Pregnant women are renowned and praised for their beautiful “pregnancy glow”. Far less glamorous and yet just as deserving of attention are conditions like stretch marks, pruritic urticarial pustules and plaques of pregnancy, and melasma, which frequently appear in pregnant women(American Family Physician). While science has yet to uncover an infallible treatment for many of these conditions, there are a series of preventative steps that can alleviate their appearance and brighten your pregnancy glow.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Although pregnancy-induced stretch marks (striae gravidarum) can be found in 50% – 90% of pregnant women, science has yet to yield a robust treatment for preventing their appearance (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews). Skin is a relatively elastic organ that is able to expand and contract in accordance with daily activities and exercises. When the body experiences significant growth, as with pregnancy, the skin is unable to expand quickly enough and results in stretch marks. A second, albeit controversial and contested, source of pregnancy stretch marks is a change in hormone levels. The theory is that varying levels of hormones during pregnancy cause the skin to retain too much water, thereby weakening skin’s collagen fibers and making skin more susceptible to stretch marks (American Pregnancy Association). Some also believe that like adrenocortical hormones and estrogen may weaken collagen fibers’ adhesivity (American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology).
Furthermore, a study from the Journal of American Obstetrics and Gynecology found that a family history of striae gravidarum put women at a high risk of developing stretch marks than those without a family history of the condition, and also found that younger women were more likely to develop stretch marks than older pregnant women. (American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology). A 2004 study from the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology also found that women with high body mass indices (BMI) and women who give birth to large babies may be more prone to developing stretch marks.
What Causes Melasma?
Sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy” or “chloasma”, melasma is most frequently found in Asian and Hispanic populations and pregnant women. The condition is characterized by brown and gray discolored patches that appear on frequently sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the face, neck, arms and torso (Indian Journal of Dermatology). The patches typically form as one of three configurations: centrofacial pattern, in which patterns appear on the cheeks, nose, chin and forehead; malar pattern , with melasma patches on the cheeks and nose; and the mandibular pattern, with discolorations along the jawline.
Melasma patches form when the skin overproduces melanin, or dark skin pigments, though its precise source has yet to be uncovered. Melasma is frequently linked to excessive sun exposure, pregnancy, changes in hormones levels, estrogen progesterone therapy, oral contraceptives, and genetics (Indian Journal of Dermatology, American Academy of Dermatology). Melasma typically fades after decreasing one’s UV exposure and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, though persistent instances of melasma may require hyperpigmentation-treating ingredients, such as hydroquinone or ascorbic acid( Cosmetic Dermatology, Indian Journal of Dermatology).
What Causes Pruritic Urticarial Pustules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPP)
Pruritic Urticarial Pustules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPP) are found approximately in 1 in 200 pregnant women. The condition is characterized by 1-2mm erythematous, inflamed plaques (dry, slightly raised lesions) and pustules that typically start on one’s abdomen and then progress along the body (Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, Annals of Dermatology)). Typically found in primigravidas (women who are pregnant for the first time) or women carrying multiple children, PUPPP characteristically appears in the third trimester of pregnancy. PUPPP frequently disappears within a week after giving birth, and seldom reappears in future pregnancy (Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, Annals of Dermatology)
It is thought that changes in hormones or dramatic stretching of the stomach area may contribute to PUPPP’s formation, though there is little scientific evidence to support either of these theories and the condition’s origin remains unknown. It has also been postulated that women who gain significant amounts of weight during pregnancy, women with high body mass indices, or women carrying large babies are more susceptible to developing PUPPP, although these causes are still under debate (Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, Cutaneous Lymphoid Proliferations: A Comprehensive Textbook of Lymphocytic Infiltrates of the Skin)
HowAminoGenesis Products Can Help
For the sake of your health and that of your child, you should consult with your physician before adopting any new products during your pregnancy or while nursing.
Although we have yet to find any clinical trials testing topical amino acids’ effects on stretch marks, amino acids’ aptitude for boosting collagen product may repair stretch marks. For example, our AminoGenesis Cocoon moisturizer contains the amino acid L-isoleucine, which has been linked to increased protein production and skin tissue repair, whereas L-lysine both have been linked to improved collagen production (Minerva Pediatrica, Journal of Peptide Science). For added benefit, AminoGenesis Cocoon also contains the peptide Preventhelia, which products against both carbon and oxidative free radical specifies (which can facilitate signs of premature aging) and slows premature protein degradation (Lipotec)
As for melasma, the AminoGenesis Really, Really Clean Cleanser, AminoGenesis Paranormal EFX Anti Aging Serum and AminoGensis Cocoon employ L-isoleucine, L-leucine and L-alanine to inhibit melanin pigment production in melanoma cells (Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin). Our Paranormal EFX Serum also employs tremella mushroom extract, which was demonstrated in one study to inhibit melanin pigment formation by 57.9%(U.S Patent 20060222608). Additionally, we offer a broad-spectrum cream – the AminoGenesis Wrinkle Arrest Anti Aging Day Cream – that protects against damaged UV rays that can contribute to increased melanin production and skin cancer and exacerbate existing dispigmentation.
When treating PUPPP, it is best to use a combination or topical or oral corticosteroids (prescribed by a physician) and a topical emollient which can lock in moisture (Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health). Aside from using utilizing hydrating and collagen production-inducing amino acids like L-lysine and L-isoleuncine, our AminoGenesis Cocoon also contains the hydrating silicone dimethicone. Dimethicone forms a protective, hydrating layer over the skin whereas the latter two silicones create a conditioning lattice structure over the skin (Environmental Working Group Skin Deep).
Those looking to soothe persistent dry patches may also wish to use the AminoGenesis Paranormal EFX Ant-Aging Serum, which employs the hydrating tremella mushroom extract and PA Reviviscence. Tremella mushroom extract was found to increase skin water content by 35-65%, whereas PA Reviviscence – derived from hardy “resurrection plant” myrothamnus flabefollia – simultaneously moistures skin while protecting against UV damage and shock from extreme weather conditions(U.S Patent 20060222608, BASF)
While pregnancy is a beautiful event in a woman’s life, it can bring amount some painful and unsightly skin conditions, such as melasma, stretch marks, and pruritic urticarial pustules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP).
Melasma, the “mark of pregnancy” frequently appears in Hispanic and Asian women and those who are pregnant, though the condition can appear in any ethnicity or gender. Melasma is characterized by patches of dispigmentation on the neck, face, torso and arms. Though the condition frequently disappears after reducing one’s UV exposure, a melanin-inhibiting extract such as tremella mushroom extract( found in the AminoGenesis Paranormal EFX Anti Aging Seurm) or the melanogenesis-inihibiting amino acids L-leucine, L-isoleunce, and L-alanine (found in AminoGenesis Cocoon and AminoGenesis Really, Really Clean Cleanser). To treat PUPPP, one should employ a hydrating solution, such as the ultra-moisturizing AminoGenesis Cocoon, in addition to physician-prescribed corticosteroids. Unfortunately, there is no fool-proof remedy to preventing stretch marks. However, our collagen production-boosting amino acids found in our products may help to repair damaged and weakened skin tissue.