Find out from a Renude member just how IVF changed her skin as a Dermatologist advises on treatment
IVF treatment can be a stressful and emotional experience, and it can also take a toll on your skin. Many women experience changes in their skin during IVF, including acne, dryness, and melasma. These changes can be caused by a number of factors, including the hormones you're taking, the stress of the treatment, and changes in your diet and lifestyle.
IVF treatment can affect the skin in a number of ways. Some of the most common skin changes that can occur during IVF include:
Acne: The hormones that are used in IVF treatment can increase oil production in the skin, which can lead to acne breakouts.
Dryness: The hormones in IVF treatment can also dry out the skin, making it more prone to flaking and itching.
Melasma: Melasma is a condition that causes brown patches to appear on the skin, and it can be triggered by hormonal changes.
Rosacea: Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes redness, flushing, and bumps on the face. It can be triggered by hormonal changes, stress, and other factors.
Pigmentation changes: The hormones in IVF treatment can also cause changes in skin pigmentation. This can include the darkening of the skin around the nipples and lips or the development of new dark spots on the skin.
Skin Sensitivity: The skin can become more reactive to external factors, such as sunlight, heat, or certain skincare products. It is important to be mindful of this sensitivity and take necessary precautions, such as using gentle and hypoallergenic skincare products, wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen, and avoiding excessive exposure to environmental triggers.
The severity of these skin changes during IVF can vary from person to person. Some women may experience no changes at all, while others may experience severe acne or dryness. The skin changes typically start to appear a few weeks after starting IVF treatment, and they usually go away after the treatment is over.
IVF treatment involves the administration of hormonal medications to stimulate egg production and regulate the menstrual cycle. These medications can lead to significant hormonal fluctuations in the body, which can subsequently affect the skin. Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone can result in changes such as acne breakouts, increased oiliness, or dryness of the skin.
Emotional Impact: While not directly related to the physiological changes in the skin, it's important to recognise the emotional impact IVF treatment can have on individuals. The journey can be challenging and may lead to increased stress levels. Stress, in turn, can affect the skin by triggering inflammation and exacerbating existing skin conditions. Incorporating stress management techniques, such as meditation, exercise, and seeking out emotional support, can help mitigate the impact on the skin.
Names have been changed for our member's discretion
Like many of the members who enquire about skincare whilst undergoing IVF treatment, Ellie struggled to find resources or advice online and found it difficult to find people who were having the same skin changes to confide in - which made her think she was the only one! At Renude we know this is absolutely not the case, and to see dramatic skincare changes during this transformative journey is completely normal.
“Throughout my journey of unexplained fertility and enduring four rounds of IVF, my skin was a nightmare. The impact of hormonal fluctuations was undeniable, as my skin battled incessant dryness and was subject to painful, cystic acne breakouts. The stress of trying to conceive probably didn’t help the situation either. It’s a double whammy for many women trying to conceive through IVF - amidst failing to get pregnant, your skin is a reminder of the daily struggle!
Looking back, I wish I had someone tell me the importance of simplicity in skincare rather than the harsh acids I was using to ‘fix’ my face. Luckily after the fourth round of IVF, I had two frozen embryos implanted which led to the birth of my boy/girl twins! Pregnancy hormones (unlike IVF ones) were kind to me - my acne disappeared and I got that pregnancy ‘glow’.”
Dermatologist Consultant, Dr Justine Kluk has had many enquiries around treating skincare changes whilst undergoing IVF treatment in her clinic. As with any skincare change, the individual’s experience should be considered and treated with a personalised approach.
“Many of my patients who are having IVF report an increase in acne, like Ellie. The first thing to understand is that everyone’s IVF journey will be different. We are each unique. Some will start their IVF treatment journey with a history of a pre-existing skin condition, like acne, and fertility treatment protocols will differ too. There is, therefore, no “one size fits all” recommendation for managing the skin issues that might arise during IVF. There are also no official dermatology guidelines in the UK for managing skin concerns during fertility treatment.
