Changes to Your Complexion
Just as pregnancy may have caused your skin to flip-flop from oily to dry or vice versa, the hormonal changes you'll go through after birth, and the stress and fatigue of having a new baby can bring with them major changes to your complexion. If you had clear skin before, you may notice pimples now; or if you had oilier skin, it may be very dry now. You also might find that you're not keeping up with your previous face-care regimen, which could lead to breakouts or dryness. Here are a few tips for working skin care into your routine, whether your skin is dry, oily, or a little of both.
If your skin feels tight, itchy, or rough, or if it looks flaky, you've probably got dry skin. You'll want to use a creamy cleanser that doesn't foam up — look for one specially formulated for dry skin. Avoid using soap, which can be drying, and don't put your face directly into hot water — which means no standing with your face pointed into the shower stream. Exfoliate once a week, and be sure to moisturize. You may need to use a heavier, creamier moisturizer than the one you used to use.
Oatmeal makes a soothing natural remedy for itching, rashy skin. You can purchase oatmeal treatments at your pharmacy or health-food store, or try this: put a cup or two of dry oatmeal into a clean knee-high stocking, tie the end closed, and drop it into a warm bath.
It's not just your face that may suffer from dry skin. The drop in your body's production of estrogen after you give birth may leave the rest of your body feeling dry, itchy, and rough, too.
Avoid taking a shower in very hot water or lounging in a hot bathtub, since the hot water can further sap moisture from your skin. Exfoliate in a warm shower — a washcloth will do, but a nice-smelling moisturizing scrub may feel more luxurious — and follow immediately with a layer of thick lotion while your skin is still damp. Lotions containing aloe and shea butter can be very moisturizing. Also, you might want to consider a lotion that contains alpha-hydroxy acids, which can help your body shed dead, flaky skin cells. These products can be irritating to sensitive skin, so try a little on your inner elbow before you put it all over your body.
If you're able to soak up oil onto a tissue or blotting paper about twenty minutes after washing your face, you probably have oily skin. A cleanser that foams or suds up during washing is the best way to wash away excess oil. Exfoliate several times a week with a gentle scrub or washcloth, but don't use an exfoliant that's too rough, because it may actually stimulate your glands to create more oil. A light, oil-free moisturizer that doesn't clog pores will help your skin stay soft without adding more grease. There are also products that moisturize your skin while helping the surface stay matte and keeping oil at bay.
Be careful if you use bath oil or an oily exfoliating product, like the popular sugar and salt scrubs sold in bath and body stores. These can make your bathtub or shower extremely slippery for several showers, making it a potentially dangerous place for both you and your baby.
If your cheeks feel tight but your nose and chin are oily, you may have what's known as combination skin. This can be a little trickier to care for, since you won't want to do the same thing to your nose as you do to your cheeks. Use a gentle cleanser made for combination skin all over, and then concentrate your moisturizer just on your cheeks and other dry areas. If you rely on your moisturizer's SPF factor to shield your skin from the sun, you may want to switch to an oil-free sunscreen for all-over protection and then follow with a thicker moisturizer on your dry spots.
Acne is very common in the first couple of months after giving birth, and you may be dismayed to see that it isn't limited to your face — your back, shoulders, and even your rear end may be affected by breakouts. This is due to postpartum hormone fluctuations and should clear up soon. In the meantime, do the best you can to keep your skin clean.
Over-the-counter acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicyclic acid are compatible with breastfeeding, and some topical medications that require a prescription, like Differin and MetroGel, are also considered safe by breastfeeding experts.
If you decide to see a dermatologist for acne treatment while breastfeeding, make sure your doctor knows you're nursing and check to be sure that any medication you're prescribed is safe for your baby. Keep in mind that oral antibiotics can lead to yeast infections and nipple thrush, so they should be a last resort.