Skin Care

10 Skincare Ingredients to Avoid During Pregnancy

Congratulations! You’re expecting! Your healthcare professional has most likely sent you the usual list of the things you do, and you don’t outline all of the foods you should avoid for the next nine months. But they didn’t mention what happens with your skincare during pregnancy?

You’ve been advised to drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep, and get plenty of exercises, depending on your situation. You have been given a prenatal vitamin. And a slew of pamphlets about how to look after yourself and your developing infant.

Again, but what about your skincare routine products? The ingredients you should use on your body have just as much. If not more, of an effect on your baby as the foods you consume.

Don’t worry; help is on the way. Here’s a list of skin-care ingredients to stay away from while pregnant.


What skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy?


  • Retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde, adapalene, tretinoin, tazarotene, and isotretinoin can all be identified on ingredient labels.
  • Retinoids, which are found in Retin-A and Accutane, are prescription acne and anti-aging drugs.

The use of retinoids has been linked to an increased risk of congenital disabilities in developing babies. Most physicians advise patients not to become pregnant when taking these drugs. If you ever become pregnant, however, you must stop taking retinoids immediately.


Medications include minocycline and doxycycline.

Antibiotics like tetracyclines should be avoided during pregnancy. Acne and Lyme disease are only a few of the diseases they’re used to treat. They have been shown in studies to damage a pregnant woman’s liver and discolor the teeth of her developing infant.

If you need an antibiotic while pregnant, your doctor would most likely prescribe amoxicillin or erythromycin, which are both safer options.


A skin-lightening agent that is used to treat chloasma and melasma.

Suppose you were using hydroquinone before being pregnant or are considering using it to treat the dark patches of skin that can appear during pregnancy (also known as the mask of pregnancy). In that case, you should wait until your baby is born to use it.

According to research, up to 45 percent of this drug is absorbed into the skin after topical application. Although no studies on the impact of hydroquinone on a fetus have been performed, there is too much of the chemical in your bloodstream after use to justify the danger.


  • Ingredients like BzBP, DBP, DEP, DMP, diethyl, dibutyl, or benzyl butyl phthalate should be avoided.
  • Chemicals are applied to plastics to improve their flexibility and the strength and efficacy of other chemicals in a formula, such as perfume or nail polish.

Recent research has raised questions about the widespread use of phthalates in goods, as well as the possible health risks that come with it. High blood pressure, ADHD, and diabetes have also been attributed to them.

Furthermore, a new wave of research has discovered links between prenatal phthalate exposure and irregular fetal growth. Look for phthalate-free labels on personal care items.


  • Formaldehyde, quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM), hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol are all mentioned on product labels (bromopol)

Parenting activists recently won grassroots efforts to remove formaldehyde from a variety of baby products. However, the ingredient — a confirmed carcinogen — is also widely used in adult personal care items like hair straightening treatments, nail polish, and eyelash glue. Look for products that do not contain formaldehyde.


  • Any nail polish that contains methylbenzene, toluol, or antisal 1a as an ingredient should be avoided.

Toluene, a possible carcinogen, is used in most mainstream nail polishes, along with phthalates and formaldehyde. They’re known as the “toxic trio” when they’re all together, and they’re a potent mixture of toxins that you should avoid at all costs, particularly during pregnancy. If you can’t stand the look of your nails in the buff, look for toluene-, formaldehyde-, and phthalate-free nail polishes.


  • Many hair dye formulations contain this ingredient.

Although the jury is still out on whether or not hair dye is safe to use while pregnant, several formulations contain ammonia, which can irritate the skin and lungs. As a result, it’s best to avoid these both during and after your pregnancy. Fortunately, there are many ammonia-free hair dyes on the market right now. If you’re having your hair done at a salon, ask your stylist about items that contain little or no ammonia.


  • Ingredients found in many spray self-tanners.

DHA is a chemical that interacts with the dead skin layer on your body to add color in a way that many people consider to be safer than sunbathing. Though the body does not absorb DHA, it can be inhaled while being applied. This may be harmful to both you and your child. Bottom line: Don’t get a spray tan when you’re pregnant!

Thioglycolic Acid

  • Labeled acetyl mercaptan, mercaptoacetate, mercaptoacetic acid, and thiovanic acid are some examples.
  • Hair removal creams use this ingredient.

