Dry and itchy skin during pregnancy


eMediNexus    03 April 2018

Itch is relatively common during pregnancy and can lead to substantial distress in pregnant women.1 Eczema is the commonest dermatosis in pregnancy. Only 20-40% of patients have been reported to have a pre-existing history of eczema. The remaining develop symptoms for the first time during pregnancy.2 Atopic eczema is responsible for a significant proportion of itchy dermatoses in pregnancy.1 If not treated adequately, atopic eczema can heighten the risk for complications, such as bacterial superinfection with S. aureus or eczema herpeticum.1

Restoring barrier function is integral to the management of eczema and reduces the need for specific therapy.1 Emollients have particular significance in eczema management in all patients. Tepid baths, using emollients, and avoiding soap can potentially reduce barrier disruption.2 Emollients are moisturizers that make the skin soft and supple.3 Humectants such as lactate, urea, and glycerin are molecules that attract water, thus contributing to water retention within skin.3

Cocoa butter is an excellent emollient. It is an effective moisturizer and skin softener.4 Cocoa butter and glycerine have been recognized by the FDA as having skin protective properties.3 Cocoa and cocoa products are rich sources of phytocompounds that have nutritional and therapeutic significance. Cocoa components have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory activities that have a potential role in the maintenance of skin health.5

In an evaluation of a moisturizing cream with glycerin, its cream base without glycerin as placebo, or a cream with 4% urea and 4% sodium chloride for patients with atopic dermatitis, skin reactions such as smarting (a sharp local superficial sensation) were experienced significantly less among patients using the glycerin cream compared with the urea-saline cream. A glycerin containing preparation was found to be a suitable alternative to urea/sodium chloride in the treatment of atopic dry skin.6

A topical preparation with cocoa butter and glycerine is a potential product to soothe dry itchy skin during pregnancy. The preparation can restore barrier function and lock in moisture making the skin soft and supple.


  1. Schnopp C, Ring J. Atopic Eczema and Itch in Pregnancy: Therapeutic Considerations. Current Dermatology Reports 2012;1(4):203–8.
  2. Weatherhead S, Robson SC, Reynolds NJ. Eczema in pregnancy. BMJ. 2007 Jul 21; 335(7611): 152–154.
  3. Correa MCM, Nebus J. Management of Patients with Atopic Dermatitis: The Role of Emollient Therapy. Dermatol Res Pract. 2012; 2012: 836931.
  4. In: The Green Pharmacy Anti-Aging Prescriptions: Herbs, Foods, and Natural Formulas to keep You Young Anti-aging prescriptions. Duke JA (ed.).
  5. Scapagnini G, Davinelli S, Di Renzo L, et al. Cocoa Bioactive Compounds: Significance and Potential for the Maintenance of Skin Health. Nutrients. 2014 Aug; 6(8): 3202–3213.
  6. Lodén M, Andersson AC, Anderson C, et al. A double-blind study comparing the effect of glycerin and urea on dry, eczematous skin in atopic patients. Acta Derm Venereol. 2002;82(1):45-7.

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