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Home > Learn > Pregnancy > >Combatting Dry Skin During Pregnancy

Combatting Dry Skin During Pregnancy

May 10, 23 9 min

By OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

If you’re experiencing dry skin or lips during pregnancy, you’re not alone. Skin changes are common during pregnancy and can include dry skin, dark spots, stretch marks, acne, spider veins, and more. [1] Fortunately, most skin conditions are likely to improve after giving birth, and there are some options to remedy dry or cracked skin from home.  

The importance of healthy skin

Our skin is extremely important for our overall health and comfort. Skin has a very important role in protecting us from the outside world. Skin acts as a barrier, only allowing certain things to pass through while attempting to block germs, toxins, and chemicals from getting into the body. [2] Dry or unhealthy skin can lead to cracks and fissures, increasing the risk of an infection and causing inflammation and pain. The skin is also very important during pregnancy, especially because the growing body is constantly stretching the skin and relying on the protective skin barrier to keep toxins out. [2]

What causes dry skin during pregnancy?

Pregnancy causes a lot of bodily changes, including changes to the skin. It’s been reported that up to 90% of pregnant women will experience some kind of significant change in their skin. [3] Skin conditions may be caused by pregnancy or postpartum directly or could be pre-existing issues worsened by pregnancy. Let’s take a closer look at what causes dry skin during pregnancy.


If you are experiencing dry or itchy skin during pregnancy, dehydration may be to blame. Pregnant people are at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated due to increased fluid loss and a higher demand for water. [4] Nausea and vomiting, commonly referred to as morning sickness, is seen in up to 80% of pregnant people and causes a high amount of fluid loss. [5] It’s also common to see an increase in breathing rate and sweating during pregnancy, both of which contribute to fluid loss. [4] It’s recommended that pregnant people drink eight to twelve cups of water every day to make up for fluid loss and support healthy hydration levels. [6] Read What Helps with Hydration During Pregnancy? 

Blood volume and water retention

Blood volume also increases during pregnancy in order to support a healthy baby and may play a role in dehydration. When blood volume increases, the kidneys may need to work harder and cause more frequent urination. [7] Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy can also have a direct effect on water balance in the body and play a role in hair and skin changes. [1,4] Water retention also increases during pregnancy, which may stretch the skin and contribute to dry or itchy skin. [8]

Skin conditions

If not correlated with fluid loss and water intake, there are some skin conditions that may be pre-existing or arise during pregnancy that can cause dry or cracked skin. For example, eczema may already be present prior to pregnancy, but up to 80% of cases seen during pregnancy occurred in people with no history of eczema. [9] Eczema is a fairly broad term for irritated or inflamed skin. Most types of eczema cause dry, itchy skin or rashes. These rashes are commonly inside the elbows, behind the knees, or on the hands and feet. Another condition seen during pregnancy is prurigo, a rash that causes itchy bumps on the skin. Prurigo is seen in about one in 300 pregnancies and may be tied to the increase in blood volume, allergies, or changes in the immune system. [3,10] Stretch marks from pregnancy can also become dry or itchy. In some cases, a rash known as pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) can develop in stretch marks and spread elsewhere on the body. PUPPP is harmless but can be very uncomfortable. [1] Find out how to treat itchy stretch marks → 

Underlying conditions

It’s also important to keep in mind that dehydration and dry skin could be side effects of an underlying condition. Some potential causes include anemia, gestational diabetes, or hyperemesis gravidarum, which is extreme morning sickness. [11-13] Be sure to check in with your healthcare provider so they can rule out any underlying conditions. 

Pregnancy Products for Dry Skin and Self Care

How to Relieve Dry Skin and Lips During Pregnancy

If you are experiencing skin dryness during pregnancy, you may be happy to hear that many skin issues will begin to resolve in the postpartum period. If you’re still early on in your pregnancy, here are some tips for relieving dry or itchy skin and lips. 

Drink more water

Boosting your hydration may help relieve dry skin and lips. You can support hydration levels by increasing the amount of water you’re drinking and eating and increasing your electrolyte balance. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends drinking up to twelve cups of water a day during pregnancy. [6] This helps your body flush out toxins, move around nutrients, and can improve skin hydration. Adding in electrolyte drink mixes that include hyaluronic acid, magnesium, and other minerals can also support hydration and fluid balance. [14-15]

Change your shower routine

It may sound strange, but water and temperature have been shown to impact the skin barrier. Prolonged showers or baths, especially with hot water, may actually damage the skin and lead to it feeling more dry. [16] When you can, limit the amount of time you spend in the water and avoid using hot water.

Hydrate the skin

Not only can drinking more water hydrate the body from the inside out, but using lotions and other products on the skin can help relieve dry, itchy, or flaking skin and trap in moisture. Be sure to use pregnancy-safe lotions that include ingredients such as shea butter, grape seed oil, argan oil, and more. [17] There is also a lot of research surrounding coconut oil for pregnancy as it can support skin elasticity and hydration while promoting antimicrobial properties. [18] Belly Oil is full of nourishing, pregnancy-safe ingredients and Nip & Lip Balm can double as a remedy for chapped lips and cracked nipples from breastfeeding.  

