15 best pregnancy skincare heroes: From face masks and body oils to stretch mark creams

From hyperpigmentation busters to soothing lotions for sensitive skin, add these to your basket pronto

Stephanie Cavagnaro
Thursday 29 April 2021 12:17
<p>This is the ultimate list of hardworking skincare heroes that provide complete pre-baby pampering</p>

This is the ultimate list of hardworking skincare heroes that provide complete pre-baby pampering

Hormones are pregnancy’s little helpers, but can also be cunning culprits for a crowd of side effects. That elusive ‘pregnancy glow’ might seem a cruel joke when extra-sensitive skin is prone to texture changes, hyperpigmentation, breakouts and redness flare-ups. “In addition to hormone changes, nutrients are being drawn from you to the baby,” explains Joanne Evans, skincare specialist and director of wellness clinic Skin Matters. “Skin can become more oily, more dry or sensitive to your normal routine.”

You won’t have to overhaul your beauty cupboard, but harsh ingredients will need to be replaced with more gentle formulas. “The main ingredient to stop is vitamin A or retinol, while some essential oils can irritate the skin,” Joanne advises. “Glycolic, mandlic and salicylic acids should also be avoided. It’s all about soothing and calming, so a lot of active ingredients have to be removed.”

If in doubt, go au naturel – this is the time to ditch synthetic fragrances and preservatives in favour of products that care for sensitive skin and won’t cause harm to the growing baby. If you aren’t using one already, add a daily SPF to your routine given there’s an increased sensitivity to sunlight and hormone surges that can trigger melasma (dark spots and patches).

Other staples are simple cleansers, stretch mark oils and a hydrating emollient for skin conditions that can worsen in pregnancy like eczema and rosacea. Joanne also recommends “body brushing at home and using good oils or creams to keep supple, helping to reduce stretch marks and stay hydrated. Include a lot of antioxidants, plus masks – my favourite all-rounder is a clay mask.”

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We’ve lathered and layered on a whole collection of pregnancy-safe skincare products – many organic, natural and dermatologically tested – to find the best on the shelves. This is the ultimate list of hardworking skincare heroes that provide complete pre-baby pampering.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Weleda skin food 30ml

Inside this little green tube is an all-purpose skin saviour. Tried-and-treasured since 1926, Skin Food is Weleda’s natural answer to dry, rough patches. The Swiss company hasn’t veered far from its beginnings as a pharmaceutical laboratory and plant garden with its range of field-to-shelf cosmetics. Sitting somewhere between a balm and moisturiser, the texture is thick and heavy, but it feels immediately healing on pregnancy eczema flare-ups. It combines a rich base of pure plant oils and beeswax with extracts of gentle pansy, calendula and chamomile – and has even been shown to increase moisture by over 17 per cent in 28 days. It’s helped heal angry areas of dry, itchy and red skin – an intensive redeemer that’s nourished and restored a healthy barrier at an affordable price.

REN Skincare clearcalm clarifying clay cleanser

When the co-founder’s wife reacted to her staple beauty products in pregnancy and found little “safe skincare” on the shelves, REN Clean Skincare was born. The London-based brand still formulates all products to be suitable for sensitive skin – a maternity magic bullet. Its purifying clay cleanser is among the most gentle and earthy-smelling products we’ve tested with rich kaolin clay, willow bark to minimise pores and mayblossom extract for clear skin. Ditch the bottles of stripping and drying varieties; this non-foaming alternative instead feels immediately soothing and intensely hydrating. It has a lush creamy consistency and is silky to apply, which is a surprise given it’s still a powerful acne-fighter and can calm pregnancy predicaments like redness and inflammation. And if that isn’t enough, it doubles as a ten-minute mask when needed to mattify and nourish skin without drying it out.

de Mamiel pregnancy oil

Blended in small batches in Hertfordshire, de Mamiel’s heady collection of potions are designed to treat stressed skin – and prenatal preoccupations can bring plenty. Formulated for pregnancy, this silky facial oil packs in powerful botanicals like borge, calendula and amaranth to help restore the skin’s barrier function, boost collagen and enhance elasticity. Open the little black box secured with a blue ribbon to find instructions on the bottle inviting a meditative slowing down: “Pause a moment, cup hands… inhale deeply”. Heady (but not overwhelming) scents of frankincense, patchouli, rosehip and rosemary are zen-inducing. It absorbs quickly without an oily or sticky aftermath. It’s a small bottle for the price tag, but if you have the cash, this is a gorgeous aromatherapy pause that brightens hormonal skin.

Mama Mio pregnancy boob tube

A gold mine for maternity, Mama Mio’s products are packed with pregnancy-safe actives. Its 97 per cent natural bust cream is a sore mama’s hero due to soothing ingredients like cabbage leaf extract, aloe vera, shea butter and vitamin E. It also smells uplifting with light citrusy scents of orange, bergamot and may chang. Along with super-hydrating squalene, the light-textured cream also helps protect against stretch marks due to omega-rich avocado, inchi and argan oils. And it will last beyond pregnancy: it’s dermatologically tested and safe for use while breastfeeding, which should help soothe stubborn milk blocks or mastitis. After just a few weeks of use, we’ve noticed skin that’s more firm and supple.

