Dr Justine Kluk

How do you treat acne during pregnancy?

I couldn’t think of anyone better than London’s go-to dermatologist for acne treatment Dr Justine Kluk to answer this question. An acne sufferer herself, Dr Justine has documented her struggle to achieve clear skin on her Instagram account.

In this interview, Dr Justine Kluk shares her secrets to deal with acne and get your clear skin back:

Disclaimer: Dr Justin is pregnant at the moment, so she had to make a few tweaks to make her skincare routine baby-friendly. She wants you to know this is just her personal skincare routine and her recommendations are not to be taken as medical advice. What’s safe for her may not be safe for you, so consult your doctor before making any changes to your skincare routine during pregnancy.

1. When did you become interested in skincare?

I have always loved the idea of working closely with other people and helping to make their lives better so a career in medicine was on the table from a very early age. My interest in the skin stems from my own personal experience with acne from the age of twelve right up until my late twenties. As a qualified doctor by that stage, I was determined that others shouldn’t endure the embarrassment and loss of self-esteem I suffered. I doubled my efforts and secured a place on the highly competitive dermatology specialist training programme so that I could become a Consultant Dermatologist. 

These days, I am in the privileged position of being able to look after people with similar experiences to mine in my clinic. It is enormously satisfying to be able to reassure people with skin concerns that there is treatment that can work and to watch the change in demeanour as their skin improves and their confidence returns. 

As both a medical and cosmetic dermatologist, I am lucky to be able to see my patients through their entire skin journey. This means that I may treat somebody for acne in their teens or twenties. When this is under control, we may decide to tackle any scars or discolouration left behind. They may then come back to me down the line for advice about stretchmarks or skincare after pregnancy, to treat eczema in their little ones or to discuss options for reducing wrinkles and preventing premature skin ageing later on. 

2. What’s your skincare routine like? 

My skincare routine has changed quite a bit over the past few months as I’m expecting a baby in a few weeks’ time! This means that some of my usual go-to products, such as retinol, have been put on pause for the time being. My acne has also flared up during the pregnancy so I’ve adapted my routine as safely as I can to try and keep breakouts at bay (and keep my skin looking young and fresh) without posing any risk to the baby.

I use a mild gel or cream cleanser in the morning, such as Avene Extremely Gentle Gel Cleanser or Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. I squeeze a 10 pence sized blob into my hands and massage into wet skin with clean fingertips before patting dry gently. I don’t use a grainy scrub or any devices to exfoliate my skin as these increase redness and swelling from inflamed spots.

I follow with Skinceuticals Phloretin CF antioxidant serum, spreading 4-5 drops over my entire face, neck and decollete. It’s important to me to maintain the anti-ageing component of my skincare routine during pregnancy and vitamin C based antioxidants help reduce collagen breakdown that leads to skin sagging and wrinkle formation. They also help regulate skin pigmentation which can become problematic in pregnancy. I find that many serums are oily and exacerbate acne, but this one doesn’t.

I am currently applying a prescription strength azelaic acid cream next in the mornings. Azelaic acid reduces pore clogging and also has a direct anti-inflammatory effect, so can be helpful for keeping spots in check. It should only be used after consultation with a Consultant Dermatologist in pregnancy to weigh up the benefits and risks and ensure it is safe for the baby.

I follow this with a broad spectrum UVA/ UVB SPF30 or 50, such as Jan Marini Physical Protectant or Heliocare XF gel. Having completed a fellowship in skin cancer after finishing my Dermatology specialist training, I am very careful about protecting my skin from UV radiation all year round to reduce my skin cancer risk and prevent premature skin ageing.

In the evenings, I remove my makeup with Bioderma Sensibio micellar water or Garnier micellar cleansing water for sensitive skin and follow this with the same cleanser I use in the morning. As retinol and other vitamin A based creams are off limits during pregnancy, I am currently using a glycolic acid product in the evenings instead. My go-to is Skinceuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight. I apply a pea sized amount to my face, avoiding the area directly around my eyes, and another pea sized amount to my neck and chest. Glycolic acid brightens and smooths my skin and helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles. 

I leave the glycolic acid to soak in for 15-30 minutes and then apply Medik8 Liquid Peptides generously all over my face, neck and decollete for it’s hydrating, collagen boosting, skin plumping benefits. I don’t use a separate eye product at present because peptides are great for rejuvenation around the eye area as well.

3. If you could only use three skincare products for the rest of your life, what would they be? 

The 3 most important skincare products in my book are sunscreen, retinol and a vitamin C-based antioxidant serum.

4. What are your fave skincare brands and why? 

La Roche Posay and Avene for excellent, fuss-free staples like cleanser and moisturiser. 

Bioderma for the original and best micellar water. It’s magic for removing makeup in the evenings. 

Ambre Solaire for their huge selection of sunscreens to suit every age and stage of life. I actually work with them on their sun awareness campaigns every year. 

Skinceuticals for their antioxidant serums. They’re pricy, but hands-down the best I’ve ever used.

