10 Skincare Ingredients You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

Skincare Ingredients You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

When you receive the good news that you are pregnant, a lot of things changes. In order to protect your little one and make sure it grows healthy in your womb, you have to stop taking certain foods and drinks. However, this also extends to skincare products as there are certain products you should avoid when you are pregnant.

In this article, you will find out the unsafe and safe skincare ingredients to look out for in your skincare product.

Skincare Ingredients Should You Avoid When Pregnant

Skincare products contain active ingredients that might have serious fetal effects when used during pregnancy. While clinical trials on pregnant women to ascertain which skin care product is harmful are generally unethical, there are studies that have shown some products are not advisable for usage during pregnancy.

In this section, you will find out skincare product ingredients that are harmful for pregnant women.

1. Retinoids

Retinol is a product of the conversion of Vitamin A that is consumed or absorbed by your skin. There is a type of retinol found in anti-aging products known as retinoids. Retinoids helps reduce fine lines that appear as the skin ages and also reverse the effect of acne on the skin. It does this by remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, boosting collagen production in the process.

Most skin care products contain this active ingredient in limited amount. However, higher doses of retinoids can be found in prescribed medications like Accutane and Retin-A. Topical products that contain retinoid usually have it in low amount, however using higher doses of retinoids can cause birth defect. Pregnant women should avoid using retinoids during pregnancy.

2. Hydroquinone

This skincare ingredient is mainly found in Skin lightening creams. Pregnant women are prone to a skin condition known as Melasma (commonly referred to as
“mask of pregnancy”) during pregnancy. It is a type of hyperpigmentation that occurs due to hormonal changes in women. Skin lightening creams are usually recommended for treating melasma.

However, hydroquinone contained in these lightening creams has a very high absorption rate compared to other topical skin care products. While there is no direct link between congenital defects and hydroquinone, usage during pregnancy is not advised due to its high absorption rate.

3. Formaldehyde

This ingredient can be found in nail polishes and hair products. It is commonly used as preservative. However, of recent times, it is rarely used in skincare/beauty products as it is a carcinogen. Formaldehyde usage has been linked to several health problems such as cancer, respiratory irritations, nervous system issues, etc. It is also known to cause infertility problem and sometimes miscarriages in pregnant women.

Pregnant women should avoid using products that contain formaldehyde. You should ensure you pick nail polish that do not contain toxic ingredients as they can be harmful to your baby or even cause miscarriage.

There also other chemicals found in cosmetic products that are known to release Formaldehyde. They include; bronopol, hydroxymethylglycinate, diazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15 etc.

4. Phthalates

This ingredient is mainly used in skincare products to stabilize the formula. However, there are some studies that has linked phthalate exposure to liver, kidney and reproductive issues. Several other studies are being carried out by the FDA and other medical organizations on the negative effect of endocrine disruptors on reproductive health.

High amount of Phthalate can be found in cosmetic products, so it is advisable for pregnant women to avoid using these products.

5. Chemical Sunscreen

Most chemical sunscreens contain Oxybenzone as their active ingredient which functions as Ultraviolet filter. It works great in protecting the skin from harmful sun rays. However, it has been observed that oxybenzone might have adverse health effect.

Oxybenzone is an endocrine disrupting chemical which when used by pregnant women can cause damage to both the baby and mother. Some studies in animals have shown that oxybenzone causes permanent fetal damage. Exposure might cause changes in mammary glands and lactation of a nursing or pregnant woman.

6. Essential Oils

Essential oils can serve as a great alternative to beauty products. However, its usage should be properly monitored as they have been linked to some health issues in pregnant women. They have varying concentrations; this makes it hard to generalize as to which concentration to look out for. Consult your doctor before you start using any essential oil and also ensure you use a safe amount each time.

7. Tazorac and Accutane

Mostly found in prescription medicines, tazorac and Accutane are derived from Vitamin A. They are known to cause birth defects and their usage during pregnancy should be avoided. Be sure to check for these ingredients in any drug prescription you want to use.