The active ingredient in most hair removal creams, or depilatories, is thioglycolic acid.

Although no studies have been done on the effects of this chemical on a developing infant, it’s worth noting that the European Union limits the amount of thioglycolic acid used in goods to 5%.

In contrast, products sold in the United States can contain up to 15.2%. This is a significant disparity, and when you consider the lack of good evidence on the health risks associated with their use, it’s best to err on the side of caution and put these items back on the shelf.

Botulinum Toxin

Are you sick of looking tired when pregnant? Are you considering a little Botox to brighten things up? Do reconsider. There has been no research done on the effects of Botox on an unborn child.

However, before you assume that this means they’re risk-free, keep in mind that the chemical used in Botox treatments, botulinum toxin, works by paralyzing the muscles around wrinkles, making them less noticeable. It’s not something you want to take a gamble on right now.

How to do skincare during pregnancy?

We know your mind just overheated from sifting through product and ingredient lists. So, here’s a general morning and night skincare routine with various pregnancy-safe skincare products to get you started on your search for the best sheen.

  1. Wash your face with lukewarm water and a gentle cleanser first.
  2. After that, use a toner.
  3. Apply a broad-spectrum mineral-based sunscreen after that.
  4. After that, use a moisturizer that is appropriate for your skin type.
  5. After that, use an eye cream (if needed).
  6. Apply moisturizer to the abdomen, hips, and thighs to avoid stretch marks.
  7. Substitute cream for sun protection in your nighttime routine.

What skincare alternatives are safe in pregnancy?

Here are a few options for safely overcoming pregnancy’s most common (and aggravating) skin issues.

Sun protection

One of the most important things you can do to prevent wrinkles and skin cancer, in the long run, is to shield yourself from the sun. But the big question is how to keep your skin clean when pregnant.

Chemical broad-spectrum sunscreens are also controversial, so opt for mineral-based sunscreens to protect the skin by causing UV rays to bounce off the skin entirely. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two mineral-based sunscreen ingredients. Don’t forget to add a chic shade with a wide-brimmed hat.

Dry skin and stretch marks

There’s no denying that pregnancy puts a lot of strain on your body, so if your unborn child wants more water at some stage, it will take it from you. Dry skin may result from this, as well as hormone changes.

Moisturizing items with coconut oil, cocoa butter, peptides, and hyaluronic acid (HA) will help you stay hydrated in addition to consuming plenty of water. When it comes to stretch marks, one way to avoid them is to moisturize prone areas regularly to allow the skin to stretch naturally as your bump (and baby) grows.


Topical antioxidants like vitamin C can safely improve your skin’s vitality by shielding it from damage and preserving collagen, just as they can boost your immune system and fend off free radicals in your body.

Other antioxidants to try in your skincare products when pregnant include:

  1. Green tea
  2. Vitamin B3
  3. Vitamin K
  4. Vitamin E

Acne and hyperpigmentation

There are some better alternatives to using retinol-based products when pregnant if you’re susceptible to breakouts — or find yourself unexpectedly traveling back in time with adolescent-like skin flashbacks. Glycolic acid is one of the most powerful.

Glycolic acid isn’t recommended in large amounts during pregnancy, but it’s probably healthy in small amounts used in over-the-counter beauty products. Glycolic acid and related acids, such as azelaic acid, can also aid with fine line reduction, skin brightening, and skin pigmentation reduction.

In addition to topical benzoyl peroxide and topical salicylic acid, the ACOG recommends glycolic and azelaic acid for treating acne during pregnancy.

Skincare and pregnancy: what to make of it?

It won’t be easy to give up your favorite skincare routine, but we know you’ll go to any length to protect your child.

This involves staying away from drugs that could damage you or your baby when you’re pregnant, with research showing that prescription retinol-containing products are the most likely to cause severe congenital disabilities.

On the plus side (literally), you can use our list of pregnancy-safe skincare items to feel confident that you’re making better choices for your unborn child. Also, discuss your particular pregnancy skincare issues and priorities with your OB/GYN or dermatologist.


Dr. Amy Revene M.B.B.S.
Dr. Amy Revene M.B.B.S. graduated from the University of Sharjah. She is currently working as a General Physician at New Hope Medical Center. Amy has a passion for research and offers her expertise and opinions helping people in their quest to lead healthy, happy lives.

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