Skin Nerd: Is it safe to use retinol during pregnancy and other readers' questions answered

From pregnancy concerns to dark circles and ingrown hairs, our resident skincare guru offers expert advice
Skin Nerd: Is it safe to use retinol during pregnancy and other readers' questions answered

When trying new skincare products, always patch test the product first to ensure that it doesn’t cause any irritation.

After weeks of exams, nothing gets rid of my dark circles — what can I do?

Whilst tiredness can make dark circles worse, the root of the cause is likely to be one of the following: sun exposure, the thickness of the skin under the eye, genetics and/or pigment. There are some things you can do to lessen the appearance of dark circles slightly, but unfortunately topical skincare will not completely remove them. So, what can you do? One option is to try a serum containing retinyl palmitate. An ester or fat form of vitamin A, it can assist in thickening the thin skin around the orbital bone, so that the blood pooling underneath the eyes isn’t as noticeable. An eye cream or serum containing caffeine can also boost the blood flow underneath the skin to prevent blood from pooling and brighten any dark areas. If the root of the problem is pigment-related, be extra vigilant in your use of SPF to avoid UV exposure adding to the darkness of your undereye area. Look for products with brightening ingredients including vitamin C, peptides and liquorice root extract to counteract the darkness. You could also consider using a jade roller to massage the under-eye area and assist with lymphatic drainage.

Help! I have an ingrown hair and don’t know what to do!

Ingrown hairs are caused after employing hair removal methods such as shaving and occur when the hair grows downwards or sideways back into the skin and gets trapped. They are usually harmless but keep your hands off as scratching excessively can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and infection as a result of bacteria entering the pore. Regular exfoliation can help to prevent the formation of ingrown hairs. Try a salicylic acid-based cleanser the day before waxing or shaving because salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (which exfoliates the skin, removes dead skin cells, and prevents hair follicles from getting clogged). For the ingrown hairs you already have, use a product with an alpha-hydroxy acid to remove dead skin cells and release the trapped hair. Wearing loose clothing can help you to avoid irritating the skin further and coat the skin in a rich body cream to soothe and hydrate it.

My skin is quite sensitive — does this mean I have to avoid exfoliating altogether?

No, but be cautious about the type of products you use and take care not to overdo it. Exfoliating acids are more suitable for sensitive skin types than traditional scrubs as they are more respectful to the delicate skin barrier. Exfoliating acids are alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) and polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) which work by dissolving the “glue” otherwise known as desmosomes, which keep dead skin cells attached to each other. Whilst each type has its pros and cons, mandelic acid is a good one to try if you have sensitive skin as it has a larger molecular size than other AHAs and therefore is less able to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin and cause irritation. Always patch test the product first to ensure that it doesn’t cause any irritation and then stick to using it once a week at the beginning to acclimatise your skin. You can then increase the usage to 2 or 3 times a week.

I’ve got a tiny skincare budget — which products are really necessary in a daily regime?

Many of us are looking for ways to stretch our budget at the moment, but never fear— skincare doesn’t have to involve 10+ steps and countless products to deliver great results. The two non-negotiables in any regime are a nourishing cleanser and a SPF. These do not have to be pricey products to be effective and there are a wide range of good budget options on the market. The only rules here are to make sure they work for your skin goals and that you use them as instructed. A hydrating, antioxidant-rich serum is a great addition for boosting the health of your skin and addressing accelerated ageing. As serums tend to be the most potent and active ingredient packed of all daily use skincare products, this should be where most of your budget goes. However, if you look for an ocular-tested formula (meaning it has been tested and is safe to use around the eye area) you also remove the need to spend more money on an eye cream.

I have been using retinol for years but am now expecting a baby — what is a pregnancy-safe alternative?

Congratulations! Vitamin A is one of the ingredients we recommend avoiding during pregnancy but there are some great alternatives to help keep your skin looking fresh while carrying your little hooman. Peptides are chains of amino acids that boost collagen production for firmer skin. Deemed safe to use during pregnancy, you can find these in serums and moisturisers such as Herbivore’s Moon Fruit 1% Bakuchiol + Peptides Retinol Alternative Serum. Plant-derived bakuchiol is another option that has been found to be as effective as retinol for decreasing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.* 

Although research has found bakuchiol to cause less irritation than retinol,** studies surrounding the use of bakuchiol during pregnancy are still in their infancy, so check with your GP or dermatologist if you are unsure.

The Nerdie Pick

From an anti-bacterial and inflammatory perspective, the sooner you treat a blocked pore, the less likely it is to develop into a spot. For this reason, prioritise preventative skincare to help you to keep your skin as clear as possible. A product that is great for this task is Triacine Control Cream. Part of the Citrine Derma Range, Triacine is a smoothing and exfoliating lotion that is enriched with salicylic acid and niacinamide to mop up excess oil, reduce congestion and clear the pores of any dirt and debris. Also containing retinyl palmitate, Triacine can help to improve skin tone and fade the appearance of any existing spots and marks left after a blemish. As always, but particularly alongside salicylic acid, remember to be diligent with your use of SPF when using this product.

  • Triacine Control, €19.95,

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