If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, SheKnows may receive an affiliate commission.
You might already be aware that you need to avoid certain foods when you’re pregnant, but it’s much less known what ingredients you need to be avoiding when it comes to topical treatments. If you’re a skincare junkie, your morning and nighttime routine is probably set in stone. Depending on your skin type, keeping up with your routine can help keep annoying irritations, flare ups and adult acne/breakouts at bay during pregnancy.
But when you’re pregnant, you should be mindful about what products you’re putting on your skin. Pregnancy can cause skin sensitivities or even acne that was non-existent before. “When you are pregnant, the amount of blood circulating through your body increases as your baby grows, dilating your blood vessels,” explains Heather D. Rogers, MD, dermatologist, founder and CEO of Doctor Rogers Skin Care and co-founder of Modern Dermatology in Seattle. “This means you will absorb more of whatever you put on your skin and your risk of irritation is higher, so you must be more selective about what you’re putting on your skin. Further, your skin will be drier because you lose more water through those dilated blood vessels.”
There are a few ingredients that can help quell this dryness, like squalene, glycerin, niacinamide and centella asiatica, says Dr. Rogers. But there are also a few ingredients you should steer clear of. If you’re taking any prescription medications, make sure to run them by your doctor if you discover you are pregnant. “There is mixed data about what chemical-based sunscreens mean for your body and your baby, so I would consider steering clear of them,” Dr. Rogers tells SheKnows. “I also encourage patients to stop using tretinoin and over-the-counter retinol. Patients should also use fewer exfoliation treatments because of the skin’s increased sensitivity.”
If acne is a concern for you while you’re pregnant, there are mixed reviews about using spot-treating sebum-clearing ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. According to a 2011 study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), because a “relatively small proportion [of salicylic acid] is absorbed through the skin, it is unlikely to pose any risk to a developing baby.” However, the article also notes that no major studies have been completed about the use of salicylic acid while pregnant. Similarly, benzoyl peroxide “is applied topically, only 5% is absorbed through the skin,” notes the study. “No studies on the use of this preparation in pregnant patients have been published; however, systemic effects on a pregnant woman and her child would not be expected.”
Dr. Rogers notes that the conservative approach is to avoid benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid all together since there are not enough studies out on the topic, however she says “the risk is likely very low when using small amounts at low percentages during pregnancy.” If you have any concerns, it’s best to talk through them with your doctor.
In general, Dr. Rogers says a great place to look for sensitive-skin products to use during pregnancy would be consulting the National Eczema Association website. The products [on the site] are typically safe for most people’s skin during pregnancy,” she says. “Although these are some of the better options on the market, a word of caution: most still contain microplastics, hydrocarbons, essential oils, or other possible irritants.”
Here are a few picks for acne-safe products to use during pregnancy. As always, these are just suggestions. Make sure to consult with your doctor if you have any concerns about ingredients, skin-reactions or other potential issues during pregnancy.
Versine Calm & Hydrate Serum for Acne-Prone Skin
Versine is a complete skincare line of OBGYN-approved products that are safe for pregnancy. This serum uses azelaic acid to help promote cell turnover during pregnancy and it has naturally anti-microbial properties.
Doctor Rogers Face Wash
Dr. Rogers advises patients who are pregnant to look for products that are made “without fragrance, parabens, and PEGs.” The full Doctor Rogers line has gentle, pregnancy-safe products for keeping pores clear which will help with acne production.
Cetaphil Pro Oil Removing Foam Wash
If your skin also becomes more sensitive during pregnancy , this gentle cleanser will help clear off dirt, impurities and makeup without overly stripping your skin.
Rael Pimple Patches
If you need a quick-fix spot treatment for unexpected breakouts while pregnant, pick up these pimple patches that Dr. Rogers suggests. They’re made with hydrocolloid to reduce the appearance of blemishes and white heads stat.
Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant
Exfoliating is key when dealing with acne, but go-to exfoliants like retinols and tretinoin should be avoided during pregnancy, according to Dr. Rogers. However, this gentle exfoliant contains 8 percent alpha hydroxy acids which Dr. Rogers recommends for cell turnover during pregnancy.