What cosmetics should be avoided in pregnancy?

It’s not easy to give up a cosmetic skin care routine, but we know that every mother-to-be will do anything to protect her little one. This includes avoiding products that could be harmful during pregnancy, but what are they?

But not everything will be bad. Fortunately, there are other safe skin care cosmetics during pregnancy. It is recommended to speak with an OB/GYN or dermatologist for further guidance.

Skin changes during pregnancy

Pregnancy-related skin changes happen to many people. Hormones may be to blame, or it could also be attributed to another one of those normal quirks that come with working as a mom-to-be. While some lucky women experience nine months of pure complexion perfection, others experience at least one less favorable new or worsening skin problem at some point.

The most common symptoms are dry skin, darkening of the skin (a condition called melasma), and acne. People with pre-existing skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea, may also experience a change in their symptoms (for better or worse).

And because the body is totally involved in pregnancy, bothersome skin changes can affect other places, too. For example, it is common to have stretch marks, spider veins, hair growth, and even hair loss.

Ingredients not recommended

It should be noted that evidence on the safety of cosmetic products during pregnancy is limited. In almost all cases, clinical trials on pregnant women could even begin to prove that certain ingredients are unethical. All of this raises big questions about which cosmetics are really safe during pregnancy. Below are suggested ingredients that are best avoided.


Retinol, retinoic acid or any of the family. It is recommended to avoid them from the beginning of pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. They may contain teratocene effects on the fetus. Regarding breastfeeding, there are no conclusive data, although probably due to the minimal absorption that occurs, it is not associated with risks for the infant. In conclusion, they should be avoided throughout pregnancy and moderate their use during lactation.

Vitamin A is a crucial nutrient that is required for optimal skin, immune, reproductive, and eye health. Once consumed or absorbed through the skin, the body converts it to retinol.

Some anti-aging skin care products use a type of retinol, which has become the holy grail because it can help reverse acne and reduce fine lines. Retinoids do this by helping skin cells at the surface level to exfoliate faster and increase collagen production to rejuvenate skin.

The amount of retinoids absorbed from topical products is likely to be low, but birth defects have been linked to higher doses. Prescription retinoids have been widely shown to pose a 20 to 35 percent risk of serious birth defects, with up to 60 percent of children showing neurocognitive problems with exposure in the womb.

Salicylic acid

It is included in this section because its application in large areas of the body for a long time has been related to fetal pathology. So it is advisable to use it for short periods and in small areas. It can be used with the same precautions during lactation.

Salicylic acid is a common ingredient to treat acne due to its anti-inflammatory abilities, similar to that of an aspirin. However, some OB/GYNs have reported that lower-dose OTC topical products containing salicylic acid are safe.

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Hydroquinone is a prescription product used to lighten skin or reduce skin pigmentation caused by melasma and chloasma, which can be caused by pregnancy. This depigmentant has a high rate of systemic absorption when applied topically, and although the data indicates low risks, it is contraindicated in pregnancy. The risk in breastfeeding is unlikely, but the use of small amounts and in small areas is recommended.

There is no proven link between serious birth defects or side effects and hydroquinone. But because a significant amount of hydroquinone can be absorbed by the body compared to other ingredients, it’s best to limit exposure (if any) during pregnancy.


Phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals found in many beauty and personal products. In animal studies, severe reproductive and hormonal dysfunction have been linked to phthalate exposure.

There are few human studies to support this, but endocrine disruptors are increasingly being studied for their potential role in negatively affecting congenital reproductive health. Cosmetics are the number one source of phthalate exposure, and the most common phthalate you’ll find in beauty products is diethyl phthalate .


Formaldehyde is rarely used as a preservative and disinfectant in beauty products because it is a known carcinogen and can increase the risk of infertility and miscarriage .

But there are formaldehyde-releasing chemicals commonly found in cosmetics with a similar potentially dangerous effect. These include: bronopol, hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, hydroxymethylglycinate, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, and 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane.

chemical sunscreens

Oxybenzone and its derivatives are the most widely used ultraviolet (UV) filter in sunscreens. It has proven effective for skin protection, but oxybenzone’s potentially adverse health and environmental effects are putting it in a more unfavorable light.

Because oxybenzone is a known endocrine disrupting chemical, the concern about its use during pregnancy is that it could disrupt hormones and cause permanent damage to mother and baby.

safe alternatives

Not all cosmetics should be prohibited during pregnancy. There are some safe options for the most common (and frustrating) skin problems of pregnancy.

acne and hyperpigmentation

If you’re prone to breakouts, there are some safer alternatives to using retinoid-based products while you wait. One of the most effective is glycolic acid .

Glycolic acid is not recommended in large amounts during pregnancy, but it is probably safe in small amounts commonly found in over-the-counter beauty cosmetics. Glycolic acid and others like it, such as azelaic acid , can also help reduce fine lines, brighten skin, and reduce skin pigmentation.

Anti-aging and wrinkles

Topical antioxidants like vitamin C can safely improve your skin’s vitality by protecting it from damage and maintaining collagen. Other pregnancy-safe antioxidants you can try in your skin care products include:

  • Vitamin E
  • Green Tea
  • vitamin K
  • vitamin B3

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dry skin and stretch marks

There is no doubt that pregnancy affects the body a lot, so if the future baby needs more water at some point, it will draw it from the body. That, in addition to hormonal changes, can cause dry skin.

Aside from drinking plenty of water, moisturizing products that contain coconut oil, cocoa butter, peptides, and hyaluronic acid (HA) can improve hydration. And when it comes to stretch marks, one strategy to prevent them is to frequently moisturize the prone areas to help the skin stretch naturally as your belly grows.

Solar protection

Sun protection is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against wrinkles and skin cancer in the long term. But the big question is how to safely protect the skin during pregnancy.

It is recommended to try mineral-based sunscreens that protect the skin by forcing UV rays to bounce off the skin completely. Ingredients in mineral-based sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.