Pregnancy is a perfect time--an IMPORTANT time--to carefully consider your skincare routine and begin making a conscious transition.
I've been on a years-long exploration delving deeper into my skincare, from the messages skincare products project on us, to the chemicals inside, to the actual function of my skin and how to support it naturally. It actually began when I was pregnant with my daughter almost four years ago. I thought "If what I eat is so important to my growing baby, what about the things I put on my skin?" Sure enough, I found a lot of information about cosmetics products and overall health, especially in pregnancy. A small study showed 10 newborn babies born with over 230 industrial chemicals detected in their cord blood, just from the mother's exposure. And the statistic bears repeating that products put onto the skin can enter the bloodstream in as little as 26 seconds. Unlike our foods which are filtered through the digestive system, our skin doesn't contain this filtration process. This bred a new philosophy for me: if it's not safe to put in my mouth, it's not safe to put on my skin.
Since then, my barometer for skincare products has become MORE selective and markedly LESS complicated. It includes three basic elements:
1. What's in it?
2. What is it "selling" me?
3. How harmonious is it with my body and my life?
The first stipulation rules out the obvious toxic chemicals, and has broadened to include other ingredients that seem natural or sound natural, but really aren't. Things like glycerin (which temporarily plumps but eventually dries your skin cells into "cellular raisins") and aloe vera (which usually contains secondary stabilizer ingredients which do not need to be indicated on the label, so check the sourcing of the ingredients in products you buy). I'll let the skincare Queen, Nadine Artemis, fill you in on those: "Your Skin: An Owner's Manual," "Self-Care: A Woman's Guide."
The second stipulation has to do with how the product is marketed to me. I care about the messages I send myself, the messages I send my daughter when we perform our self-care routines together, and the messages other women receive from the products I recommend to them. I do not purchase or advocate for products that are shame-based or intend to somehow help me hide, fit in, or cast an illusion. Negative marketing for products about "blasting cellulite," or "banishing pimples," "fixing blemishes," or "fighting stretch marks," can all go to hell. Not only are all of these things totally normal, but they're signals from the body that should be listened to and nurtured back into realignment, not suffocated to death or covered up.
The last stipulation goes along with what I have learned as a Nutritional Therapist and also as a student of my own body. I want to care for the AMAZING and EFFECTIVE fatty acid mantle on my skin, which means not washing it away with soap. I want to care for the delicate lymph in my breast tissue, which means ditching bio-accumulative aluminum from my deodorant. The list goes on, but in caring for my own body and the little body within me, it should support the already-perfect processes of our bodies.
For the Face
Jessika LeCorre's skincare line, Feather Eagle Sky, has been pretty much my ONLY facial skin care for over a year. Every product is hand made, every ingredient is meticulously and ethically grown or wild harvested, and every application is a ritual. Jessika's mission to imbue our skincare "routines" with more than just routine, more than just pretty skin. It should be a ritual of self-care, appreciation for the wise medicinal plants of the Earth, and a freedom to remove our masks and allow healthful beauty to shine through.
As I mentioned, I don't use soaps on my skin anymore. I wash my face morning and night with Feather Eagle Sky cleansing beauty oil, and my skin just goes nuts for it. A little goes along way, and it dissolves dirt and wipes away mascara effortlessly, but without washing off your skin's natural and necessary oil mantle. Washing with soaps dries up your skin's natural protective oils, which invites in bacteria and also causes your oil glands to overcompensate and overproduce. Cleansing with oils is THE way to go. I use a scrub or a mask about once a week, and I love the Sun Face Mist after being outside. Truth be told, the immortelle in the face mist is SO multi-functional, I spray this on anything and everything from skin irritations to bruises for its healing, anti-inflammatory, and circulation-stimulating properties.
Finally, My Deodorant Search is Over
When we recently moved from Washington State back to Texas for a while, I realized I had about a dozen different "natural deodorants" in my bathroom closet, all in unfinished quantities. At that time I had resorted to just using a few drops of jojoba oil with some sandalwood and lavender as my deodorant, and I was relatively happy with that. Moving to a warmer climate, however, I wanted to try something more. And being pregnant, as it turns out, can affect your skin's reaction to even healthy doses of ingredients like essential oils. At about 22 weeks pregnant, I had a couple of the worst lymphatic flare-ups I've ever experienced, where my underarms turned DARK RED and an itchy rash stretched all the way from my armpits down my sides to my hips, and even widened out onto parts of my chest and my back. It was miserable and each time lasted about 5-7 days, during which time I was using clays and various other natural remedies to help my skin and lymph flush out. I was about ready to commit to a full no-deodorant hippie life deep in the sweaty heart of Texas, until I tried Primally Pure.
