I still remember my first pregnancy like it was yesterday. It was an exciting time and I felt buoyant, like I was off to an amazing new school where I'd heard whispers passed down the halls about how a pregnant woman’s skin would be ‘glowy’ and her hair would grow so voluminously it’d give Rapunzel a run for her money. Honestly, I couldn’t wait, until reality hit me...
You see, I fell pregnant, and rather than take on the glowy skin I was promised, my face reverted back to my fourteen-year-old self and I started breaking out – everywhere. Not to mention how sensitive I became to every product I had been using for years. What was happening! However, now I know that the way my skin changed during my first pregnancy was completely normal and in fact, renowned Sydney facialist Jocelyn Petroni says pregnancy acne can be a common condition for women to experience when growing their baby and is something that mainly occurs due to the increase in hormone production during this special time. “This surge of hormones results in an excessive production of oil that can clog pores, leading to excess bacteria and breakouts,” Jocelyn tells me, and warns “the first and third trimesters seem to be most ‘pimple prone’ stages.” So at least we know it’s not forever. Ironically though, Jocelyn adds that “the fluctuations in hormones during pregnancy is also what gives your skin the ‘pregnancy glow’ – together with an increased blood flow.” Sarah McManus, Education Development and Compliance Coordinator at Advanced Skin Technology agrees and says that during pregnancy “some women may experience acne flare-ups on the face, whereas some women will break out on the back and chest. However, some women will develop oily skin, and others may not.” Therefore, whether you ‘glow’, or not could really be a luck of the draw. At least that’s how it felt in my experience. Prior to falling pregnant, I’d never really had bad skin, which is why I had no idea how to treat it – and why every product I owned seemed to be defunct. Jocelyn assures me this is completely ‘normal’ and many of her clients who have never had acne problems before feel like they’re going through puberty again!
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Pregnancy acne is directly correlated to how your individual body responds to pregnancy and something that Jocelyn says women who have experienced acne in the past should be wary of “especially if you have had a predisposition towards acne… because chances are it will flare up again during pregnancy.” Skin and nutrition expert Fiona Tuck adds that the food we’re eating could also be to blame and since I couldn’t really stomach anything that wasn’t white bread and butter during the first trimester, it makes sense. “If we are not getting enough nutrients during pregnancy it can affect the quality of the skin and whilst nutritional deficiencies are not the cause of acne, a deficiency in nutrients can worsen the quality of the skin which may include breakouts,” Fiona tells me. “Nutrients that are particularly important for healthy skin include healthy fats such as omega 3’s, zinc, iron and vitamin C. Stretch marks, purple marking on the skin and white flecks on the nails may be signs that your body is in need of more zinc.” Anyway, whether I blame food or merely my hormones for my bad skin during pregnancy, at least I now know there are two ways it can go when growing a human. Plus, if you too happen to fall pregnant and your glow goes MIA, there are actually easy ways to treat and manage your new skin type until your baby is born. Bear in mind, Sarah says we shouldn’t forget that “severe forms of acne that involve cysts, nodules and infection should be treated by a medical practitioner only.” If you’re suffering from pregnancy acne Jocelyn recommends avoiding any products with highly active or harsh ingredients that are contraindicated whilst being pregnant. For example, Retin-A, which normally is a commonly prescribed remedy for acne, is generally not advised for use during pregnancy (although it has not been proven unsafe). She also says we should “look for fruit acids such as lactic acid which will buffer away the surface dead skin cells that can block pores, and natural clays which are great for absorbing excess oil”. She recommends applying a clay mask every night for 20 minutes before bed (if of course you have the luxury of being pregnant with your first child and there’s no need to look after anybody else) and tells me “ylang-ylang is a great balancing essential oil to use, so your skin can still be richly nourished without the risk of breaking out.” Sarah adds “other ingredients that a woman can feel safe using include certain antioxidants, niacinamide, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc oxide, a sunscreen and mineral makeup.” Therefore, switching your skincare during this period might be all about being a little gentler with yourself and paying attention to ingredients. However, “drinking plenty of pure water to flush out toxins, refreshing your linen more frequently and treating yourself to regular facials,” Jocelyn says is also likely to help.