Dr. Jason Rubin is the founding physician and medical director of Belli Skin Care. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine in 1997, Dr. Rubin completed an internship in Internal Medicine and residency in Family Practice. In 2002, he and his wife developed the Belli Pregnancy collection using an exclusive teratology screening process, which culls millions of published medical studies to weed out ingredients linked to birth defects. Today a board-certified family practitioner and member of the Teratology Society, Dr. Rubin oversees the formulation and safety screening of Belli's products.
As a trained expert in the unique needs of motherhood, Dr. Rubin writes a series of educational articles to enlighten women about caring for their own skin and that of their babies. Working with Belli Skin Care has given Dr. Rubin a deeper understanding of the efficacy claims and health hazards of modern cosmetics. Part One of our interview covered the health risks of various cosmetic ingredients. In Part Two, the doctor sheds light on some beauty treatments and lifestyle adjustments to address the unique bodily changes that accompany pregnancy.
What are your recommendations for dietary adjustments during pregnancy?
Avoid all alcohol during pregnancy. New research suggests that even small amounts of caffeine intake (2-3 cups per day) may be harmful. Eating fish gives you helpful omega-3 fatty acids, but some fish may contain high levels of mercury so avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish, and consider choosing canned chunk light tuna instead of albacore tuna. To prevent listeriosis (a harmful bacterial infection), make sure to wash all fruits and vegetables, avoid unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses, and thoroughly cook all of your meats.
The standard prenatal vitamin covers most of your micronutrient needs during pregnancy, but vegetarians should speak with their OB/Gyns and consider extra supplementation of iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
Are there any salon or spa procedures that should be avoided during pregnancy?
Avoid deep massage of the abdomen, but light effleurage strokes are fine. Avoid massaging directly over varicose veins or any swollen, tender, or red areas on the legs (which could be deep venous blood clots). Avoid facials or peels that contain salicylic acid or glycolic acid. Avoid hot tubs at high temperatures, or prolonged use of hot tubs at normal temperatures. Experts still disagree on this, but we recommend avoiding color dyes on the roots of your hair (though highlights and foil treatments are fine).
What ingredients are most effective at minimizing stretchmarks, and how do they work?
So far, only one published study (in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science) has shown the ability of topical ingredients to decrease the risk of stretchmarks during pregnancy. [Mallol J, Belda M, Costa D, Noval A, Sola M. Prophylaxis of Striae Gravidarum with a topical formulation. A double blind trial. International Journal of Cosmetic Science: 13 (51-57), 1991.]
The study looked at a combination of three ingredients-- Gotu Kola extract (stimulates fibroblasts to produce collagen), Vitamin E (anti-oxidant), and Collagen Hydrolysates (provides amino acids for protein synthesis). With daily application from the second month of pregnancy through delivery, the risk of stretchmarks decreased by 39%. The effect was particularly strong in women who had stretchmarks during puberty—their risk decreased by a full 90%. All three ingredients are featured in Belli’s Elasticity Belly Oil.
What sort of pigmentation changes do pregnant women experience, and how can they be treated?
The area around the nipples (areola) will darken during pregnancy, and a dark line (linea nigra) will usually extend from the belly button to the pubic area. Both of these are natural, unpreventable changes of pregnancy that will return to normal after delivery.
However, one cause of hyperpigmentation during pregnancy is completely preventable. In 70% of women, the hormones estrogen and progesterone cause the pigment-producing cells of the face (melanocytes) to become hypersensitive to sunlight. This results in dark, brown splotches on the forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin known as chloasma, melasma, or “the mask of pregnancy.” You can prevent chloasma by avoiding sun exposure and by using a broad spectrum sunscreen (SPF 25 or greater) each day. Belli’s Anti-Chloasma Facial Sunscreen SPF-25 features zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which offer long-lasting protection against UVA and UVB rays.
Chloasma fades away in most women after delivery but it persists in 30% of cases, often requiring dermatologist treatments with skin lighteners or chemical peels.
What causes the dark under-eye circles so common to sleep-deprived new mothers?
The thin skin underneath your eyes has many small veins and capillaries. When you are tired or dehydrated, these blood vessels can dilate and become engorged with blood, resulting in dark circles and a swollen, puffy appearance under the eyes. Some extra melanin pigment may also be released. Dark circles can happen any time during your life but are very common after childbirth, when you are waking every few hours to feed or care for your new baby. Allergies and illnesses can cause dark circles too.
The best way to prevent dark circles is to drink plenty of water and get plenty of sleep, if possible. Topical Vitamin K (phytonadione) has been shown in several published research articles to help improve dark under-eye circles. Clinical studies also support the Vitamin PP's ability (derived from Saccharomyces Cerevisiae yeast) to increase microcirculation and reduce the appearance of dark circles. Belli’s Eye Brightening Cream features both of these ingredients.
What is your single most important piece of advice for keeping both skin and body healthy?
Regular use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen is probably the single best thing you can do for the health of your skin and body. It prevents premature aging of the skin (fine lines, wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, scaly patches), and also protects against certain types of skin cancer.