Feeling more yourself after pregnancy with healthy skin can help to ease the post-birth transition as a whole, which is why The SABI’s co-founders Hilary Metcalfe and Anna Cave-Bigley decided to break down all things postpartum skincare. Read on for answers to core questions that dive into the why and how of your postpartum skin.
What happens to our skin after pregnancy?
Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum are the ride of a lifetime in terms of hormonal changes and the potential for a skin imbalance. If you got through pregnancy and birth comfortably, it’s likely that breastfeeding, postpartum recovery, or the upheaval of your sleep schedule (and possibly diet) will take a toll on your skin (and hair!).
Postpartum women experience what is known as “the big drop.” That’s where our hormones plummet to menopausal levels in a matter of weeks after birth. It can throw you for an emotional loop, but also may come with skin repercussions due to the rapid fall in oestrogen –– which is our supple-skin-helper hormone –– and whilst progesterone struggles to rebalance.
What are the common impacts of hormonal fluctuations (e.g. breakouts, dry skin, pigmentation etc.)?
Common skin changes on the face or body include the following, in rough order of prevalence:
- Stretch marks
- Dark spots and the pregnancy “mask” (which typically fades)
- Acne and breakouts
- Varicose veins, especially on the legs and around knees, thighs, and ankles
- Dryness, in patches or generally
- Sensitivity, e.g. to sunlight or products you used previously without issue
Due to a disrupted sleep schedule and subsequent stress hormones (like cortisol), you may notice accelerated ageing and dullness in your skin, too. Some of this is reparable and will rebalance as you help your body and hormones along in recovery, but some changes may be permanent or require more help from a dermatologist, gut specialist (since gut dysbiosis often accompanies hormone imbalance), a specialised hormone-attuned nutritionist, or functional medicine doctor. Oh, the joys!
In the case of stretch marks and varicose veins, progesterone and oestrogen are usually the cause. High progesterone can lead to thinner, weaker skin that is more likely to tear and stretch, leaving marks behind. And with acne, it’s about an imbalance of testosterone and androgen (male hormones) leading to breakouts. When it comes to dermatitis, dryness, and eczema, the cause may relate to the inflammatory response of birth, which affects our immune system and may disturb our communities of gut bacteria and balance, or the dermal microbiome.
Is it possible to balance hormones with skincare / other treatment?
Depending on what you’re experiencing, absolutely! Wherever possible, we prefer to rebalance hormones naturally with herbal remedies, such as our Mama Recover Herbata. Anna made use of this one during her second postpartum trajectory –– it supported her significantly during the hormonal dips. It contains lady’s mantle and raspberry leaf, which have been used for centuries for hormonal rebalancing, uterine toning, and hormone-related/postpartum skin changes due to its high levels of antioxidants, which help to protect the skin and reduce inflammation, which is natural after an event as intense as giving birth.
For shot nerves and sleep support (which can also hinder our skin), we created our Calming Infusion with oat straw and nettles, which are both anti-inflammatory, nervous-system-supportive, and aromatherapeutic.
For dark spots, stretch marks, and premature ageing, you can turn to a product containing retinoids, vitamin C or (preferably all-natural) hyaluronic acid, natural collagen and elastane support peptides and compounds. Our Prebiotic Body Cream and skin-firming and brightening Active Nutrient Serum are great options that lean on natural marine compounds of seaweed, algae and fermentation for superior, all-natural ageing, texture, tone, and pigmentation support. If your skin is still not improving after a few months of using products like these, though, laser resurfacing may be a next step. However, it’s best to get in touch with a qualified dermatologist or aesthetician specialising in your concern to explore those options –– sometimes pigmentation resolves on its own as the hormones rebalance, or you may not be a candidate for such treatment. However, other options may be available based on your skin type and issue.
With acne, dermatitis, and flare-ups, supporting gut health from the inside naturally with a good probiotic or naturally probiotic-rich foods like kombucha, yoghurt, and kefir can likely help. This is especially true if you’ve just had an infection or surgery and needed antibiotics. Likewise, it can help to incorporate natural anti-inflammatory supplements and herbs into your routine, such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D3 (with K2 combined for best absorption). Supporting your stress hormones with an adaptogen like Ashwagandha or with soothing herbs like chamomile, stinging nettles, and oat straw, can really help, too –– and these soothing herbs are active in the our Calming Infusion’s concentrated formulation.
What can be done to minimise postpartum skin troubles and look our best after birth?
