The Brightening Serum I Used to Safely Lighten My Pigmentation While I Was Pregnant

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Honestly, I feel like I have PTSD from the melasma I got during my first pregnancy. And the hormonal acne, but that's a story for another day.

You see, when I fell pregnant for the first time, I was pretty oblivious to the skin changes that can take place when growing a baby. All I’d ever heard about was ‘the pregnancy glow', but I'm sorry to break it to you... I'm 97 per cent sure 'the glow' doesn't exist. (It can for some, so there is a glimmer of hope!)

Pregnancy causes a number of changes in your skin due to fluctuations in hormones and blood flow. These can include anything from an increase in acne and developing varicose veins, to stretch marks, skin tags and, in my case, changes to skin pigment (and I’m talking all over your body).

Hyperpigmentation and melasma on the face are common in pregnancy, which would be fine if you were allowed to use all the active skincare ingredients to get rid of it while pregnant or breastfeeding. A cruel joke, I know.

If you're wondering how to treat hyperpigmentation and melasma safely during pregnancy, here's everything you need to know, including the pregnancy-safe serum I used to lighten my pregnancy pigmentation.

What Is Hyperpigmentation?

Firstly, here's a quick rundown of the terms you need to know:

Pigmentation refers to colouring of the skin and is generally caused by an excessive production of melanin (melanin is the natural pigment that gives our skin its colour).

Hyperpigmentation is a condition where areas of the skin become darker in colour compared to the skin that surrounds it, making the overall appearance of the skin look uneven and sun damaged.

Things like sun exposure, skin injuries and inflammation can trigger melanin production resulting in hyperpigmentation, but so can the changes in hormones you experience when growing a small human. This hormonal type of hyperpigmentation that appears during pregnancy is called melasma.

You can learn more about pigmentation and how to treat it in this episode of the Beauty IQ podcast below!

What Is Melasma?

You’ll know if you have melasma, also known as a 'pregnancy mask', because it tends to appear as dark brown patches on your face. The cheeks, forehead, upper lip and nose are the most common areas where you’ll find it.

And yes, because changes to hormones are one of the main culprits, melasma is super common during pregnancy. That said, in my experience as a dermal clinician, melasma does seem to occur a little more in darker skin types, or skin types that can tan easily.

Why Vitamin A (and Retinol) Aren’t Safe to Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding.

The best ways to treat melasma are with prescription medication (like prescription vitamin A) and/or combined with in-clinic treatments, both of which aren't recommended during pregnancy.

This is a bummer because vitamin A and all of its derivatives (including retinol and retinoids) aren't recommended as safe to use while pregnant, so if you know vitamin A usually helps treat your hyperpigmentation (me!), you'll need to avoid it.

This is because pharmaceutical levels of vitamin A have been proven to play a big role when it comes to your baby's development, and can cause deformities. Even though 'over the counter' levels of vitamin A might not be as strong as prescription vitamin A products, doctors tend to advise to avoid the ingredient completely.

But if your hyperpigmentation bothers you, it's not all bad news. There are ingredients you can use to treat your skin during pregnancy and while breastfeeding that aren't vitamin A.

In fact, there’s one serum I relied heavily on during my last pregnancy – and it’s still on high rotation now.

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My PCA Skin Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum Review.

Ladies and gents, please can I introduce you to the pregnancy-safe serum I used to treat my hyperpigmentation during pregnancy: PCA Skin Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum

*standing ovation*

This serum is amazing for treating hyperpigmentation, but it's also a winner if you suffer from skin sensitivity, redness or even acne during pregnancy. Actually, it’s good for everything.

What makes PCA Skin Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum so damn good, you ask? Well, it’s formulated with a high percentage of niacinamide (vitamin B3), which we all know can brighten and even the skin.

But it also contains mulberry extract, which is an incredible pigment-fighting ingredient. Mulberry extract is often compared to another beloved ingredient for treating hyperpigmentation, kojic acid, but comes with way less irritation.

Meaning ding, ding, ding... this product is very good for reactive, out of control pregnancy skin that hates everything.

PCA brightening serumPCA brightening serum

Lastly, I want to mention the inclusion of plankton extract. This lesser known ingredient is high in fatty acids, which are the building blocks of healthy skin cells.

In other words, apart from its brightening properties, this serum is also designed to help your skin look and feel healthy - which we all want.

Texture-wise, this product is non-irritating and a dream to apply (very important when you're pregnant and sensitive to smell and touch). The hydrating gel-like texture doesn't pill, sits amazingly well under makeup, and feels semi cooling and soothing on your skin. And a little goes a long way. Remember, you only need a pea-sized amount).

PCA Skin Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum will suit all skin types. Yes, even if you’re oily or are experiencing acne breakouts. However, I think the best thing about it is that you can use it morning or night and it combines well with all other ingredients. Nothing is off limits! (Except vitamin A because, pregnant. Ugh.)

Personally, I dealt with an increase in skin sensitivity when I was pregnant, so on days when my skin was feeling it, I applied this serum twice a day after cleansing and before moisturising.

The tube is expensive, but I got a good six months out of it, which is almost an entire pregnancy. Plus, I’m still using it now because I’ve never found a niacinamide serum that compares.

It might just be my holy grail product. The end.

Keen to learn more about niacinamide aka vitamin B3? Check out Joanna's helpful guide in this YouTube video below!