Mommy Skincare, Necessary Or Not?

As we all know, your body changes during pregnancy.  But not just your girth, hormonal changes cause all kinds of upheaval in your body’s chemistry.  No two women have the same experience, although there are a couple problems that almost every mother or mother-to-be groans about.
One of those universal mommy scars is stretch marks.  To some varying degree, every pregnant woman and new mother has had her fears about or battles with stretch marks.  They’ve become the physical representation for motherhood’s effects on our lives.  Really, they’re a body disfigurement brought on by pregnancy that you can’t always get rid of!  We have the right to paranoid about stretch marks then, don’t we?  Sorry… I’ll try to calm down.
So it’s no wonder that the number one skin care product for new mothers is stretch mark cream.  Every mommy gift basket or cute-sounding skin care line comes with Tummy Honey or Mommy Coddling Lotion.  The names on these things kind of crack me up, from DreamBelly to Baby Bump to Bag Balm.  There seem to be a million and one products whose sole purpose is removing these “pregnancy service stripes”.  (What an obnoxious term, right?)  So when I think about mommy skin care, stretch mark cream is the only thing that even remotely jumps to my mind.  Yes, I know that some people get more oily or dehydrated during pregnancy, but I always assumed that pregnant women could use normal products to deal with these issues.

Apparently, I’m all wrong, which isn’t all that surprising.  Little did I know, entire skin care lines are devoted to new and “seasoned” mothers.  I promise, I would not come up with that description on my own, it’s just how one company promoted their products, “for new and seasoned mothers”.  Ugh.  Apparently, mothers have a whole host of new beauty needs post-push.

So I decided to look into these motherhood essentials and see just what I was missing.  What terrible affliction did my pregnancy put on me that I haven’t been treating for all these years?  And just how different is all this from my normal product routine? Here’s how:

1. All Organic Products – The major claim for almost every motherhood skin care line out there is that they use all-natural, all-organic ingredients for their products.  Plenty of cosmetics and lotions have some questionable chemicals and no one knows how those might effect a fetus or a nursing mom.

Usefulness: In this case, I think it’s probably better to be safe than sorry.  All natural products are everywhere and comparatively priced to regular skincare lines, so there aren’t a whole lot of reasons to experiment.

Moms Only?: Plenty of skincare lines use only natural products, whether they’re geared towards mothers or not.

2. Nipple Cream- I guess you could call it nursing lotion, but Lansinoh just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?  Whatever you call it, nipple cream helps heal and protect during breastfeeding.  The most important part is to thoroughly wash before you nurse again, so your little one doesn’t get a mouthful.

Usefulness: Some mothers live by it, some don’t like bothering with it.  I used it right when I started nursing and was still getting used to the whole thing.  After a couple months, I didn’t really need it.

Moms Only?: More than anything else, this is a motherhood product.  If you can think of another reason to use this cream, please share it with me.  Really, I’m just curious.

3. Eye Brighteners – A new edition to the new mommy gift bags is eye brighteners.  This concealer-like cream goes under your eyes so that you can pretend you’ve had a full night’s rest.

Usefulness: I can see the appeal of eye brightners, especially when you’re just heading back to work.  The only thing worse than being up all night with a screaming infant is hearing that you look like you’ve been up all night with a screaming infant.

Moms Only?: I started using the stuff as a cocktail waitress who wanted to pretend that I was awake for my 8am classes.  I’m pretty sure it works for everyone.

4. Body Firming- Body firmers or sculptors come in oils, gels and lotions.  I think there are so many variations because no one actually knows what they do.  Most of them claim to enhance your skin’s elasticity, though I can’t find a whole lot of content on how they manage this.

Usefulness: Everyone’s post-preggo body is different in its own way.  I’m not sure that these things actually do anything besides hydrate, which is never a bad thing.  But if you eat right and stay active, your body will return to its happy, healthy, comfortable size.  I doubt this stuff does anything to change that.

Moms Only?: I’m pretty sure anyone who has a couple lbs to lose would be happy with some magic firming potion.  I just doubt it will do that much.

