Tips for healthy skin during your second trimester

by Kaiser Permanente |
Pregnant woman belly at home.

During the second trimester, some of the most visible changes in your body involve your skin. Most are a normal part of pregnancy. Still, it’s important to know what these changes can look like, how to keep your skin healthy, and when to talk to your doctor.

Common skin changes in pregnancy

Here are some of the more common skin changes in the second trimester:

  • Breast changes: For many, the areola, or the skin surrounding the nipple, gets darker. This helps your baby find your nipple for breastfeeding. Your areola may lighten again a few months after you give birth.
  • Brown patches (chloasma): These dark spots are caused by pregnancy hormones. Sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy,” they may cover your nose, forehead, and cheeks. Wearing sunscreen that is at least SPF 15 can help keep these patches from getting even darker. You can also use makeup to even your skin tone. They’ll get lighter after you have your baby, and will eventually go away.
  • Linea nigra: This narrow, dark line runs from your belly button to your pubic bone. Not all pregnant people get this, but it’s more likely if you have dark hair or skin. It will fade or go away after your baby is born.
  • Red spots and spider veins: Small red spots or lines may appear on your face, neck, chest, arms, and hands. Pregnancy hormones cause tiny blood vessels to form in these areas. They are not dangerous and usually go away .
  • Red palms (palmar erythema): This condition is caused by the same hormones that cause red spots. It’s not dangerous, although it can be itchy . Using hand lotion can relieve the itch. Your palms will go back to normal after your pregnancy is over.
  • Stretch marks: As your baby grows, the skin over your belly stretches. The pulling on your skin can cause stretch marks to form. They can also appear on your breasts, buttocks, or thighs. The marks are lighter than your natural skin tone and can be pink, dark red, brown , or white. They might also itch.

There’s no way to avoid them, but you can use oils, creams, lotions, and oatmeal baths to help your skin feel better. These marks will not go away, but they will eventually fade to thin, silvery lines.

Rarely, some people develop an itchy red rash on the stomach, thighs, buttocks, and arms. This is called pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP). It usually only occurs during a first pregnancy. It’s not dangerous for you or your baby, and it typically disappears on its own after you give birth. Your doctor can tell you how to treat the itch.

Even more rare is a condition called cholestasis of pregnancy. If you have extreme itchiness to your palms of hands or soles of feet with NO rash, we recommend you contact us for evaluation as soon as possible.

Taking care of your skin

Help your skin look and feel good during pregnancy by following some simple tips:

  • Avoid drying soaps and skin products that contain alcohol.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Prevent varicose veins (swollen veins in your legs) by staying active, elevating your legs when sitting, and wearing support stockings.
  • Take lukewarm showers and baths since hot water can make itching worse.
  • Use a humidifier if you live in a dry climate.
  • Use oil-free moisturizer of at least SPF 15. This keeps your skin hydrated and protected from the sun. Storing your moisturizer in the fridge can help if you have itchy skin.
  • Wash your face daily with a gentle cleanser.

When to talk to your doctor

If you’re concerned about any skin changes, be sure to let your doctor know. Tell them about any itching that is severe and not going away, especially after your baby is born.

If you follow the package directions, over-the-counter rash treatments such as Benadryl and Hydrocortisone creams are safe to take during pregnancy. If you want to know the safety of any other medicated skin or rash treatments, contact your care team.

Overall, most changes in your skin during pregnancy are nothing to worry about. Understanding what to expect can help you notice when something’s off, so you can quickly bring it up with your doctor.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.