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Skin S.O.S.

Having a baby can wreak havoc on your skin. But there's no need for a full-body cover-up -- skin fixes are often safe and simple, says Ariel Ostad, M.D., clinical assistant professor in the department of dermatology at New York University Medical Center. Here are cures for common culprits.

Skin wrecker: Chloasma, the "mask of pregnancy" Solution: Ask your doctor for a prescription cream that combines tretinoin (Retin-A) with a bleaching cream containing hydroquinone. By decreasing the activity of the skin's pigment-producing cells, it'll help brown patches to fade when used for six to eight weeks. (Avoid it if you're breastfeeding, however; it's not known how much, if any, is passed on to your baby through breast milk.) Another option is a glycolic acid peel or treatment with a Fraxel laser, which removes discoloration without irritating the skin. Meanwhile, avoid the sun and use an SPF 30 sunscreen.

Skin wrecker: Skin tags, tiny pieces of excess skin Solution: If they're unsightly, you can see a dermatologist about having the tags removed. "It's easy to treat them -- we basically snip them off and cauterize the blood vessels," Dr. Ostad says.

Skin wrecker: Stretch marks Solution: Studies show tretinoin cream significantly reduces the appearance of stretch marks (again, steer clear if you're nursing). A series of six to eight laser treatments, done every three or four weeks, can also be effective, and it's okay to undergo them while breastfeeding. But don't waste your money on drugstore products, says Dr. Ostad. "I haven't seen any that work."

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