We’ve all heard of the glow that comes with pregnancy. That beautiful, radiant skin that makes every expecting mother look positively ethereal.

But for some women, they experience pregnancy acne – a skin breakout that’s caused by hormonal changes. While some women may find that their acne improves during pregnancy, others may experience an increase in breakouts.

The story of Kit Hondrum has intrigued us – a 35 year-old mother who claimed pregnancy cured her acne. While we know that hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause all sorts of physical transformations, we were curious to learn more about the medical aspects of how these changes might impact the skin.

Our curiosity was piqued, so we sought answers from the experts at Sunway Medical Centre: Dr. Felix Yap Boon Bin, a dermatologist, and Dr. Sharmina Kamal Binti Shamsul Kamal, a gynaecologist.

We wanted to know if there was any scientific evidence to support the idea that pregnancy can cure acne, or if there were other factors at play. Their insights were enlightening and shed some light on this fascinating topic.

Pregnancy cures acne: may be a myth!

Dr. Sharmina notes that acne can take on different forms in women, varying from a persistent chronic condition to hormonal breakouts that come and go or occasional flare-ups. However, “the idea that pregnancy cures acne is often a myth” she added on.

Every pregnancy is different, and changes in acne that occur during one pregnancy may not be the same in subsequent pregnancies. While some women may notice a temporary improvement in their acne during pregnancy, this is not always the case.

In fact, some may experience a flare-up or worsening of acne due to an increase in androgens during pregnancy, which can lead to more sebum production, contributing to oily skin and blocked pores.

Therefore, it’s essential to understand the unique nature of one’s acne and its underlying causes to identify the most effective treatment approach. With this knowledge, individuals can take proactive steps towards improving their skin health and achieving clearer, smoother skin.

Is it possible for pregnancy to be a miracle cure for acne-prone skin?

Dermatologist says: Pregnancy can either improve or worsen acne. It is common for the skin to glow and be luminous during the second and third trimester of pregnancy leading to flawless skin.

However, according to research by Dreno et al. (2014), the study found that acne can be seen in 43% of pregnant women with those affected tending to have inflammatory acne that may extend to the trunk and worsen during the second and third trimesters.

Can the improvement in acne during pregnancy be considered a one-time event for some or is it a common occurrence?

Dermatologist says: Acne occurrence during pregnancy is not well-studied, but it’s been observed that those with pre-existing acne may experience a mild flare-up during early pregnancy, which tends to clear up during later pregnancy, leading to significant improvement.

However, women with no prior history of acne may also experience acne flare-ups during pregnancy, with the condition potentially worsening during the later stages of pregnancy.

According to a recent review by Ly et al. (2023), potential risk factors for severe acne during pregnancy include young age (<25 years), first pregnancy, irregular menstruation, polycystic ovarian syndrome, high maternal weight, low foetal weight, and female baby.

Have you ever seen a patient whose acne cleared up during pregnancy, but returned post-pregnancy?

Dermatologist says: As a matter of fact, yes! I have observed that some of my patients tend to have the most beautiful and radiant skin during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

However, after delivery, some women may experience a mild flare-up of their acne, while others may see a complete clearance of their skin condition.

Although the factors leading to these changes are not entirely clear, it’s possible that they are related to hormonal fluctuations and variations in skin oil production.

Managing acne during pregnancy

When it comes to treating acne during pregnancy, it’s important to take care of your skin regardless of your skin type or tone. Both dermatologist and gynaecologists recommended using gentle cleansers and toners to cleanse your face, along with anti-acne products containing ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, niacinamide, or fruit acids.

Dr. Sharmina general advice to manage acne well during pregnancy includes:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Moisturise regularly
  • Maintain good hygiene
  • Use mild skincare products
  • And avoiding picking at acne scars

While there is no clear scientific evidence to support the efficacy of alternative or complementary treatments for acne, some expectant mothers may opt to use mineral supplements like zinc, botanical treatments such as basil oil and green tea, or antimicrobial peptides as an adjunct to their prescribed acne treatment.

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of these treatments has yet to be fully researched or established.

What natural remedies or lifestyle changes that can help improve skin during pregnancy?

Dermatologist says: To help manage acne during pregnancy, it’s important to reduce the intake of high glycemic index foods and oily foods, and increase water consumption. Plus, adequate sleep is also crucial in maintaining healthy skin.

Talk to your doctors for advice

Gynaecologist & Dermatologist – Sunway Medical Centre

Both doctors emphasise that every pregnancy is different and that many skin changes occur during pregnancy.

During pregnancy, the increase in progesterone levels in the later stages can lead to a rise in oil production, which can result in radiant, glowing skin for some women.

However, for others, the excess sebum production may exacerbate pre-existing acne, leading to a flare-up. Similarly, the increase in oestrogen levels during pregnancy can lead to higher vascularity and blood volume, resulting in red, plump skin on the face.

So, it’s vital to discuss any potential risks associated with acne treatments during pregnancy with your doctor to ensure the health of both the mother and the developing foetus, especially if you’re using medications like tretinoin, as certain treatments may not be safe during pregnancy.