Many of the normal medications used for treating skin conditions like acne are contraindicated whilst trying to conceive e.g. retinoids. All of this means that people going through IVF can struggle to find the right support for their skin concerns, and often end up troubleshooting on their own. Experimenting with skincare products can lead to dryness, irritation and a further increase in acne. There is often a lot of fear about what is safe to use or not as well.
My top tip would be to try and get any existing skin concerns under control before starting IVF, if at all possible. This may require a visit to your GP and/ or a dermatologist if the skin condition is moderate or severe as prescriptions may be required.
In any case, keep your skincare routine simple and non-stripping during your IVF treatment – use a gentle cleanser, a non-pore blocking (non-comedogenic) moisturiser and a broad-spectrum sunscreen. If your skin is dry, consider a hydrating serum and/ or slightly thicker evening moisturiser.
If your skin is acne-prone or oily, targeted skincare actives like alpha hydroxy acids e.g. lactic or mandelic acid, azelaic acid or niacinamide may be helpful ingredients to incorporate. Only use these active skincare ingredients if you feel comfortable with them.
Try to be targeted and consistent with the products you use to avoid sensitivity and irritation, and for best results.
If you are still struggling, reach out to an expert for personalised recommendations, like the aestheticians at Renude or your GP/ a dermatologist if the changes are more severe or affecting your mental health. Do also keep a close dialogue with your IVF team so they understand the challenges you are facing and can offer support.”
The whole retinoid family, including tretinoin, retinol, retinyl palmitate etc. should ideally be avoided during pregnancy and therefore we would best advise avoiding using these whilst undergoing IVF treatment to be on the side of caution.
Azelaic acid - For those with spots and breakouts, who are not able to use retinoids during IVF treatment, there are a few alternatives, including Azelaic acid. It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, so works well to calm existing breakouts, and prevent new ones from occurring. Azelaic acid also has the added benefit of inhibiting post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and erythema (PIE).
Niacinamide - This is a good supporting ingredient for managing spots and has multiple skin benefits. Niacinamide helps to regulate sebum (skin oil) production, so can help to control breakouts by reducing this excess oil in the skin. Niacinamide offers anti-inflammatory properties so helps to calm redness. Niacinamide helps to fade hyperpigmentation (PIH) and erythema (PIE) as it can block the transfer of the pigment melanin to the skin’s surface cells.
Peptides - Peptides are safe to use during pregnancy so we would advise they are safe to use during IVF treatment. Peptides work by sending signals to the skin to take a specific action, e.g. produce more collagen. Using a blend of peptides which encourage complementary actions is the way to get the best out of them.
Hydroquinone is a prescription-only ingredient designed to fade hyperpigmentation on the skin. As with Retinoids, Hydroquinone should be avoided during pregnancy and therefore we would best advise avoiding using Hydroquinone whilst undergoing IVF treatment to be on the side of caution.
Azelaic acid - Azelaic acid has the ability to inhibit tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for producing melanin within the skin. Inhibiting excess melanin production will help to fade areas of hyperpigmentation over time. Azelaic acid is a safe alternative to Hydroquinone when you are undergoing IVF treatment.
Niacinamide - Niacinamide works to fade hyperpigmentation by preventing melanin from being transferred from melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) to the skin’s surface cells (keratinocytes), where it then becomes visible on the skin’s surface. Niacinamide is a safe alternative to Hydroquinone when you are undergoing IVF treatment.
Salicylic acid (usage should be limited) - Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble Beta hydroxy acid (BHA), which is advised to be avoided in high concentrations but we recommend it can still be used at low concentrations, or on small areas e.g. to spot treat, but its usage is best kept to a minimum.
IVF treatment is truly a transformative journey that can have various effects on the body, including the skin. Hormonal fluctuations, skin sensitivity, hyperpigmentation, dryness, and itching are among the common changes individuals may experience during IVF. We recommend consulting with healthcare professionals for personalised advice and guidance throughout the IVF process and wrap-around support.
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