5. Foot Relief- This is actually just for preggos.  I was unaware this stuff existed while I was pregnant, so I enlisted the help of a friend to try it out.  Foot Relief cream is geared towards soothing swollen feet during pregnancy.

Usefulness: “Umm… it smelled nice.  And I enjoyed making my husband rub it into my feet, since I can’t really reach them.  I think maybe it’s just a ploy to make someone rub your feet for you.”

Moms Only?: The cream is geared towards women carrying lots of water weight from pregnancy.  But my tester thinks is basically just peppermint lotion.  And by the way, be careful letting anyone rub your feet during pregnancy.  There are certain pressure points, which when massaged send a woman into labor early, supposedly.  I have no idea if this is true or not, I just remember being screamed at for getting a pedicure.

Conclusion:  Most mommy gift baskets are just focused on helping new mothers relax and get some pampering in.  Lots of them have lotions and body scrubs just so that they can feel girly and pretty again.  I completely support these goals.  And if it’s a question of what to buy a new mother as a present, by all means check out some of the great ”New Mom Essentials” from Belli or Basq.  Then, offer to babysit for a couple hours so she actually uses all the great gifts you bought her, instead of shoving them under her sink.

But are these products specifically designed to help mothers with their challenging body transformation?  Not so much.  Even our signature stretch mark cream comes in handy when you’ve gained a couple lbs, no matter what the cause is.  In the end, I think these products are mostly our old standards, re-branded to make themselves seem necessary for new mothers.  So, if you’re still adjusting to a changed body, I’d say sit back and enjoy the ride.  Because none of those tubes contain the Benjamin Button formula.  Time won’t move backward and your body won’t forget that you made it carry around a humongous leech for ten months.  On the bright side, most moms are too busy to notice a couple stretch marks anyways.

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    • Megan

      I found the best thing for preventing stretch marks (okay, I only have one kid–but I have ZERO stretch marks) was insane hydration. I’d use Neutrogena sesame oil followed up with something like Cetaphil heavy cream or St. Ives 24-hour moisture. Twice a day.

      And I had two tubes of Lansinoh lanolin nipple stuff given to me, and I never really used it–well, not for its intended purpose, anyway. I found it works even better than Vaseline for moisturizing/repairing chapped hands and feet, and it’s a godsend for getting your heels ready for sandal weather. Rub on, put a sock over it, go to sleep…wake up with great skin.

    • Nessy

      I have stretch marks in the shape of a rising phoenix on my belly. Nothing really worked, so I’ve learned to embrace it as a sort of quirk.

      • Lindsay Cross

        A rising phoenix on your abdomen? This is definitely something to celebrate!

    • victoria

      when winter comes, and the new baby’s cheeks are all wind burned and red, lansinoh does the trick! it also works on cracked knuckles from washing hands too much…

    • Rose

      Regarding Pedicures: There is an acupressure point called Spleen 6 about four fingers above your inner anklebone that can speed up labour (and also provide pain relief, yay!), but I don’t think it can actually trigger labour if you’re not already in it. I say pedicure & foot-rub away!

    • Emma

      Hi! I’m not a mom, but I’m a doula. Most of these products are nice, but generally unnecessary- lotion will do the trick half the time for relieving tight skin or what have you. Nipple cream can be super awesome, though, for everything you might otherwise use Vaseline for- I know lots of moms who’ve used it for lip balm, for one thing. Also, all nipple creams should be completely safe for baby to get a mouthful of; they’re edible and completely nontoxic. Wipe it off if you want, don’t freak if you don’t.

      More importantly, do not believe the rumors about foot massage sending you into early labor. It’s completely false; even if acupressure could cause labor*, reflexologists are professionals and are providing a different service than either a skilled or unskilled masseuse. Getting a foot massage is worth way too much to give it up for an urban legend!

      * I have seen women try acupressure to induce labor and fail. Also, castor oil and spicy food are not as effective as, say, Pitocin.