Most of us bloom during pregnancy and a simple regime of cleansing and moisturizing is often all you need. Here are a few optional extras that can also help with specific concerns.
What's happening to your skin
Pregnant women often have a soft, glowing skin, a radiance that's partly due to increased blood circulation during pregnancy, with more blood getting through to the tiny blood vessels in your skin, and also to the vastly increased levels of the reproductive hormone estrogen, which keeps skin smooth, soft and supple.
But your skin can present you with some unpredictable dramas, too, also set off by the pregnancy hormones -estrogen, progesterone and HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) - racing round your body. In addition, a growing fetus may deplete your nutrition levels, which can have a knock-on effect for skin. My teenage eczema returned when I was 28 and pregnant with my elder daughter Lily: it cleared up when I finished breastfeeding. Even if you've never had acne before, your skin may erupt during pregnancy. Or vice versa - women who've been spotty in the past find their skin actually clears up when they become pregnant.
The majority of women experience stretch marks; spider veins and varicose veins are common, and you may also notice pigmented patches (known as chloasma or melasma or 'the mask of pregnancy') on your face and body. Less common, but irritating, are itchy skin conditions.
TLC for your skin
Hopefully, your complexion will be glowing, in which case you need the minimum of facial skin care. I suggest including a cleanser (be meticulous, if your skin is oilier than usual), alcohol-free toner, day moisturizer, a slightly richer night cream, plus a mask: stick to the suggestions for your age group in the previous articles. If your skin is misbehaving, try applying a facial oil blend each night to help re-balance it. Look for blends including avocado, argan and/or rosehip seed oils.
For your body it's a different story - more is better than minimum here. Avoid using soap, as it may be too drying: swap for a moisturizing body wash formulated without sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate (SLS or SLES). Treat yourself to a tub of talcum powder in your favorite scent. This can help prevent skin chafing under your support bra and is useful dusted between your thighs in the summer.
Lavishing oils on your skin may help to prevent stretch marks (striae gravidarum). These look like pale-whitish-pinkish ribbons and turn up mostly on your tummy, breasts and thighs when the collagen and elastin are stretched beyond the point of no return. They seem to run in families and are more likely to affect older skin and fatter women. Women with darker skin are less likely to get them. Fortunately, they usually fade after the baby is born. All plant oils work well, but rosehip seed oil is the prime choice for helping to guard against permanent scarring. It's also worth piercing a capsule of natural-source vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) and adding this to the rosehip seed oil. If you have lasting marks, massage twice daily with a teaspoonful of this mixture.
Itchy skin conditions are another common problem. Some women suffer generalized itchy skin, which may be partly due to the stretching of the skin: keep your skin moisturized and try calamine lotion. One woman in 200 suffers from polymorphic eruption of pregnancy (PEP), a hives-like rash which begins on the stomach and spreads to the chest, neck, arms and legs during the last few months. It invariably disappears within two weeks after birth. Prurigo of pregnancy - itchy, raised, red or brown spots on the tummy, front of the legs or outer arms -affects one woman in 300, usually in the last three months. It may continue after the birth and/or in subsequent pregnancies. Discuss treatment with your doctor and eat plenty of oily fish (not tuna and swordfish, due to their high mercury content) and keep your skin well-moisturized. St John's Wort oil contains anti-inflammatory compounds that make it especially soothing, also calendula and chamomile lotions (from reputable medical herbal or homeopathic companies, such as Nelson or Weleda.)
At bath time, tie up a handful of oatmeal in a bag and attach it to a running tap to make the water silky and soothing.
Around 70 per cent of women experience the 'mask of pregnancy', darker patches of pigmentation around the face, and sometimes body, due to estrogen triggering more of the pigment melanin. Stay out of the sun, as this chloasma will worsen if your skin is exposed to UV rays; additionally, use a mineral-based sun protection factor 25.
Increased melanin production also means the skin around your nipples darkens; you might also notice a dark brown line (linea negra) from your navel to your pubic bone. As with chloasma, this pigmentation invariably fades within three months of giving birth.
Pregnancy hormones make the walls and valves in your veins more relaxed, and, with increased blood circulation, this may mean you get red or blue spider veins on your face, neck, chest, arms and legs. They usually only last as long as your pregnancy - so use concealer if you wish to camouflage them - but, again, are worse if you go in the sun. Dermablend make an excellent range of concealers, available worldwide.
For the same reasons, you could be plagued by varicose veins in your legs, thighs or groin. These swollen, itchy, sometimes painful veins run in families and are worse if you put on too much weight or stand a lot. They are likely to be troublesome in the last, heavy weeks of pregnancy, as blood tends to pool in your legs and lower body. When you sit or lie down, putting your feet up with ankles above chest height will help; massaging in an aloe-vera based gel will cool and refresh the skin. Sadly, concealer won't really help, but wearing good support tights will. Put them on before you stand up in the morning: I used to keep a clean pair ready by my bed. Avoid socks - or trousers - that restrict your circulation. Take gentle exercise, such as walking, swimming and general stretching (or yoga for pregnancy). If you have to stand or sit for long periods, make sure to walk around as much as you can. Avoid sitting with crossed legs.
In the last trimester, extra pillows placed under your side and knees in bed help support your lower back, so you tend to sleep better and that shows on your face.
* Doctors now agree that taking a supplement with omega-3 essential fatty acids is hugely beneficial for baby's health in the womb - as well as being good for you. These may be better than simply eating more oily fish, due to growing concerns over heavy metals in fish stocks. There is also some evidence that taking probiotics during pregnancy can help prevent eczema when the baby is born. (Remember, it's vital for the unborn baby that you have taken a supplement of folic acid if you're planning to get pregnant and during the first 12 weeks to help prevent neural tube defects).
* Most pregnant women have such a radiant glow they can ditch cosmetics except for a lip balm, tinted if you wish, and good mascara. I've been faithful to Lancome Definicils mascara for over two decades. This classic is the only formulation that doesn't leave panda smudges under my eyes after a few hours but is easy to remove. Liz Earle Superbalm is a wonderfully versatile skin salve that did it all for me during pregnancy. I used it as a natural lip glosser, eyebrow smoother, to remove flaky skin and even as a frizz tamer for the dry ends of my hair.
* If your skin does go crazy at any point, US-based make-up artist Craig Beaglehole suggests Stila face concealers for blemishes, a cream-to-powder formulation in a cover-up stick which you pat on very lightly with a finger or brush. If you have high color on cheeks, or for evening glamour, he recommends Stila Tinted moisturizer or Prescriptives Traceless or a beautiful base such as Nars Balance foundation, which will even out skin tone but let your natural color glow through. A tinted lip gloss and a whisper of color on your eyelids, and you're good to go!
Have a pedicure so everyone helping to deliver the baby will see your pretty feet! Massaging the feet and lower legs is very helpful for blood circulation during pregnancy, so do treat. yourself to more than one if you can. And more treats... If your budget permits, treat yourself to a facial: we store so much tension in our facial muscles, and lying on a facialist's bed, having your face and shoulders massaged, is so relaxing.