skincare during pregnancy

Skincare During Pregnancy – What to Avoid & Safe Alternatives

During pregnancy moms usually focus on a healthy diet and exercise, but paying attention to the ingredients they put on their body is just as important. It can be a bit challenging with the extensive lists of ingredients on skincare products these days. When it comes to skincare during pregnancy, what should you use?

It’s always best to talk to your doctor or medical provider before making any medical decisions. One sure way to make sure you get your questions answered during your next appointment is to make a list. Write down specific ingredients or products and take it with you to your appointment. This way you don’t forget anything. Hello, pregnancy brain?

Skincare Ingredients to Avoid & Safe Alternatives

Here are a few common skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy and some safe alternatives based on common skin concerns.

Aging & Skin Texture

AVOID: Anti-aging creams with Retinoids or Retin-A

Pregnancy brings many bodily changes and the last thing women want to see is signs of aging. Anti-aging skincare creams and treatments vary widely. This large category of products are often derived from Vitamin A and used to treat signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles or acne.

They help improve the surface of the skin by increasing collagen production and cell turnover meaning bad looking skin can “look young again”. This action helps fade age and sunspots and soften skin while also helping to reduce acne breakouts and acne scarring. Sound amazing right?

Well, unfortunately, retinoids should be heavily avoided during pregnancy as they may increase the risk of birth defects in developing babies.

Most common names in this class include retinyl palmitate, retinoic acid, retinaldehyde, adapalene, tretinoin, tazarotene, and isotretinoin.

SAFE ALTERNATIVES: AHA’s, Oleic Acid and Hyaluronic Acid

Want some good news? There are some incredible alternatives to retinoids and anti-aging products that are very safe to use in your skincare during pregnancy.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids such as glycolic acid or lactic acid are safe to use in reasonable topical amounts. By acting as a mild exfoliant, they help deliver great anti-aging benefits such as helping to refine pores and skin texture.

Oleic acid is an omega 9 fatty acid that also has amazing anti-aging benefits. It penetrates easily into the skin and helps replenish moisture. Oleic acid is also rich in antioxidants which help fight free radical damage caused by environmental stressors, such as UV rays which can lead to skin deterioration. It also has an anti-inflammatory property. This makes it great to use during acne flare-ups to help heal damaged skin.

Oleic acid can be found in argan, tamanu and jojoba oils. Hyaluronic acid is the ultimate hydration and naturally found in our bodies but also a key ingredient in many skincare items. It helps keep skin hydrated giving it a youthful appearance and filling in fine lines and adding firmness.

skincare during pregnancy


AVOID: Beta Hydroxy Acids such as Salicylic Acid

Although the term “pregnancy glow” refers to the beautiful glow of the skin, some women struggle with hormonal acne during this phase of their life.

Salicylic acid is typically used to treat acne but, unfortunately, should be avoided orally during pregnancy. There are still conflicting data on its use topically, but many dermatologists still err on the side of caution and advice against its regular use during pregnancy.

SAFE ALTERNATIVES: Benzoyl Peroxide, Tea Tree or Rosehip oil

Benzoyl peroxide can be relatively safe to use in reasonable amounts after the third trimester of pregnancy. Many dermatologists agree that it may be reasonably safe to use in small amounts for the treatment of severe acne during pregnancy.

Essential oils are generally not advised during the first trimester of pregnancy. However, they can be very helpful if used correctly (typically diluted and in small quantities) during the second and third trimester.

Tea tree oil has excellent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties making it a great acne treatment option.

Rosehip oil can especially help treat acne scars and reduce redness and inflammation while boosting elasticity.


AVOID: Hydroquinones

Hydroquinone is typically used as a lightening agent to reduce the appearance of dark spots or treatment of melasma, also known as “pregnancy mask”. Although there are no definitive studies, the absorption of topical hydroquinone can be as high as 45%. This makes it readily absorbed into the bloodstream making it of higher risk during pregnancy.

Hydroquinones can also be labeled as idrochinone, quinol, 1-4 dihydroxy benzene or 1-4 hydroxy benzene.

SAFE ALTERNATIVES: Sunscreen, sunscreen, suncreen!

In order to avoid hyperpigmentation, avoid unprotected sun exposure to reduce the risk of those melanocytes making an appearance on your skin. Opt for physical and natural sunscreens such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Avoid chemical sunscreens that have been linked to birth defects.

Some names to look out for in chemical sunscreens include: avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, oxybenzone, oxtinoxate, menthyl anthranilate, and oxtocrylene.

Skincare During Pregnancy IS Possible!

As you can see, there are many ingredients to look out for in skincare. If there is something new or unknown, it is always best to avoid it until you have talked with your doctor.

Making decisions for your unborn baby is constant during pregnancy. It shouldn’t mean sacrificing good skincare to keep you glowing through to your delivery and beyond. After all, we are all about self-care being a priority and skincare is included in that!

Vania Carter Strauss Northern Nevada Moms Prude and Boujee
Vania Carter-Strauss

Vania Carter-Strauss is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with experience in vascular health, wound care and pulmonology. She is also co-owner of Prude & Boujee, a sheet mask boutique in Reno, Nevada that specializes in sheet masks and Asian skincare. Vania believes in the balance of science and art and loves using her knowledge about the body and health to help people feel empowered in their healthcare and skincare decisions. Visit the shop at 606 W. Plumb Ln. #9 Reno, NV.