journalist and writer who has worked for some of fashion's most iconic companies and written for the world's best known magazines and newspapers. Beginning her career at Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion over 12 years ago, she has created content for L'Oréal, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, The Telegraph and more.