Why do some people glow during pregnancy while others suffer acne?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We ask Anna Treier of Sense of Touch and Dr Rebecca Lau of Central Health to explain pregnancy related skin conditions.

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Does “pregnancy glow” exist?

Dr Rebecca Lau (RL) – There is, if you want to call it that! An increase in progesterone and HCG hormones can make the skin oilier, while increased blood volume and flow make the skin look more flushed. This increase can also make you sweat more, but I guess you will look dewy as an upside! Also, people tend to gain weight during pregnancy and a fuller face can add to the overall impression.

What is “mask of pregnancy?”Anna Treier (AT) – Mask of pregnancy, or melasma, is skin discoloration that consists of brown blotches or pigmentation, usually found on the cheeks, forehead and chin areas.

RL – The cause of melasma is complex. It is due to the interaction between genetic predisposition, sun exposure and, as for pregnancy, a hormonal trigger. If the melasma is due to pregnancy often it will regress over the following year. It may not completely disappear, though. Sun exposure or damage is the most important, avoidable risk factor.

Will I get stretch marks? RL – Striae, or stretch marks as they are more commonly known, are pink/purple lines which can appear – usually in the sixth or seventh month. The stretch marks are most prominent on the abdomen, breasts and thighs, but also on the lower back, buttocks/hips and upper arms. A strong genetic predisposition determines who will develop this.

Why am I itching?

RL – Up to 20 per cent of pregnant women will suffer with pruritis – itchy skin. If you scratch it can become dermatographism, which is common in the last half of pregnancy. If a rash is present it is usually dermatoses of pregnancy.

What is this dark line?

AT – Some women experience a dark vertical line running through the stomach area. This is referred to as the linea nigra.

RL– We don’t know exactly why it occurs, but the theory is that changing hormones stimulate melanocytes to produce more melanin, which triggers pigment deposition.

What are skin tags?

RL – Skin tags can appear or grow on the face, neck, chest, groin and below breasts, usually in the second half of pregnancy. They are caused by higher levels of growth factors present when pregnant and are harmless benign collections of collagen fibres and blood vessels in a thinned out epidermis that hang off the skin. They often regress after delivery.

Haven’t I outgrown acne?

AT – Hormones surge during pregnancy making acne quite common. Overproduction of oil in the skin can clog up pores and bacteria thrive, causing major breakouts. If you suffered from acne before pregnancy, then expect it to be worse during pregnancy. Keep skin clean at all times, including the hairline and scalp. Scalp and facial skin are the same; keep them both hygienic to minimise breakouts. Soap-free cleansers used morning and before going to bed will keep the skin clean and use an oil-free moisturiser to keep skin hydrated. Diet is another factor that can help keep acne at bay.

What advice would you offer regarding a pregnancy skin care routine?

AT – Use natural products. Pregnant women have more sensitive skin so try to use a non-fragranced skin care to minimise irritation. Wash the face day and night, apply toner to keep the pH balanced, your favourite serum and moisturiser and eye cream is all you need. A facial treatment once a month will give pregnant woman some relaxation and is beneficial for their skin.

Are there products that should be avoided?

AT – Here are some on the no-no list, especially if you are a fan of anti-ageing and acne products. Retinols, chemical peels and acid peels, hair removing lotions – best go for a professional waxing session in the spa, whitening products, teeth whitening sessions, tanning products, essential oils such as Chamomile, Camphor & Clary Sage, to name a few. It is best to consult your physician, though. If you wish to go for a massage after the first trimester, opt for just the base oil but if you wish to have some relaxing fragrance, lavender is safe to blend into these oils.

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