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Baby on the Way? Avoid These Skincare Ingredients

Vanessa Hathaway
Founder, Your Custom Beauty

There are few things in life more exciting than finding out you’re pregnant.  I’m not sure there is any way to adequately prepare an expectant mother for the changes pregnancy brings to your body, brain, mood, and hormones.  Not to mention the indescribable love you will feel for your new baby.

This life-changing event necessitates many lifestyle changes, from eating habits to alcohol consumption.  Unless you are already a non-boozing vegan, most women realize that changes usually need to be made regarding what you put in your body.  But many women don’t stop to consider that what they put on their body while pregnant or nursing can be just as important.

You also need to be prepared for all the unsolicited advice, opinions, and experiences from well-meaning relatives, friends, and complete strangers.  But, trust me, it’s something you’re going to have to get used to.  Just smile sweetly, thank them for their invaluable input, and try not to throat-punch them.

In the meantime, here are my two cents:  while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding,  avoid the following ingredients in your skincare products.

Prescription Retinoids

Brand name prescription products such as Renova, Retin-A, Differin, Tazorac, and Avage and their generic counterparts tretinoin, adapelene, and tazorotene are a big no-no.  Although these topical prescription–grade derivatives of vitamin A (and over-the-counter products containing retinol) have not been shown to cause birth abnormalities, isotretinoin (an oral form of vitamin A) can cause severe, life-threatening birth defects.  It’s wise to err on the side of caution and avoid these products altogether while pregnant or breastfeeding.  

A great anti-aging alternative to retinoids is vitamin C.  This superstar antioxidant aids in the production of collagen, a protein in the skin that provides structure and elasticity.  Plus, vitamin C protects cells from damage by fighting free radicals, often a result of UV damage. So, be sure to stay diligent about using a sunscreen or moisturizer with at least SPF 30 or higher.  (That you’re using every. single. day… right??)

These are a couple of great options:

Revision Vitamin C Lotion 15%

Paula’s Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Serum

Salicylic Acid (Beta Hydroxy Acid or BHA) Peels

In-office or at-home peels using a high concentration of salicylic acid are not recommended during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.  Skincare products containing a concentration of 2% BHA or less are considered to be safe. Glycolic and lactic acids are also safe alternatives.  

If your experiencing hormonal acne, benzoyl peroxide can be used safely during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10, Maximum Strength


Although no research studies have directly linked hydroquinone to birth defects, experts and dermatologists suggest pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers speak to their obstetrician or pediatrician about potential side effects.  After birth, if skin discoloration is pervasive, moms can start using skin bleaching creams containing hydroquinone, as long as they are not breastfeeding.

Meanwhile, products with a high concentration of vitamin C can also help with dark spots and discoloration.

SkinMedica Vitamin C + E Complex

DERMAdoctor Kakadu C High Potency Evening Oil

Always discuss the use of any prescription or over-the-counter drugs with your healthcare provider before using while pregnant or breastfeeding.

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