Lifestyle can play a significant role in balancing our hormones. The SABI is grounded in five core principles to guide our lifestyle choices:
1. Prioritise essential self-care. As much as our culture, schedules, and even our own habits may tend to put mums last, we have to do what we can to put ourselves first so we can show up healthy and strong for our own wellbeing and the tough job that is motherhood.
Giving birth is a heroic mission, and a mum’s body needs tender love and care in order to be ready to take on each day. It’s worth it to guard your go-to self-care rituals, even if they’re only part of your day for a few minutes. Rituals keep you sane and grounded, and when a mum gives back to herself, she’s also supporting her children and family from a place of calm and strength.
When she’s feeling exhausted and heading into a meeting, Anna’s pick-me-up routine involves reaching for the Reviving Face & Space Mist. It ensures glowy skin and an instant sense of rejuvenation. A spritz, a deep breath, a centred thought, and she's ready to go.
2. Opt for all natural, gentler products and clean up your skincare. Many of us have used home and personal care products containing harmful EDCs (or endocrine disrupting chemicals) without even knowing, but they’re worth putting effort in to avoid –– EDCs have been cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) as triggers of hormonal imbalance, menstrual cycle disruption, erectile dysfunction, sperm issues, skin issues, and more.
Hilary is obsessed with all-natural skincare that’s gentle and supports the skin’s microbiome and hormone balancing. The SABI as a whole believes in skincare as a key player in the mum’s recovery journey through offering OBGYN-approved herbal remedies to balance hormones and encourage healing.
3. Support sound sleep. Our skin shows how tired we are through dullness, accelerated ageing, and puffiness (from poor lymphatic drainage and reduced immune function, which can also contribute to acne and other challenges with our skin). It’s hard to maintain a great sleep schedule as a new parent, which is why we want the sleep you do get to be of great quality. A cup of our Calming Infusion, increased magnesium intake 30 minutes before bed, and adopting a sacred, screen-free winding down period are great ways to ensure deep sleep.
4. Eat well and hydrate. While it’s something you’ve likely heard again and again, proper hydration is key and helps to flush out the body and run smoothly. Additionally, a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of good fats, colourful fruits and veggies, and whole, unprocessed foods is set to support you in feeling like yourself again, relieving the hormonal burden of postpartum life. Junk foods will likely make you feel as they sound –– like junk.
5. Your version of family. Family can look a lot of different ways and may include loved ones who you’re not blood-related to, but who you choose. Being checked in on and surrounded by family and trusted loved ones may help you to destress, and thus helps to balance your hormones. Much like the baby we are looking after, we shouldn’t discredit how much our emotional and nervous system depends on real, empathetic connection to regulate and feel supported. Not feeling supported (especially at around the 2-3 and 6-8 months postpartum period) is one of the key challenges women experienced in the conditions that led to clinical postpartum depression and contributed to higher risk.
In an increasingly siloed world, an important step in your post-birth plan is to ask for help when you need it –– not just in the early weeks, but in the months and years that follow, as far out as the first 1,000 days. Who can you lean on when you need it most? Who feels like home? Make clear, loving requests for the support you need.
All in all, the SABI places mama at the centre, and talking about postpartum skin challenges is driven by just that. For more of our thoughts, support, and resources, we’ve built up our Conscious Collective as a safe and honest space where our co-founders share their personal experiences and lessons, and where we feature articles from medical experts and other wise women, too. We’re here for you –– and your postpartum skin.
HORMONAL & PROUD
Created as a brand to help women navigate the toughest moments in pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum — and practically every stage of life –– The SABI aims to change the narrative around our hormones from one of taboo, embarrassment, and loneliness to awareness and pride. As more than a wellness brand, The SABI offers a carefully-crafted line of products to carry you through your hormonal journey, including rituals, supportive tools, and ancient herbal remedies that have been tested time and time again by women and now come backed by medicine. The SABI is a blend of science and nature conceived by women who have experienced the joys and deep struggles of bringing a child into the world, the pains of a heavy, difficult period, miscarriage, and difficulty conceiving.
We offer you an invitation to get to know your body and its cycles better –– an invitation to really understand what is going on inside. Learn to use your hormonal cycle to your advantage no matter your stage of life, and know that you can support and balance your hormone levels. Look for the right sources of information. Know that there is help, and know that you’re supported.
The SABI blog and articles are not meant to instruct or advise on medical or health conditions, but to inform. The information and opinions presented here do not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals for your unique situation.