What I noticed first was that the Primally Pure sensitive deodorant actually HEALED my flare-up--it was gone within a day of my first application. I love the texture, I love the scent, and I love a company dedicated to truly healthful ingredients. The main ingredient in several of their products is beef tallow! You can read all about the benefits of tallow-based skincare on their FAQ page, as well as in this article from the Weston Price Foundation. (The Nutritional Therapist in me nerds out when my skin care company is also on point with nutrition!)
In addition to the sensitive deodorant, I've slathered my growing bump daily with the Primally Pure body butter. Even in my second pregnancy I've avoided stretch marks, pregnancy skin irritations like PUPPS and body acne, and hyperpigmentation, which are common in many pregnancies.
Primally Pure also recently launched their new baby care line, with a tallow-based baby balm; a baby powder made with arrowroot, clay, and herbs (and doubles as a dry shampoo! #momlife!); and a calendula baby oil.
Dry Brushing - Instead of harsh surfactant-riddled soaps to clean my skin, I practice dry-brushing instead. If you've never heard of or tried it before, here is a succinct explanation. Dry brushing sloughs off dead skin and stimulates blood and lymph circulation. During pregnancy, I get patches of mild vericose veins on the insides of my knees, but daily gentle dry brushing over these areas encourages healthy blood flow and makes a noticeable difference in keeping the vericosities manageable. I will continue to spend some added attention to these areas after birth to massage them back to normal. I also spend some special attention on areas where my body is creating healthy fat stores for postpartum energy and breastfeeding. Body fat is essential for new mothers to be able to produce breast milk and balance hormones. Adipose tissue is actually an endocrine organ that secretes estrogen! Too many women are set on "blasting the dreaded baby fat" after birth, but I look at it another way. I want to care for this carefully-curated tissue and let it serve its optimal purpose. By stimulating my hips, thighs, and buttocks during dry brushing, I encourage more healthy blood and lymph flow to keep these tissues healthy and performing optimally. Healthy, functional fat will kindly leave the body when it is no longer needed, as long we take good care of it.
Cold Showering and Cold Plunging - Your skin is filled with tiny muscles around each hair follicle called arrector pili muscles. These are the muscles responsible for giving you goosebumps and making your hair stand on end. Living in constantly-temperate environments, though, makes these muscles and the skin on top of them weak. One way to strengthen and tone your skin as a muscle is to take cold showers (or at least end your showers with a blast of cold water) or cold plunge regularly. Here is a lengthier explanation of some other benefits of cold plunging. While some may say it's controversial during pregnancy, it's important just to exercise this practice within your own limits and abilities, though I can assure you that by taking a cold shower or quickly dipping in a cold pool you will not lower your core body temperature enough to harm you or your baby. I have experienced for myself that cold water immersion relieves muscle aches and boosts my mood!
Discomfort Relief, Meditation, and Intentionality - Whoa, that's a mouthful. But that's what I enjoy from White Pine Rising's moon nest oil. This is an excellent oil for anointing yourself during your cycle, and I've found it to be so enjoyable for pregnancy massage. With its wildcrafted and organic oils of hemp seed, olive, sesame, mugwort, cannabis, yarrow, cramp bark, and red raspberry leaf, it has ALL THE THINGS that nurture a womb. It also has calming lavender, healing frankincense, stimulating ginger, comforting comfrey, and so much more. I enjoy incorporating this oil into my meditation practice by applying it over my womb and breasts as I recite my birthing affirmations and set intention for a new breastfeeding relationship. And on top of all its other benefits, this has been my perfume as of late and I always receive compliments on it.
I would be remiss to leave diet out of a conversation about pregnancy skin care. This could be a separate post in itself, so I will leave it to the Weston Price Foundation to explain some healthy dietary considerations for beautiful skin, all of which are just as pertinent in pregnancy. "Skin Deep: Nutrition for the Skin."
Here are a few other products I've enjoyed using during pregnancy. I like this body oil by Badger for all-over slathering. When your body is expanding exponentially, you've got a lot more skin to cover! When I don't want to go through half of my bottles of precious hand-crafted oils for a foot massage or some dry legs, I use this. It's a pretty simple blend of sunflower, jojoba, rosehip, seabuckthorn, olive, and calendula, and it makes a great carrier for essential oils. (Adding in a drop of peppermint oil is great for massaging swollen ankles!) A good quality coconut oil is another great all-over moisturizer and carrier oil for essential oils as well. Lastly, I enjoy a few cosmetics from Beautycounter. I use this blush stick as a blush and as a lip tint. With a little mascara, I feel clean and "done up" for a date night and not loaded up on toxic chemicals.
I receive no payment or kick-backs for these recommendations or endorsements. These are simply products I use, love, and recommend.