Neal’s Yard remedies mothers bath oil 100ml

Arriving in a sapphire blue glass bottle, mothers bath oil from Neal’s Yard feels like it’s selected from an apothecary, a nod to the company’s Covent Garden beginnings. Its products are now handcrafted at an eco-factory in Dorset using organic and ethically sourced essential oils, herbs and botanicals. Plus, the brand even has a whole mother and baby care line with gentle and natural ingredients.

This bath oil indulgently cares for skin: a tablespoon under a warm tap works magic. Hot baths can be drying, but these waters are transformed with healing and vitamin-rich olive, sweet almond and apricot kernel oils. The aroma of bergamot, lavender and ylang-ylang is relaxingly subtle, which is a benefit as potent scents can often overwhelm while pregnant. We emerged dewy, lightly oiled and moisturised without any nasty irritation. We’ll be using this oil long after the baby arrives.

Aesop sublime replenishing night masque

This is the secret behind beauty sleep – it’s a rich overnight redeemer enhanced with vitamins B, C, E and F. From beloved Aussie brand Aesop, the night masque is light and creamy, woody-scented and soaks in quickly on application. It comes in an amber glass tub, which you have to slip fingers into given there’s no wand. Smoothing it in immediately feels like a gulp of water, providing a supple solution to sleepy, dry skin. In the morning, we woke fresh-faced and glowing – even after a night of drying central heating and dreaded pregnancy insomnia. It’s a pricey little tub, but a small blueberry-sized dollop goes a long way.

The Organic Pharmacy cellular protection sunscreen SPF 50

Homeopathic, organic, natural: the shelves of The Organic Pharmacy are full of impressive formulas. It even stocks an organic line of mother and baby products using delicate ingredients like calendula and chamomile. The British beauty brand was co-founded by pharmacist and homeopath Margo Marrone, who champions the benefit of toxic-free skincare on our general wellbeing.

The brand’s reef-safe, mineral-based cellular protection sunscreen is not only a highly protective broad-spectrum SPF50 to shield against UVA and UVB rays, but it packs in hydrating helpers like shea butter, aloe, marigold and rosehip. It’s so effective it’s clinically proven to increase skin’s moisture by 18 per cent after 28 days of use. The scent is lightly floral and the consistency is thicker than most sunscreens, so it can be a little heavy on very hot days. It rubs in balm-like without oily residue or white cast (a plus for a mineral sunblock), but it takes a minute or two to spread and blend evenly. This is a staple chemical-free SPF for sun-sensitive skin in pregnancy – it’s so gentle, it can even be shared with baby.

Mum & You just a minute sixty second face mask

This clay-based mask is a steal at just under £15 – it packs in antioxidant ingredients and works surprisingly fast. The concept was developed for time-poor mamas by a brand dedicated to supporting babies and mothers with everything from pregnancy-safe skincare to biodegradable wipes. The 98.5 per cent natural, midwife-approved sixty second face mask uses toxin-absorbing bentonite clay and daikon radish, which helps reduce blemishes and age spots. It arrives in a glass jar and recycled box and immediately has a calming earthy scent. It’s smooth with a grainy texture, which can double as post-mask scrub. Though it’s touted as a one minute miracle worker, we found that wasn’t quite long enough, but the fast-acting formula was dry within five minutes. Many clay masks can be stubborn to remove, but this one is effortless and reveals noticeably soft, calmed and moisturised skin without any tightness.

Pai the gemini pomegranate & pumpkin seed 2-step stretch mark system

Given that London-based Pai’s ethos is effective organic skincare, it’s no wonder there’s a huge range of maternity-safe products. Its pregnancy perfect skincare collection includes formulas that treat concerns like melasma and are free from ingredients that could be harmful to your baby’s development. Online skincare advisors can even recommend the best products based on trimester.

An easy win for stretch mark prevention is “the gemini”: a hydrating morning cream and omega-rich evening oil duo. These warriors help skin stretch without itching or scarring due to antioxidant-rich ingredients like pomegranate and pumpkin seed oils. They’re fragrance and essential oil-free, instead having a herbaceous, tea-like aroma. Fast and easy to apply, they absorb quickly without sticky leftovers and feel soothing on irritated skin. Both are needed for full benefit, so they’re only sold as a bundle – a potential drawback if you have a preference or use one more quickly. We’ve been lathering these on day and night with no sign of stretch marks; instead, tight skin feels more supple and elastic.