Wear sunscreen

If you’re suffering from dry skin already, a sunburn is the last thing you need. Make sure you’re wearing sunscreen if you’re going to be out in the sun for a while, as SPF can protect your skin from burning and drying out further. Stick to pregnancy-safe sunscreens approved by your healthcare provider and keep an eye out for chemicals to avoid, such as [19-22]: 

  • Octyl methoxycinnamate or ‘octinoxate’
  • Benzophenone
  • Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA) 

Use a humidifier

Keeping the air moisturized may also help you feel less dried out. Try using a humidifier in your room at night or close to you during the day. Some research even suggests that using a humidifier can improve skin barrier function. [23]

What to look out for

If you’re consistently bleeding, itching, or notice a rash developing on your skin, you should speak to a healthcare provider to rule out any serious conditions or allergic reactions. They may also be able to recommend or prescribe a pregnancy-safe product to help with any itching or discomfort. Always proceed with caution and get approval from a healthcare professional before trying out any new products on your skin. 

Important takeaways

  • Skin plays a very important role in the body by protecting us from germs, sunlight, chemicals, and more. 
  • Dry skin can lead to cracks or bleeding, potentially increasing the risk of infection. 
  • Pregnancy hormones fluctuate and blood volume and water retention increase, which can all play a role in dry skin. 
  • Dehydration may also be the cause of your dry skin.
  • Skin conditions such as eczema can appear during pregnancy, even if you didn’t have issues with your skin prior to getting pregnant. This can cause dry, cracked, or otherwise uncomfortable problems with the skin.
  • Drinking more water and supporting electrolyte balance may be beneficial for hydrating your skin.
  • Keeping the skin hydrated and protected with pregnancy-safe moisturizers, sunscreen, humidifiers, and lukewarm showers may also help combat dry skin. 
  • Always speak to your doctor about any symptoms or issues you’re facing during pregnancy, especially if you notice signs of a fever, rash, or excessive itching. 



  1. Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. July 2022. URL

  2. Kanwar AJ. Skin barrier function. Indian J Med Res. 2018;147(1):117-118. doi:10.4103/0971-5916.232013

  3. Kar S, Krishnan A, Shivkumar PV. Pregnancy and skin. J Obstet Gynaecol India. 2012;62(3):268-275. doi:10.1007/s13224-012-0179-z

  4. Zhang N, Zhang F, Chen S, et al. Associations between hydration state and pregnancy complications, maternal-infant outcomes: protocol of a prospective observational cohort study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2020;20(1):82. Published 2020 Feb 7. doi:10.1186/s12884-020-2765-x

  5. Noel M. Lee, Sumona Saha. Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America. Volume 40, Issue 2, 2011. Pages 309-334. ISSN 0889-8553.

  6. How much water should I drink during pregnancy? American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. October 2020. URL

  7. Soma-Pillay P, Nelson-Piercy C, Tolppanen H, Mebazaa A. Physiological changes in pregnancy. Cardiovasc J Afr. 2016;27(2):89-94. doi:10.5830/CVJA-2016-021

  8. M. D. Lindheimer, W. M. Barron, and J. M. Davison. Osmoregulation of thirst and vasopressin release in pregnancy. American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology 1989 257:2, F159-F169

  9. Weatherhead S, Robson SC, Reynolds NJ. Eczema in pregnancy. BMJ. 2007;335(7611):152-154. doi:10.1136/bmj.39227.671227.AE

  10. Prurigo of Pregnancy. Cleveland Clinic. April 1 2022. URL

  11. Gestational diabetes. National Health Service. December 8 2022. URL

  12. Jennings LK, Mahdy H. Hyperemesis Gravidarum. [Updated 2022 Sep 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

  13. Anemia During Pregnancy. Cleveland Clinic. May 26 2022. URL

  14. Baker LB, Jeukendrup AE. Optimal composition of fluid-replacement beverages. Compr Physiol. 2014;4(2):575-620. doi:10.1002/cphy.c130014

  15. Hyaluronic Acid. Cleveland Clinic. May 04 2022. URL

  16. Herrero-Fernandez M, Montero-Vilchez T, Diaz-Calvillo P, Romera-Vilchez M, Buendia-Eisman A, Arias-Santiago S. Impact of Water Exposure and Temperature Changes on Skin Barrier Function. J Clin Med. 2022;11(2):298. Published 2022 Jan 7. doi:10.3390/jcm11020298

  17. Ahmed M, Hwang JH, Choi S, Han D. Safety classification of herbal medicines used among pregnant women in Asian countries: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017;17(1):489. Published 2017 Nov 14. doi:10.1186/s12906-017-1995-6

  18. Varma SR, Sivaprakasam TO, Arumugam I, et al. In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil. J Tradit Complement Med. 2018;9(1):5-14. Published 2018 Jan 17. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2017.06.012

  19. Ethanolamine Compounds (MEA, DEA, TEA And Others). Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Accessed April 2023. URL

  20. Octyl methoxycinnamate. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Accessed April 2023. URL.

  21. Benzophenone. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Accessed April 2023. URL.

  22. Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA). Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Accessed April 2023. URL

  23. Nishimura N, Inoue S, Yokoyama K, Iwase S. Effect of spraying of fine water particles on facial skin moisture and viscoelasticity in adult women. Skin Res Technol. 2019;25(3):294-298. doi:10.1111/srt.12648

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