Dry Skin in Pregnancy - Reasons, Risks & Remedies

Dry Skin During Pregnancy – Causes, Complications, and Treatment

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rashmi Sriram (Dermatologist)
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Pregnancy is a phase when women get all the love and attention of their dear ones. It is also a phase which brings about a lot of physical and emotional changes. Most women get glowing skin because of pregnancy hormones. As a result of the fluctuating pregnancy hormones, there is an increased water retention capacity in the body, which gives women the pregnancy glow. But sometimes these very hormones can trigger skin dryness during pregnancy. Having dry skin is a normal symptom of pregnancy and should not be a cause for concern. If you are pregnant, and have dry skin, you need not worry. Read on to know why you may have dry skin during pregnancy.

Is it Normal to Have Dry Skin in Pregnancy?

The fluctuating pregnancy hormones can bring about a lot of bodily changes during pregnancy and one such change may be the manifestation of dry flaky skin. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your skin lose its elasticity and moisture as it stretches and expands to accommodate the growing baby.  This may lead to dry, flaky, red, and itchy skin. In some cases, the skin also starts peeling and appears scaly. It is quite normal and can be treated easily.

Having dry skin is more than common during pregnancy but there is no need to panic if you have it too. And if the condition gets severe, it is suggested that you seek immediate medical attention.

When Does Skin Appear Dry During Pregnancy?

Usually, skin appears dry during the initial months of pregnancy or in the first trimester and it may remain dry up until the third trimester in some cases. The neck, hands, stomach, and face are the most commonly affected areas. But other areas like elbows, knees, and heels may also turn dry. Some pregnant women may also experience itchiness in the thighs, breasts, and arms as well.

Woman worried about her dry skin

What Causes Dry Skin During Pregnancy?

By now you know the major cause of dry skin is hormonal changes. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can rob your skin of oil and elasticity, thus making it dry. But hormonal changes alone are not responsible for dry skin. A lot of factors can lead to skin dryness during pregnancy.

  • During pregnancy, the body requires more fluids to cope with the demands of the growing baby and there is always a risk of dehydration which can trigger skin dryness.
  • The pregnancy hormones during pregnancy can stimulate the oil glands to produce extra oil resulting in acne. Frequent washing of face to combat oiliness of the skin and breakouts may cause the skin to become dry.
  • Dry skin during pregnancy can be a result of pregnancy-related stress.
  • Dietary changes during pregnancy can also affect the elasticity of the skin.

Possible Complication of Skin Dryness

Dry skin is more likely to become scratchy or itchy. Scratching the skin can lead to small tears or cracks in the skin, thus making it susceptible to infections and scarring. If a pregnant woman already has a history of eczema, in such a case, dry skin can also cause an eczema outbreak. Acute and widespread dryness of the skin will need professional medical evaluation and treatment.

Tips to Deal With Dry Skin During Pregnancy

The following tips can be used while dealing with dry skin:

  • Use mild cleansers to clean your skin rather than harsh soaps which can rob the skin of the essential oils. Always remember to pat dry your skin after washing instead of rubbing it.
  • Certain lotions such as calamine lotion, unscented petroleum jelly, Vitamin E oil and ceramides are believed to soothe and moisturize the dry skin. You can use those after consulting with your doctor.
  • If you are troubled with dry skin, refrain from wearing synthetic clothes as they trap heat which can aggravate the condition. Opt for comfortable cool, cotton fabrics. But, do not starch cotton clothing.
  • Resist the temptation to scratch the dry skin no matter how itchy it feels. Scratching can cause small cuts or cracks in the skin leaving it exposed to infections.
  • Avoid swimming in the swimming pools when your skin is dry as the chlorinated water of the pool can further distress the dry skin.Woman applying face mask

How Can You Prevent Your Skin From Getting Dry During Pregnancy?

Prevention is better than cure so make little efforts today to avoid the big problem in future. You can prevent dry skin during pregnancy by following the listed points:

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Avoid dehydrating drinks like caffeine, tea, energy drinks, and soda. Instead, go for fresh fruit juices, ginger ale, or green tea.
  • Include foods with high water content in your diet like green leafy vegetables, fruits like watermelons, soups. Also, maintain a healthy and balanced diet during pregnancy to have healthy skin.
  • Eat fatty foods like olive oil, nuts, and avocados as they promote healthy skin.
  • Use hydrating face masks or mud packs once in a while as they may prove to be useful in keeping the skin soft and supple.
  • Keeping a healthy and active lifestyle during pregnancy by taking walks, doing light exercises can also benefit the skin in many ways.
  •  Tackle pregnancy-related stress by practising meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, and listening to soothing music.
  • Before stepping out in the sun, always apply sunscreen with a good SPF on the exposed skin to protect it from the sunlight.
  • Always shower with lukewarm water. Using hot water can rob the skin of its natural oils. So take a bath with warm water!
  • Apply a hydrating lotion or nourishing body oil immediately after bathing to retain the moisture of the skin. It is better to use creams and lotions consisting of natural ingredients. Avoid perfumed and chemical moisturizers.
  • Use a humidifier in your room during the night – it will help maintain the moisture levels of the room.

When to Consult a Doctor

Normally, dry skin patches during pregnancy can be treated without difficulty. Usually, they are not dangerous, though they may be a source of discomfort. You may have to consult a doctor in certain situations. In the following cases, you should see a doctor –

  •  In case you have eczema or atopic dermatitis.
  • If you get folliculitis, a condition where hair follicles swell and become sore or red.
  • If you have cellulitis, a bacterial infection.
  • If the dry skin cracks up or develops deep fissures that start to bleed.
  • If the dryness is spreading to other areas of the body particularly originating from the abdomen and then affecting the arms and legs as well which in turn become scratchy and develop red patches. This can be a result of a condition known as Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques (PUPP).
  • If the colour of your urine is dark and the stool is pale in colour, it may be because of a condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), a pregnancy-related disorder of the liver which affects the normal flow of the bile. This condition can be dangerous for the baby as it can lead to premature delivery or even stillbirth.
  • If you experience intense itching and dryness specifically on the palms and feet. This can be suggestive of a condition called OC (Obstetric Cholestasis).

Skin conditions like dry skin are normal symptoms of pregnancy and usually harmless. Most of these conditions get cured on their own after pregnancy. Therefore, instead of worrying focus on enjoying your pregnancy and the arrival of your bundle of joy.

Also Read: Can You Get a Facial While Pregnant?

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