ask the experts

Beauty-wise, pregnancy changes everything: Hair gets thicker. Skin can rebel. Makeup needs rethinking. Here are 10 pointers for looking great the next nine months and beyond.

I’m bored with my hairstyle. What looks best during pregnancy?

“Resist the urge to make a drastic change,” says Vaughan Acord, a senior hair stylist at Bumble and Bumble in New York City and new dad. “Too many physical changes are going on during pregnancy; you don’t need another.

“Instead, freshen up your current style.” If you’re already sporting a short cut, Acord recommends growing it just a bit to balance out your new full figure and adding volume. Place a few Velcro rollers at the crown, warm with a blow-dryer, let cool and remove.

For hair that’s all one length, cut a few long layers all over, and add texture and volume.

Don’t overlook accessories if your hair is long. “Twist it up into a beautiful barrette or pin for a feminine but practical look,” Acord says. Consider shifting your part off-center or zigzagging it to thin your fuller face. Soften bangs with fringy layering, since hard-edged bangs make your face look rounder.

You needn’t fuss with a curly or wavy do. Whether your hair is short or long, apply anti-frizz products while hair is wet, then style.

If you’re considering a perm, wait until after your baby is born and you’ve stopped breastfeeding. There’s a good chance the curls won’t take while your hormones are off-kilter. Also, the harsh chemicals may be hazardous to the baby.

Can I color my hair while pregnant?

“There’s no evidence that hair coloring presents a problem during pregnancy,” says Christann Jackson, M.D., director of the Pregnancy Safety Hotline at The Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh. Get your doctor’s OK, then follow these guidelines:

Wait until the second trimester. “That’s the ultimate conservative approach,” Jackson says.

Don’t color at home. A pro can keep dye off your skin.

Make sure the salon has good ventilation. Although fumes from dyes and bleaches don’t pose a health threat, they can make you feel queasy.

How can I use makeup to downplay my puffy face?

“Emphasize your eyes and lips,” says Celeste Randall, a makeup artist at The Makeup Shop, a studio in New York City.

Randall recommends brushing brows upward with a clean mascara brush or comb. Then mix a soft brown eye shadow with a dot of your favorite moisturizer, and define your brows with an angled brush. “The moisturizer allows the shadow to move and stay,” she says.

Define eyes with a pencil, along the bottom lash line. Curl your lashes with an eyelash curler and then coat with mascara. Then curl again.

Line lips with a pencil, to match your natural lip color, and fill in with a glossy lip color. And limit blush to a subtle hint; bright cheeks will accentuate your temporarily full face.

Now that I’m pregnant, I’m breaking out all over my face. Are acne treatment creams safe during pregnancy?

Some are and some aren’t. But before you start playing hit or miss with drugstore acne remedies, see a dermatologist. Benzoyl peroxide, for example, is a common anti-acne ingredient in many over-the-counter products, but some dermatologists suggest avoiding it while pregnant. Prescription medications such as Accutane and Retin-A are also off-limits now because they may cause birth defects. But topical erythromycin is safe, according to Mary Lupo, M.D., a dermatologist in private practice in New Orleans.

A good dermatologist also can pinpoint skin-care habits, including overzealous cleansing, that may contribute to acne flare-ups. Washing less frequently using a cleanser formulated for sensitive skin.

Are skin-care products that

contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) safe during pregnancy?

According to medical experts, it’s safe for pregnant women to use skin-care products that contain alpha-hydroxy acids. “AHAs are mild peeling agents that only affect the skin’s surface,” says Melvin Elson, M.D., director of the Dermatology Center in Nashville, Tenn. “It’s the same idea as using lemon juice, which is a citric acid.” It, too, acts as a mild peeling agent, according to Elson, as does beta-hydroxy acid, lactic acid, malic acid and salicylic acid — all of which are safe during pregnancy.

“Even in animal studies, where these ingredients are ingested, there has been no problem,” says Christann Jackson, M.D. In fact, Jackson says, because AHAs have been successful in treating acne, they’re a good alternative to Retin-A, which many doctors say should not be used at all during pregnancy.

How can I avoid the dark skin patches known as the mask of pregnancy?

Sunscreen can help prevent hormone-related pigment patches. But remember that not all sunscreens are alike. “It’s the UVA rays that cause the mask of pregnancy, but most sunscreens block UVB light,” says Melvin Elson, M.D. To shield skin from damaging UVAs, look for broad-spectrum products, and apply daily.

If you develop dark patches during pregnancy that don’t fade after delivery, doctors can treat them with Retin-A, Renova, bleaches or peels. Don’t try drugstore fade creams. “You risk making the problem worse,” Elson says.

Is there a way to prevent stretch


If your mother had stretch marks, you probably will, too. The best prevention: “Keep fit, eat right and keep your skin supple,” says Melvin Elson, M.D. Moisturizers will probably help your skin feel better, according to Elson. But without scientific data, physicians don’t know for sure how effective these types of products are at diminishing the appearance of stretch marks. After delivery (or weaning), stretch marks can be repaired with Retin-A, but be sure to check with your doctor before using.

I love to work in my garden, but now that I’m pregnant, I’m worried about using insect repellents. Are they safe?

Stay away from insect repellents that contain the active ingredient diethyltoluamide (DEET), which has triggered a handful of severe allergic reactions. And pass on cream-based repellents or those that contain sunscreen. These products contain harsh chemicals that could be hazardous to the fetus when applied directly to your skin.

Instead, Christann Jackson, M.D., advises that before dressing, try spraying the outside of your clothing — rather than your skin — with DEET-free repellents. Do this outside or in a well-ventilated room to avoid dizzying fumes. And be sure to wash your hands afterward. Even better: Have a friend spray it on for you.

An oddball repellent alternative: Tuck a Bounce fabric softener sheet into a pocket. Bugs steer clear of its scent, according to Joey Green, author of Wash Your Hair With Whipped Cream (Hyperion, 1997).