Pregnancy Skincare Routine

When you learn you’re expecting, everything in your life changes. And that may also apply to your skin care products.

It may come as a great shock to have to stop using your go-to skin care products, even though it’s more common knowledge that you must put your favorite wine on hold (sorry!). But there’s a solid reason why everyone is watching what you put on your skin: Some substances can get into both your body and your unborn child’s body through absorption.

Although the majority of over-the-counter (OTC) body care products are absolutely safe for your child, there are a few substances you should be aware of. The good news is that you may strike a balance between keeping your glowing as an expectant mother and safeguarding your child.

Regardless of whether you need a safe

Your Guide to a Pregnancy Skincare Routine

  • Double Cleanse. Give your skin a good, deep clean by adding a double cleanse to your skincare routine. …
  • Exfoliate Twice a Week. …
  • Moisturize Well. …
  • Opt for Physical Sunscreen. …
  • Try a Relaxing Face Mask

Skin changes during pregnancy

First, let’s face it: Pregnancy-related skin changes happen to many people. Hormones can take the blame — or you can chalk it up to just another one of those “normal” quirks that come with the mama-to-be gig.

While some lucky ladies experience 9 months of pure complexion perfection, others experience at least one less favorable new or worsening skin issue at some point. The most common are:

  • dry skin
  • darkening skin (a condition called melasma or cholasma)
  • acne

People with preexisting skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea may also experience a change in their symptoms (for better or worse).

And because your body is “all in” when it comes to pregnancy, pesky skin changes can affect other places, too — think stretch marks, spider veins, hair growth, and even hair loss.

Top skin care ingredients to avoid in pregnancy

Before we jump into our list, we must point out that evidence-based data on the safety of specific products in pregnancy is limited. In almost all cases, clinical trials on pregnant women that could even start to prove that certain ingredients are harmful are an ethical no-no.

But some animal, anecdotal, or case-specific studies have shown some serious fetal effects related to a few common skin care ingredients. That’s the basis for our recommendations.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source requires cosmetic products to be “safe” based on their specific uses and labeling, but they don’t need FDA approval to be sold on the market.

All of that brings big questions about what cosmetics are truly safe during pregnancy. On this basis, most experts (and therefore, we) err on the side of caution.


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

Some anti-aging skin care products use a type of retinol called retinoids, which have become a holy grail because they can help reverse acne and reduce fine linesTrusted Source. Retinoids do this by helping surface-level skin cells exfoliate faster and boosting collagen production to rejuvenate skin.

Over-the-counter products have lower levels of retinoids, while prescription medications — such as Retin-A (tretinoin) and Accutane (isotretinoin) — contain much higher doses. The amount of retinoids absorbed by topical products is likely low, but birth defects have been linked in higher doses. As such, all retinoids are advised against during pregnancyTrusted Source.

Prescription retinoids like Accutane have been widely documentedTrusted Source for posing a 20 to 35 percent risk of severe congenital defects, with up to 60 percent of children showing neurocognitive problems with exposure in utero.

Because of this, it’s recommended that women of childbearing age taking Accutane:

  • use two forms of contraception
  • be frequently monitored by their doctor for pregnancy and compliance
  • stop the medication 1–2 months before trying to become pregnant

High-dose salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a common ingredient to treat acne due to its anti-inflammatory capabilities, similar to that of an aspirin. But a 2013 study concluded products that deliver a high dose of salicylic acid — such as peels and oral medications — should be avoided during pregnancy.

That said, lower-dose topical OTC products that contain salicylic acid have been reported safe by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).


Hydroquinone is a prescription product to lighten skin or reduce skin pigmentation that occurs from melasma and chloasma, which can be brought on by pregnancy.

There’s no proven link between severe congenital defects or side effects and hydroquinone. But because the body can absorb a significant amount of hydroquinone compared to other ingredients (25 to 35 percent according to this article), it’s best to limit exposure (if any at all) during pregnancy.


Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in many beauty and personal products. In animal studies, serious reproductive and hormone dysfunction has been linked to phthalate exposure.

There are few human studies to support this, but endocrine disruptorsTrusted Source are becoming increasingly studied by the FDATrusted Source and professional medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics for their potential role in negatively affecting congenital reproductive health.

Cosmetics are the top source of phthalate exposure, and the most common phthalate you’ll find in beauty products is diethylphthalate (DEP).


Formaldehyde is rarely used as a preservative and disinfectant in beauty products anymore because it’s a known carcinogen, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source, can increase the risk of infertility and miscarriage.