5. What are your top 3 skincare tips to take care of your skin? 

  1. Wear sunscreen religiously. Apply SPF30 or 50 to exposed skin every morning come rain or come shine. Wear a hat if you’re in direct sunlight for prolonged periods and top up your protection every couple of hours if you’re spending the day outdoors and after swimming, sweating or towelling off. After genes, sun exposure is the most important factor in the skin ageing process and it’s easy to avoid if you take appropriate steps.
  2. Keep it simple. It is so easy to end up with confused, congested and irritated skin if you chop and change your skincare products all the time and don’t allow them enough time to work. The same goes for trying to combine too many different ingredients into a routine. A few key items will do – you don’t have to use EVERYTHING just because you can. 
  3. Seek expert help early if you’re suffering with a skin problem. My particular areas of clinical interest are acne and rosacea and I see so many people in my clinic who have been struggling with a visible skin concern on their own, or with little support from previous doctors, leading to loss of confidence and poor body image. Undertreated acne can also cause permanent scars so my best advice is that if you are not seeing improvements with over the counter products or prescriptions from your GP, a Consultant Dermatologist is the best qualified doctor to help with your skin concerns.

6. What skincare treatments do you regularly have done? 

Microneedling is an effective, low risk and minimal downtime option for boosting collagen production. Not only does it help with rejuvenating ageing skin, it is also an excellent option for improving acne scarring and it is easily one of my favourite treatments.

I’m not having any injectable treatments at present because I’m pregnant, however I have had botulinum toxin treatment over the past 2-3 years to reduce my crow’s feet, forehead wrinkles and also to improve my gummy smile. I have small doses only, with the intention of reducing, but not completely freezing muscle movement, so that I still look like me but am not repeatedly weakening the skin and deepening creases every time I squint, smile or frown.

I’ve had my eyebrows microbladed and have also had laser hair removal in the past. These were both complete game-changers for me in terms of time saving. I haven’t had to wax or shave my legs or underarms for years , which means I am holiday ready at all times, and I don’t have to agonise every morning about neatly pencilling my eyebrows in. The eyebrow treatment does need to be topped up every year or two to maintain the result.

7. What lifestyle habits do you have that keep your skin in top shape? 

  1. I wear SPF every day on exposed skin between April and September, and all year round on my face. 
  2. I take a vitamin D supplement every day so that I don’t have to worry about developing a deficiency as a result of keeping out of the sun.
  3. I cleanse my skin twice daily without fail and always remove my makeup before bed or working out. A small bottle of micellar water and a few cotton pads on my bedside table and in my gym bag mean that I’m never tempted to skip this.
  4. I remove my gym gear and shower as soon as I possibly can after exercise. This helps to prevent the dreaded “bacne”.
  5. I am wrinkle conscious and carry around a pair of sunglasses in my handbag to avoid having to squint in brighter weather as this deepens and extends crow’s feet prematurely.

8. What’s in your makeup bag? 

  1. BareMinerals SPF20 correcting concealer for under my eyes. It’s lightweight and creamy so hydrates the dry skin below my eyes and doesn’t get stuck in the creases.
  2. Laura Mercier secret camouflage. I blend the 2 tones together and use this for covering redness and spots. 
  3. Colorescience Sunforgettable SPF50. It’s a handy brush-on mineral powder that mattifies, gives a bit of light coverage and also protects from the sun. I dust this on after applying my sun protection moisturiser and concealer. I also sometimes use BareMinerals SPF25 mineral veil as an alternative.
  4. Nars bronzing powder in Laguna. The only way to get a healthy tan in my opinion. I use it to add contour to my cheeks and jawline and love the shimmery glow it gives my skin. People always ask if I’ve been on holiday.
  5. Laura Mercier Second Skin cheek colour in Rose Bloom. This creates a very natural-looking bush and I use it to emphasise the apples of my cheeks. Drawing attention to this part of the face is said to give a more youthful appearance.
  6. Charlotte Tilbury Full Fat Lashes. This is the first mascara I’ve found that gives really dramatic, fluttery lashes without forming clumps or drying up and falling onto my cheeks. I’ve also been using a Skinceuticals eye cream (A.G.E Eye complex) to slow the signs of ageing around my eyes and a co-incidental perk has been that my eyelashes have grown super long at the same time!
  7. Blink Brow Bar London Ultimate Arch Definer in Cinnamon. I have very patchy eyebrows from years of over plucking as a teenager. Microblading has made the biggest difference and my eyebrows frame my face much better now. All I need is a touch of brow pencil to keep the shape defined. You wouldn’t believe how many compliments I get!
  8. Mac Lustre lipstick in Hug Me or Jubilee. I prefer a nude or pinkish-beige lip colour and need something nourishing, that glides on easily and gives a bit of shine, as my lips are very prone to being dry. These 2 shades are my absolute favourite for every day, but I do like a bolder red lip if I’m heading out for the evening or want to make more of a statement.

Thank you, Dr Justine!

For even more tips and skincare help from Dr Justine, check out her website. You can also keep up with her on Facebook and Instagram.