Skincare during pregnancy: the guide to pregnancy-safe skincare

pregnant woman

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it often comes with many skincare challenges. Most pregnant people wonder which skincare products are safe to use and which ones aren’t. Is salicylic acid safe during pregnancy? What about glycolic acid? Can you use retinol when pregnant? The answers might surprise you!

First, it’s always important to check with your physician and discuss the specific skincare products you want to use. Happily, most skincare products such as cleansers, toners, moisturisers, eye creams and exfoliants are safe to use throughout pregnancy. More good news: do you experience dry lips during pregnancy? Lip balms are also safe to use when pregnant. However, pregnancy skincare involving certain active ingredients are a different issue.

What skincare products and ingredients to avoid during pregnancy and which are safe?

Misinformation about pregnancy skincare creates frustration and confusion for pregnant people during a time they should be enjoying to the fullest. To get some much-needed clarification, we consulted the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists regarding the ingredients we’re asked about most. Here’s what they had to say:

Can you use glycolic acid (AHA) and salicylic acid (BHA) when pregnant?

Do you have an oily skin during pregnancy? Salicylic acid (BHA) is a superior exfoliant for skin, and the small percentages used in skincare are safe to use while pregnant. You can also consider using glycolic acid or lactic acid (AHA) exfoliants if you have dry skin during pregnancy. What about in-office AHA or BHA peels? AHA peels are preferred if the peel is to be applied over a large area of the body.

What about sunscreen products?

Sunscreen actives are not known to be a risk during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists hasn’t found any of the alleged fears about sunscreen ingredients substantiated by medical or animal research. Daily sunscreen use is strongly recommended by dermatologists. If you find your skin is more sensitive during pregnancy, consider using sunscreens with only the mineral actives of titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide as they are better tolerated. Read more about sunscreens and UV filters.

Brightening products during pregnancy

It is best to avoid the brightening ingredient arbutin and derivatives such as alpha-arbutin because both break down to hydroquinone on skin. Instead, look to brightening products that contain 5% or greater concentrations of niacinamide and various forms of vitamin C.

Azelaic acid during pregnancy

Azelaic acid via topical application is considered safe for use during pregnancy and has good research showing it can improve brown skin discolourations plus help with breakouts and rosacea-prone skin.

Is niacinamide safe during pregnancy? And what about hyaluronic acid during pregnancy?

Anti-ageing products with vitamin C, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and peptides are generally considered safe for use during pregnancy – there’s no research proving they’re a problem for topical use. But we repeat: if you’re uncertain about starting a new anti-ageing product or a combination of ingredients (such as CBD), check with your physician and follow their advice.

Tranexamic acid during pregnancy

Tranexamic acid, an ingredient in our Clinical Discoloration Repair Serum, is a newcomer to skin care that isn’t known to be a problem for topical use on skin with hyperpigmentation while pregnant; however, we don’t have enough data yet for it to be recommended without reservation. It’s another ingredient to discuss with your physician.

Can you use retinol when pregnant?

While pregnant or breastfeeding it is best to avoid retinol (vitamin A) and prescription retinoids (Renova, Retin-A, Differin, Tazorac, and generic tretinoin). Consider switching to an anti-ageing serum that does not contain retinol or its derivatives (retinyl retinoate, retinaldehyde, or hydroxypinacolone retinoate).

Prescriptions for other skin concerns

Your doctor will be able to advise you on which topical medications are suitable for use during pregnancy and how they should be used.

Disclosure: this article is not intended to replace medical advice given to you by your physician. Only they know your medical history, and can offer advice that is appropriate to your individual needs. Your doctor should make all final decisions regarding skincare products and ingredients during pregnancy.

Bestselling safe products to use when pregnant

Fortunately, there are many skincare products that are safe to use during pregnancy – too many to list them all. To make your life a little easier, we have compiled a list of our bestselling products which are safe to use during pregnancy.

References for this information: Journal of Perinatology, July 2017, pages 778-781 Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health, March 2017, pages 63-70 International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, March 2017, pages 6-10 Dermatologic Therapy, July-August 2013, pages 302-311 Canadian Family Physician, June 2011, pages 665-667 Precarie International, June 2005, pages 100-101 American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, Volume 4, 2003, pages 473-492 Teratology, May 2001, pages 186-192


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