There's no doubt that pregnancy is a wonderful time, but it can also bring a whole host of not-so-enjoyable side effects. As the body changes and grows, you may find that your skin feels uncomfortable and dry, and in some more serious cases, intensely itchy.

Let's take a look at why itchy skin occurs during pregnancy, the strategies and remedies to help you cope, and the best pregnancy-safe skin care products to provide some relief.

Causes of Itchy Skin During Pregnancy

Itchy skin during pregnancy usually occurs across the breasts and tummy, as the skin stretches to accommodate your growing baby. Itching can also be caused by rapidly changing hormones, which can also be responsible for a range of other concerns, including nausea and mood changes. Hormones are also believed to be the cause of flaky and dry skin, which can be exacerbated during pregnancy. You may find that your skin is more sensitive or that it reacts differently to chemicals and certain materials that rub or irritate your body.

According to the Mayo Clinic, more serious cases of itchy skin during pregnancy may be caused by cholestasis, a liver disorder that causes bile acids in the blood to collect and cause an intense feeling of itchiness. In most cases of cholestasis, it isn't accompanied by a rash and generally only happens in the final trimester—although it can sometimes begin earlier.

You may find that itching feels worse at night, disturbing your sleep and affecting your overall well-being. This may be especially noticeable in your final trimester. Intense itching generally occurs all over the body, but it can particularly affect the palms of your hands and soles of your feet. You may also experience itchy, crusty bumps on the legs, abdomen, and arms throughout pregnancy. This is a skin condition referred to as prurigo.

How to Ease Itchiness and Dryness in Pregnancy

First things first—if you're experiencing extreme itchiness, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. They'll be able to check the health of both you and the baby, and make sure the itching isn't related to anything serious. But in less severe cases of itchy dryness, there are a few things you can try—including natural remedies—to help your skin feel more comfortable.

Natural Home Remedies

You may be surprised to learn that some of the best natural remedies for itching skin can be found in your kitchen cupboards. Coconut oil and olive oil, for example, can make soothing natural moisturizers, as well as shea and cocoa butter, which are known for their moisturizing properties. If you enjoy a relaxing soak in the bath, try adding soothing ingredients like chamomile and oatmeal into the water for long-lasting relief.

Pregnant in the hot summer months? Try soaking chamomile tea bags in water with a handful of washcloths. Leave it for 15 minutes or so before wringing the washcloths out, rolling them up, and storing them in a sealable plastic bag. Pop them in the freezer and then use them whenever you want to cool and soothe itching skin on your bump, body, or face.

When your skin feels particularly itchy, try to wear loose clothing, preferably made from natural fabrics to avoid further irritation on the skin. You may also want to consider switching to a gentler clothes detergent during your pregnancy.

Soothing Skin Care Products

When using skin care products during pregnancy, there are a few things to consider.

During this time, Dermatologists recommend avoiding skin care products that , including retinol and retinoids, as well as topical beta-hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid. This is because they can be absorbed into the bloodstream and may be harmful to your baby. Take care to check the ingredients list of your usual moisturizers, serums, and night treatments for terms like Retin-A, Renova (tretinoin), retinoic acid, retinol, retinyl linoleate, and retinyl palmitate, as these are all forms of vitamin A.

If your skin is feeling particularly dry, sensitive, and itchy, you may prefer to stick to gentle, minimalist skin care options containing hydrating ingredients. This will ensure you aren't adding any additional irritants to your skin. Many of EltaMD's moisturizers, for example, are free from dyes and perfumes, making them ideal for sensitive and itchy skin. EltaMD Skin Restore Body Cream is dye-, fragrance-, and paraben-free, and it is designed with Protease Enzyme technology that helps minimize inflammation and itch. If your skin is less sensitive, however, perfumed moisturizers are still completely safe to use during pregnancy and may help you to feel relaxed after a bath or shower.

It's also very important to include a high-quality broad-spectrum sunscreen in your everyday routine. Why? As the skin becomes more sensitive to the sun's effects during pregnancy, sunscreen helps to protect it from ultraviolet-induced damage, including dark spots and melasma. EltaMD UV Glow Broad-Spectrum SPF 36 is a mineral-based sunscreen that helps improve and even skin tone—perfect for anyone with skin prone to discoloration. Sunscreen use is just as important during pregnancy as it is at any other time, and is perfectly safe with the right practices.

Watch Your Skin for a Healthy, Happy Pregnancy

Not only is the right skin care important for keeping your body comfortable during pregnancy, but it can also help you to enjoy some much-needed relaxation time before the baby comes. Try to stick to a gentle and soothing skin care regime each morning that ensures your skin is hydrated and protected for the day ahead, including broad-spectrum sunscreen. Then, switch to products that are extra nourishing in the evening to prepare your skin for a restful night's sleep.

The good news is that any pregnancy-related itchiness will disappear shortly after your baby is safely delivered into the world. But in the meantime, grab your moisturizer and your sunscreen for a healthy and happy pregnancy journey.


  • Catherine Hufton

    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.

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