Bamford botanic nurture balm 60ml

Launched by the founder of Daylesford Organic Farm in the Cotswolds, Bamford brings conscious living full circle with a gorgeous range of ethical clothing, homeware and natural body care. In addition to a soothing baby skincare range, it also offers serums, cleansers and scrubs with active botanicals and natural ingredients. Our pregnancy favourite is the botanic nurture balm, a 100 per cent organic healing emollient made in England. It’s free from petrolatum and mineral oils, and so soothing it can even be used on allergy or eczema-prone skin. The white potion arrives in a little glass green jar, packed with omega-rich rosehip oil, shea butter and healing arnica Montana extract. While applying the thick balm, there are subtle, comforting notes of chamomile, lavender and tea tree. It sinks in well, but does leave behind a light buttery layer, so can be too heavy for the face and hands. This is a therapeutic redeemer for dry, sensitive skin.

Susanne Kaufmann moisturizing mask 50ml

This may be a mask, but we’ve been letting the magic happen all night. It can be applied for ten minutes twice a week or “used as an overnight cure”, which we’ve enthusiastically embraced. Susanne Kaufmann products are sustainably made in Austria using locally sourced Alpine flora and fine botanicals. Packed into this glass jar are delicate but powerful ingredients like beeswax, antioxidant-rich hazel seed oil, calming pansy extract and moisturising hyaluronic acid. A wand is available to lather on the velvety emollient, which gives an immediate hydrating kick. Its nourishing effects are amplified come morning: we wake with baby soft skin, soothed irritations and minimised wrinkles. This is a drink for thirsty skin, which will thank you with plump, dewy, luminous results – especially when used as a potent night cream.

La Roche-Posay toleriane sensitive creme

Accessible dermatological skincare from La Roche-Posay includes ranges tailored to allergic, sensitive and redness-prone skin, with many products gentle enough for babies. This delicate moisturiser in a small on-the-go tube suits all of the above, providing immediate hydration to dry areas while reducing irritation, tightness and itching after only a few days’ use. Fragrance and alcohol-free, a prebiotic formulation using thermal water helps rebalance the skin’s microbiome. It has a lightweight consistency, absorbing slick and quick without any greasy or sticky residue, which is a huge bonus for such a rich, anti-inflammatory cream. This easy daily moisturiser is one of the few wonder products that seem to have near-immediate healing properties – a one-stop-shop solution to soothe sensitive skin.

Wild Science Lab juice boost brightening serum

Wild Science Lab hit the bodycare scene following the co-founder’s struggle with pregnancy-related hair loss. In addition to a CBD-enriched hair range, the British company also has a collection of natural, botanical skin products. Packaging is memorable, with bundles arriving in colourful, reusable pull-tie bags and pastel pink and green containers. Infused with vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, moisturising betaine and organic aloe vera, this superhero serum gives a serious hydration boost with just 2-3 drops. It’s a tiny soldier, fighting against skin stressors that cause breakouts, fatigue and hyperpigmentation. We’ve noticed fine lines slowly fading after a few weeks, plus a more even and luminous skin tone and texture. It soaks in quickly, while a blend of six essential oils including grapefruit, orange and clementine give it an energising scent reminiscent of Italian lemon groves.

Esse hydro moisturiser

Our gut microbiome has had a lot of buzz recently, but our skin’s immune system needs TLC, too. This formula by South Africa-based organic and probiotic skin science brand Esse feeds the beneficial microbes that live on our skin to improve moisture retention, slow long term ageing and promote a healthy barrier. The moisturiser is an ideal pregnancy purchase – it’s 99 per cent natural, 78 per cent organic and has a whip-light texture of aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, probiotic extracts and prebiotic nutrients, including inulin. This is a great option to rebalance skin that has been accustomed to harsh products. After evening cleansing, a pea-sized dollop has been plenty to infuse skin with plump hydration. Plus, it has a dreamy botanical vanilla scent. After a few weeks, it’s reduced redness, irritation and fine lines.

Kiehl’s calendula herbal-extract toner

No astringent properties are allowed in this golden bottle. This alcohol-free toner has been a Kiehl’s staple since the 1960s and remains a pregnancy-safe, soothing way to cleanse sensitive skin of dirt and oil. Kiehl’s opened up shop as a homoeopathic pharmacy in New York City’s East Village back in 1851, and though the company has skyrocketed since, many of its products are still made with natural ingredients. You can even see them in this one: the toner is floating with calendula petals. It’s also formulated with comforting allantoin and great burdock root, which helps to reduce oil. Though it’s for combination to oily skin, we found it was refreshing even on dry skin and great for those stubborn redness-prone patches that can crop up in pregnancy. With subtle herbal tea aromas, it is as gentle as it smells, leaving the face well-cleansed, hydrated and soft.

The verdict: Pregnancy skincare

Weleda’s skin food moisturiser slides into first place due to its safe, soothing and natural healing properties at less than a tenner. A close second is the clearcalm clarifying clay cleanser by REN as it’s hardworking yet calming and doubles as a gentle ten-minute face mask. If you have pounds to spare, treat yourself to the heady de Mamiel pregnancy oil – we love it due to its skin repairing properties and transcending aromas.

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