Ever heard the saying, “There is nothing more beautiful than a pregnant woman”? Glowing skin, fuller curves, luscious hair – these are just several of the visible benefits. And not having to endure monthly periods is nothing to scoff at!

However, pregnancy is not a bed of roses. More than 50 percent of women will develop streaks across their belly and breasts, especially during the third trimester. Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent stretch marks. No magic lotion, cream or salve can do that, according to clinical professors of dermatology at the Tulane University Schozol of Medicine.

Stretch marks are caused by the stretching of skin, so it’ll make sense that the more elastic your skin, the less prone it is to stretch mark formation. This means that if your mum had stretch marks, there’s a higher chance that you’ll develop them during pregnancy. Complexion matters, too. Pinkish stretch marks tend to develop on a lighter complexion, while darker-skinned women typically develop stretch marks that are several shades lighter than their skin tone.

The good news is, these stretch marks will fade over time, typically after six months of delivery. The pigmentation of stretch marks tend to fade to a lighter, silvery color. Thankfully, there are many steps that can be taken to reduce the number of stretch marks, make your skin look smoother and toned, and to soothe the itchiness that sometimes develops. Here are 4 skin-saving tips for pregnant mummies, so let’s jump right into it.

1. Moisturize Your Skin Regularly

Moisturizing should be a part of your daily beauty routine – just extend it to the stretch mark prone areas of your body! Choose toxin-free belly butter or oils to promote elasticity and hydration to your skin. There are some creams that are touted to be able to prevent stretch mark formation through collagen stimulation, but take those with a pinch of salt – many are not the miracle creams that they are made out to be.

Instead, look out for creams and oils that contain Vitamin E, almond or grape extract. These are considered safe for pregnancy use. Avoid products with salicylic acid, urea or retinoid; these are not meant for pregnancy use.

In fact, the typical oils, creams and body lotions will work just fine, and if anything, will help to reduce dryness and itching. Besides, it’s a great excuse to get a daily belly rub from your partner!

2.  Regular Exfoliation

Exfoliation is the process of removing the oldest dead skin cells on the skin’s outermost surface. Engaging in exfoliation 2 – 3 times a week during the early stage of pregnancy can help to stimulate cell activity in your fibroblasts, which are the skin cells supporting the structure of your skin. The result? More collagen and elastin production, granting your skin more elasticity.

Apply a moisturizing shower cream on a bath puff, and gently rub in a circular motion on stretch mark prone areas – your lower belly, hips, breasts and buttocks. Regular exfoliation also keeps your skin looking its best, but avoid more than 3 times a week as this can result in drying effects.

3.  Healthy Skin Food

Beauty is not just skin deep, and the food you take will influence your skin nourishment. Include lots of Vitamin A, C and E in your diet, and dine on foods rich in anti-oxidants. These powerfoods have anti-inflammatory properties, and create a barrier in your body to reduce free radical formation in your skin, helping to maintain its elasticity and firmness.

Food high in fats have also been shown to improve skin elasticity. Choose and consume healthier oils such as olive, canola and peanut based ones for beneficial effects to your skin.

4.  Watch that Weighing Scale

It’s easier to get carried away by feasting on whatever’s in sight during your pregnancy, but hold your horses, girl! Preggy women need more calories, that’s true, but it doesn’t justify doubling or even tripling your recommended calorie intake. Rapid weight gain will increase your likelihood of stretch mark development, since your skin has a shorter amount of time to adjust to the stretching effects.

Keep your cravings at bay as much as possible, and engage in low impact exercise regularly to improve blood circulation, such as yoga and pilates. These activities will help you maintain a positive mental state and attitude during your pregnancy.

All that said and done, stretch marks aren’t all that bad; some women even embrace it as a badge of honor that only a mum can have. New curves, new shape and new skin, these are what makes a mother so much more beautiful.

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