How Motherhood Wreaks Havoc on Your Face — & How to Help

Most moms will tell you: Self-care totally takes a back seat to all of the other obligations on our seemingly endless to-do lists. But when it comes to mom skin (yes, it’s a thing), neglect can lead to so many negative outcomes: earlier signs of aging, dryness and dullness, not to mention even scarier stuff like melanoma.  

Dr. Shereene Idriss, a.k.a. the “Pillow Talk Dermatologist,” gives her patients (and Instagram followers) straight talk about skincare. Her top tip for moms in particular? To prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to products. That means using the right products, specifically what she calls her two “star essentials” — sunscreen (to protect from sun damage, duh) and retinols (to reverse signs of aging). 

Motherhood takes over your life faster than you can blink, and with that, moms tend to overlook themselves and forget about their basic needs,” Idriss tells SheKnows. “I advise younger women to set a skincare routine early in life — one that you will adhere to because it works for you. This way, when motherhood is in your cards, the [skincare] habit is already created and harder to break. Additionally, with motherhood comes slight (or severe) sleep deprivation. Make sure you are hydrating adequately, as dehydration can result in lackluster skin.   

To prove her points, Dr. Idriss agreed share with us her close look at the skincare routines — and the faces — of three very different moms. Read on for her recommendations.  

Michal

Michal mom skin
Image: Courtesy of Ronnie Koenig.

Age 40 

Occupation: Software developer 

Children: One preschooler 

Skin care routine:

I dont use any skin care products on my face, and I hardly ever use anything on my body. Im also not loyal to any specific brand, so if I need something on occasion, I just use whatevers around. I shower every day and use just regular soap on my body, and dont actually use soap on my face most days — only occasionally, if Ive got something on my face. I rarely wear makeup, but when I do its just some lip tint, some mascara, and maybe a bit of blush. I wash that off in the shower with soap. Sometimes I put on lip balm, if my lips are feeling dry. Sometimes in winter, I use hand cream… On rare occasions, if my legs feel dry and itchy in winter, I put moisturizing cream on them and then they feel better.  I do try to stay out of the sun or use strong sunscreen when I do go out. Sadly, I dont always remember, and I sometimes find myself in the sun for a while without protection. But I try to avoid this or to seek shade when I realize it is accidentally happening. 

Dr. Idriss Says… 

Michal, Michal, MichalHer skincare routineor lack thereof, may have worked for her in her 20s, but her skin is going to suffer in her 40s and onwards. It is a myth to believe that you do not need to cleanse your skin at night if you don’t wear makeup. Environmental stressors and toxins build up throughout the day, and you owe it yourself to rid your skin of that build-up, allowing your skin the best chances to heal and regenerate. Also, I always advise my patients to use sunscreen daily, rain or shine, in or out, as good habits are hard to break — and this one in particular won’t ever leave your skin without the protection it needs. 

Ronnie

Ronnie-Mom-Skin
Image: Courtesy of Ronnie Koenig.

Age: 44 

Occupation: Writer 

Children: 7year-old boy/girl twins 

Skin care routine: “I wash my face with water in the morning, and Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser at night to remove makeup. I moisturize twice a day — with Neutrogena oil-free moisture with SPF 15 in the morning and Olay Regenerist at night. I also apply sunscreen on my face and body pretty religiously, and wear hats on very sunny days. I would like to do more to stop the aging I see on my face, but Im not sure where to begin. The lines on my forehead and looser-looking skin on my neck are an issue! I recently started using a neck cream from S*O*L. I tend to feel dry and always keep Aquaphor or lipstick on my lips. I dont tan and I dont want freckles, so I avoid the sun. 

Dr. Idriss Says… 

I applaud Ronnie for the effort she is making to help herself out. I’m especially proud that she uses sunscreen daily and even goes the extra mile to wear protective gear such as a hat. I would recommend that she amps up her game and double the SPF in her moisturizer to at least a 30. I mean, if youre taking the time to apply it, you might as well go big or go home. Also, she is motivated to do more for herself, so I would suggest she start by incorporating a retinol to her nighttime routine, as it will help build collagen and even out her fine lines in the long run. She could even use it on her neck, as this seems to be her problem area.  

Nicola

Nicola mom skin
Image: Courtesy of Ronnie Koenig.

Age: 40 

Occupation: Writer & stylist 

Children: Two boys, ages 9 years and 3 months 

Skin care routine: I’m hooked on HeyDay; I use their cleanser, sometimes a toner (actually it’s a coconut water spray), moisturizer morning and night, eye gel morning and night, exfoliant once a week, and do a mask once a week. In the winter, I add carrot seed oil to my moisturizer or use it alone. I like the routine, and I like knowing whats good for my particular skin; previously, I used what I had or what I accumulated along the way, and this feels much more purposeful — plus I try to use all or mostly organic. I love…getting a facial once a month and having someone checking in with me about if Im getting too dry or whatever. It feels like a luxury. I should also add that Ive always been lucky with good skin; my mom has good skin, so Im hoping Ive got her genesBut I definitely notice when I go out of town and forget my products or I run out and don’t have them for a while — I notice my skin looks older, drier and not as fresh-looking. So the reality is its probably a combo of the skin youre born with and the routine/products you use. 

Dr. Idriss Says… 

Nicola seems to have the most wellrounded approach, although she did not mention a daily sunscreen…rookie mistake… She uses a moisturizer and an eye cream twice a day, cleanses daily, exfoliates once a week, and masks once a week. I would suggest she incorporates an antioxidant daily, such as a vitamin C serum, into her routine rather than just mask once a week. Additionally, I am generally not a fan of scrub exfoliators as the scrub beads can vary in size. The bigger the beads, the more abrasive the scrubs are, and this could indirectly lead to scarring. Unless your scrub is super-fine, I would recommend switching to a chemical exfoliant such as glycolic acid.    

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