8. Salicylic Acid

Mostly found in acne treating products, salicylic acid is linked to birth defects in some animal studies. While most products contain salicylic acid in limited quantity, there are other beauty products like peels and some medications that have it in high dose. Using products with high dose of salicylic acid should be entirely avoided when pregnant.

Over the counter products used in treating acne are considered safe for pregnant women as they contain lower dose of salicylic acid.

9. Benzoyl Peroxide

This is another ingredient commonly found in acne creams. Pregnant women often experience acne during pregnancy. However, topical acne treatments should be carefully selected.

While most acne creams are safe for usage during pregnancy, some which contain ingredient such as benzoyl peroxide in high amount are not advised. The skin absorbs about 5% of benzoyl peroxide, creams containing high concentration of this can inflame the skin. Ensure you see your doctor before choosing an acne cream, especially one which contains benzoyl peroxide.

10.  Parabens

Parabens is a form of preservative used in cosmetic products which prevents bacteria from growing in them. Evidence of Parabens affecting the baby’s health is not fully founded, however, it is a known endocrine disruptor which penetrates the skin quite easily. It is also linked to breast cancer. While most cosmetic products contain these preservatives, consult your doctor to know which product is safe for usage if you are pregnant.

4 Safe Skin Care Ingredients For Pregnant Women

While pregnant, you might experience certain skin condition like melasma. Also, if you have an acne or blemish prone skin, it might occur more or less during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. There is need to take proper care of your skin even when you are pregnant.

In this section, you will find out skin care ingredient alternatives you can use to take care of skin problems during pregnancy.

1. Acne and Hyperpigmentation

If you have an acne-prone skin or your skin is prone to breakouts, you would most likely experience this even while you are pregnant. Using retinoid-based treatments is not advisable. However, there are other effective alternatives you can try out. Products containing glycolic acid has proven effective in treating breakout and acne. Glycolic acid can be found in many OTC beauty products.

You should ensure to use products that contain glycolic acid in small quantities. It can also help reduce fine lines, treat skin pigmentation and brighten the skin.

2. Anti-Aging

To slow aging even during pregnancy, topical oxidants like the Vitamin C is a great option. It helps protect the skin from damage while also boosting your immune system. Other antioxidants that are safe to use during pregnancy include vitamin K, Vitamin B3, Vitamin E etc.

3. Dry Skin and Stretch Marks

Dry skin is common in pregnant women due to hormonal changes. You baby might also draw water from your body if its in need of it. Also, you can experience melasma, which is a type of hyperpigmentation common in pregnant women. While your baby bump grows, you might notice stretch marks on your abdomen.

To take care of these, you need to take lots of water to stay hydrated. Ensure you moisturize with products containing ingredients like peptides, coconut oil and cocoa butter. Apply moisturizers frequently on areas you observe stretch marks.

See your doctor to get the appropriate treatment if you experience melasma

4. Sun Protection

Protecting yourself against the sun during pregnancy might be tricky as most sunscreens contain oxybenzone which can affect the health of your baby.  There is still a lot of debate and research going on as regards to safety of chemical sunscreens during pregnancy. However, mineral based sunscreens is another great option. It works by bouncing off UV rays from your skin.

Ensure you wear clothes that will protect you against the sun. You should also wear hats and sunglasses for further protection.

How can you know if your skincare products are safe?

The most appropriate way to confirm if your skincare products are safe for use while you are pregnant is to see your dermatologist about it. You should also inform your doctor about any prescription medications you have been taking before pregnancy.

You should also check skincare products for any of the above harmful ingredients before purchase. This information can be found on product packaging or labels.


Taking care of your skin while you are pregnant can be tricky. You have to be careful as to which skincare products you apply on your skin in order to protect your baby. You should see your doctor before picking out new skincare products, and also discuss safety of your previous skincare products.

Avoid using skincare products that contain harmful ingredients such as retinoids, oxybenzone, Formaldehyde etc.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top