At Freia Aesthetics, we take pride in journeying with our customers through different life seasons, be it pre-teen, teens, marriage, trying to conceive, pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause and so on. This article shines the spotlight on skin changes for those who are trying to conceive and undergoing fertility treatments.
My personal journey
When I met my husband Harold, we were both 36. We got married at 37 and started trying to conceive right away even though skepticism filled my heart & rightly so – because month after month, nothing happened. To our surprise, we discovered that we were both Thalassemia minors (as some of you may know, Thal is a generic blood disorder that does not affect our lives per se, but you put 2 Thal minors together, we have a 25% chance of having a Thal major child, which means a lifetime commitment to blood transfusions.
My hubby is a doctor so he knew what this meant. Natural conception was out so we embarked on IVF, but with the added challenge that all our embryos needed to undergo pre-genetic screening (or PGS) for Thalassemia. To do PGS in itself is a highly challenging & difficult process and we were grateful to be under the amazing care of Dr Loh SF and Dr Baliji from Thomson Fertility.
It was heartbreaking to see “perfect” looking embryos/ blastocysts not being able to be transferred to me because they were Thal major. Our fresh cycles never quite worked – I attribute it to the way my eggs are stimulated. Basically I had too many eggs when I just needed some really good ones. Thankfully, on both frozen cycles, we were successful. Through the grace and provision of God, the support of many IVF warriors and the love from great friends, both babies were carried to full term of 39 weeks, and born healthy and beautiful.
From the start, I’ve been open about my long journey with friends, clients and family, in the hope of lending support to as many women as possible.
Why & how do fertility treatments affect our skin?
During fertility treatments, stress and medication play a huge part and unfortunately, these show up on our skin.
Stress: No one can truly empathize with the amount of stress our bodies and mental beings undergo during fertility treatments, unless you have walked that road yourself. The excitement of hope that builds up before egg retrieval, followed by the agonizing two-week wait when we are told to relax but Google every symptom possible. Then comes the big reveal on the HCG levels. The rising stress levels can be insidious or obvious – but the reality is, we all get it – one way or the other.
Hormones: During every fertility cycle, our bodies are pumped up with so much estrogen pre-egg retrieval & progesterone supports post-transfer to support the pregnancy. If the cycle was successful, you get all the pregnancy-related symptoms and for most of us, we are kept on these medications for weeks after to support the growing fetus. If the cycle does not work out, medication is ceased within a day or two & one’s body is left to cope with the (sudden) steep falling hormone levels.
Even with one factor at play, it can already create havoc on our skin; let alone the forces of both. When this sort of fluctuation happens, our hormones go haywire and it is this imbalance that manifests in skin changes. One may experience oilier skin, acne, dry, sensitive, irritated, stressed skin or pigmentation / skin discoloration. Think of your usual PMS symptoms but everything is elevated and taken a few notches up.
What can we do when fertility treatments affect our skin?
- Stay calm. Know that whatever skin woes you may get during fertility treatments, “This too, shall pass”. Stress exacerbates everything.
- Learn to read your skin. Identify your skin warriors – have a few key products on hand to treat various skin changes that you can expect.
- Don’t do anything too harsh (treatment-wise) or that you are uncomfortable with. A common question I get is whether lasers are safe during pregnancy: avoid ablative lasers which can potentially “burn” the skin & cause an open wound or cause pain and invariably stress to the baby. Go with very gentle lasers – probably something like the Dual Yellow Laser which helps rejuvenate & soothe skin, without the use of any numbing cream. But it boils down to what you feel is acceptable – especially during the first trimester (i.e. two-week wait included).
- Avoid experimenting with new products or treatments. Be it during the fertility cycle or pregnancy, this is not the time to experiment with products or new treatments that can cause undue stress to the baby. Keep to your army of skin stabilizers. As tempting as some “stronger” ingredients may be, practice caution when using skincare or treatments. I used to tell myself and others that during the cycle, treat yourself as if you are already pregnant.
- Avoid these ingredients
– High concentrations of glycolic acid (over 7%)
– Salicylic acid (over 2%)
– Retinol or Retin A (tretinoin) products as these could result in some birth defects. Retin A products are essentially 20 times stronger than retinol as they have the ability to penetrate deeper and more quickly into the skin.
– Hydroquinone is another ingredient used to treat pigmentation and melasma but one to stop before trying to conceive.
Opt for treatments and skincare with ingredients that are more botanical but still deliver results.
How can we treat skin changes during fertility treatments?
Acne: At our medi spas, we have successfully put clients on a regime of Beauty Drops No. 3, Phyto Mask 2, Heritage Mask, Soft Treatment Gel from Future Cosmetics. These contain all botanical extracts and are safe and effective in dealing with skin nasties. Look out for ingredients like Silk Amino Acids, Centella Asiatica, Chamomile, Arnica Montana which help rebalance, soothe and calm the skin.
Opt for balancing facials like the Clear Skin Facial which uses local dynamic massage ultrasound waves to heal connective skin tissue & reduce inflammation. Hydrafacial is another good option but we would tweak it to be pregnancy-safe. Also, facials which incorporate the use of a medical grade LED light (specially Blue and Yellow) would be helpful. Visible blue light eliminates acne bacteria while yellow soothes and calms skin.
Dry, Irritated Skin: When skin is intolerant, inflammed or stressed (atopic dermatitis), it may manifest in allergic spots resulting in bumpy skin texture. Focus on healing the skin and reducing inflammation. Adopt the ‘Less is More’ philosophy. Product-wise, Beauty Drops No. 1, Rescue Recovery & Repair, Serums and Soft Treatment Gel works well for many clients. Arnica Montana and Centella Asiatica help to relieve itch, discomfort and soothe skin.
When it comes to facials, those that incorporate Yellow LED light can help to soothe and calm skin.
Dehydrated Skin: Focus on increasing the water content in our skin. Beauty Drops No. 2 works very well being layered onto skin to provide instant relief to skin. Layered under and over your moisturiser, skin will look less “parched” and “leathery”.
Choose facials that replenish the lost water content in our skin. Any of our oxygen facials or Dewy Skin Facial would be good to restore the plumpness in skin.
Pigmentation: Look out for melanin blockers that are more natural. Brightening Touch Serum has botanical extracts like Hypoxis Rooperi, Licorice and Boerhaavia Diffusais that offer a slow release of active ingredients to provide brightening results. Treatments such as yellow laser, yellow LED or Luminosity facials will be helpful in treating pigmentation.
Click here to watch the full Instagram Live session featuring Freia Aesthetics x Fertility Support Group covering skin changes during fertility treatments.
If you would like a more tailored consultation on selection of products, feel free to reach out to us via WhatsApp at 91091574.