The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Yes, we know. On some days you’re positively glowing; on others, one look in the mirror is enough to send you diving back under the covers. To make matters worse, you’re not sure which parts of your usual beauty regimen are pregnancy-sanctioned and which are nine-month no-no’s. And even if a product like, say, stretch mark cream is maternity-approved, is it really going to work? Well, wonder no more: Our definitive list of do’s and don’ts (and product recommendations) will help you safely look your best for the next nine months.
Do mask the “mask of pregnancy”
The technical term for the suddenly darker skin on your forehead, upper lip and chin is melasma. “We’re not completely sure what causes this discoloration, except that it can be brought on by hormone fluctuations,” says David J. Leffell, a professor of dermatology and surgery at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and the author of Total Skin: The Definitive Guide to Whole Skin Care for Life (Hyperion, 2000). Avoiding the sun and wearing SPF 15 lotion is a good way to keep this condition from becoming more obvious. Sweep some bronzer over the non-masked portions of your face to help even out your complexion.
Don’t invest in stretch-mark creams
Unless you’re blessed with magical (OK, genetic) stretch mark-resistant powers, your chances of developing those purplish red lines along your belly, breasts and upper thighs are pretty high no matter what cream, lotion or potion you put on your skin. Thanks to the slow stretching of the skin’s elastin and collagen fibers, the majority of pregnant women will get stretch marks in the third trimester, says Leffell. While they may never vanish completely, stretch marks do fade substantially over time. In the meantime, keep your skin well-lubed with a luxurious cream or oil.
Don’t get a major dye job
“The data for hair dye and pregnancy are still not clear-cut,” says Leffell. The fear is that ammonia, peroxide and other chemicals will be absorbed through your scalp and enter your bloodstream, potentially harming the fetus. So Leffell’s (and most doctors’) thinking is, “Why take the risk?”
Highlights generally get the thumbs up because the dye rarely touches your scalp. Nonetheless, check in with your OB-GYN; some doctors feel that even highlights should be avoided until the third trimester. If you do decide on highlights, leave the job to a pro; in inexperienced hands, dye can easily stray scalp-ward. Or sidestep color and simply accessorize your hair. This fall has been a banner season for hip, grown-up barrettes, ponytail holders and headbands.