Ah, that healthy glow — who doesn’t look better with one? But you’re wise to eschew tanning beds, booths, and sunbathing during pregnancy (and frankly, anytime). Exposure to UV rays can cause premature aging and skin cancer, so play it safe and protect your skin. As for self-tanners, or sunless tanners, the jury’s still out on whether they’re safe to use during pregnancy.
Whether you’re with child or not, exposure to the sun puts you at risk for premature aging and malignant melanoma (skin cancer). The following information will help you think through tanning in a bed, on the beach, or with help from a bottle.
In a Bed: There are no studies that provide conclusive evidence that tanning beds directly harm your baby. However, the following are some ways that tanning beds can be harmful to you. While there are no studies that state conclusively that tanning beds can harm the baby, most doctors will tell mothers-to-be that any activity that raises the body temperature or overheats (including saunas, hot tubs, and tanning beds – body temperature in pregnant women is not recommended to exceed 102 degrees) have been connected to spinal malformations in newborns.
Some studies also link UV rays and folic acid deficiency. Folic acid prevents neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, and is especially important in the first trimester. During pregnancy, your skin is more susceptible to burning and chlosma, the dark splotches that appear on the face during pregnancy. Speak to your health care provider about the safety of tanning beds during pregnancy. There are additional studies that link UV rays to deficiencies in folic acid, which prevents neural tube defects and is especially important during the first three months of pregnancy.
On the Beach: Many of the concerns about beach sun are the same as tanning beds. Pregnancy makes your skin more sensitive so the sun may cause hives, heat rash or worsened chloasma. Staying in the shade should prevent hives or heat rash. The same safety measures should be taken in the sun whether you are pregnant or not: drink plenty of water, use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, and wear a hat. If you feel dizzy, nauseated or tired go to an air conditioned area. Long hours in the sun that result in burning should be avoided.
From a Bottle: This may be the best option if you are pregnant. Avoiding UV rays will ensure healthier skin and less chance of skin cancer, hives or worsened chloasma. There are so many different kinds of sunless tanning lotions, creams, and foams that have very good results. Many of the new varieties have minimal odor and provide immediate color.
The only concern is whether the active ingredient, dihydroxyacetone (DHA), is able to penetrate the skin. Studies do not confirm that it can, but some health care providers encourage women to wait until after the first trimester, just to play it safe. DHA has been used in cosmetics since 1960 and no problems have been reported. Even if you have used sunless tanners before, try a patch of skin first. Your skin may be more sensitive and irritable during pregnancy.
Remember: To keep yourself safe when spending those hot summer days out of doors, take cover and retire to shady areas whenever possible.
Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water each day (more even, you are drinking for two now!).
Use a sunscreen of block with at least an SPF of 30 and reapply frequently – one application a day is not going to cut it.
Invest in a cute sun hat, and big fashionable sunglasses. If all else fails and you feel the heat starting to get to you causing dizziness or nausea, find somewhere air-conditioned and relax for a while.
Be kind to your body during this exciting time – it is in the middle of an amazing process!
If you simply can’t stand the sight of those pale legs (if you can still see them, that is) consider a light dusting of bronzing powder instead. Here’s to a radiant pregnancy!