But there are formaldehyde-releasing chemicals commonly found in cosmetics with a similar potentially dangerous affect. These include the following, as noted by the Environmental Working Group:

  • bronopol
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • diazolidinyl urea
  • hydroxymethylglycinate
  • imidazolidinyl urea
  • quaternium-15
  • 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane

Chemical sunscreens

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

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

2018 animal study concluded that oxybenzone exposure during pregnancy at levels humans would commonly use made permanent changes to mammary glands and lactation. Other animal studies have linked the chemical to permanent fetal damage, possibly associated with developing neurological conditions in adulthood, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Safe skin care ingredient alternatives

Here are a few alternatives to safely conquer pregnancy’s most common (and frustrating) skin woes.

Acne and hyperpigmentation

If you’re prone to breakouts — or find yourself suddenly traveling back in time with adolescent-like skin flashbacks — there are some safer alternatives to using retinoid-based products while expecting. One of the most effective is glycolic acid.

Glycolic acid in large quantities isn’t recommended during pregnancy, but it is likely safeTrusted Source in small amounts commonly found in over-the-counter beauty products. Glycolic acid and similar ones — such as azelaic acid — can also help with reducing fine lines, brightening skin, and reducing enhanced skin pigmentation.

The ACOG endorses glycolic and azelaic acid as safe to treat acne during pregnancy, in addition to topical benzoyl peroxide and topical salicylic acid.


Just as they work like magic to boost your immune system and ward off free radicals in your body, topical antioxidants such as vitamin C can safely enhance your skin’s vitality by protecting your skin from damage and maintaining collagen.

Other pregnancy-safe antioxidants to try in your skin care products include:

  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K
  • vitamin B3
  • green tea

Dry skin and stretch marks

There’s no doubt that pregnancy requires a lot from your body, so if your baby-to-be needs more water at any point, it will pull it from your body. That — in addition to hormone changes — can lead to dry skin.

In addition to drinking plenty of water, moisturizing products that have 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 frequently moisturizing prone zones to help the skin stretch naturally as your bump (and baby) grow.

Sun protection

Sun protection is one of the most important things you can do for long-term wrinkle and skin cancer protection. But how you safely protect your skin during pregnancy is the big question.

The verdict on the safety of chemical broad-spectrum sunscreens is still out, so try mineral-based sunscreens that protect the skin by forcing the UV rays to bounce off of the skin entirely. Mineral-based sunscreen ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. And don’t forget that wide-brimmed hat to add some fashionable shade.

Related: The best pregnancy-safe sunscreens

Pregnancy-safe skin care brands

In the overwhelming sea of beauty products on the market, there are a few brands dedicated to pregnancy-safe skin care and body products.

Here are five to check out:

How to check if your skin care products are safe

First, discuss the safety of your skin care products with your dermatologist and OB/GYN, especially if you’re taking prescription medications or are concerned about a pre-existing skin condition.

Next, you can scan your products’ list of ingredients for any we’ve reviewed — or others that may be concerning to you. A very credible resource for learning more about skin care and personal product ingredient safety is the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Because personal care products aren’t heavily regulated, the EWG developed a database of over 87,000 personal care products, delivering a safety rating for each. The safety rating is generated by referencing each product’s ingredients with over 60 toxicity and regulatory databases.

You can reference the EWG’s Skin Deep® database online or get the app (available for iPhone or Android). In the app, you can quickly scan a product’s bar code to get its safety rating.

Try this pregnancy-safe day and night skin care routine

We know we just downloaded a lot of information — and sifting through products and ingredient lists might sound overwhelming — so here’s a general morning and night skin care routine with a variety of pregnancy-safe skin care products to get you started on your quest for the best sheen.

First, use lukewarm water to wash your face with a mild cleanser.

Shop for cleanser products online:

Next, apply a toner.

Check out these toners, based on your skin type:

To follow, add a broad-spectrum mineral-based sunscreen.

Shop for these pregnancy-safe ones:

After that, apply a moisturizer that fits your skin type.

You can find these online:

Then, apply an eye cream (if needed).

Shop these eye creams if you’re in need of a good pregnancy-safe option:

For stretch mark prevention, apply moisturizer on belly, hips, and thighs.

These products are healthy options to consider:

For your night ritual, sub in a serum for your sun protection.

Shop for these serums:

What skincare should I use during pregnancy?

Skin Care Products That Are Safe During Pregnancy

Gentle, fragrance-free cleansers and moisturizers. Hyaluronic acid (a moisturizer with pregnancy-safe anti-aging properties) Benzoyl Peroxide (safe in limited amounts, but it is recommended to check with your dermatologist first before using)

What skincare should I avoid during pregnancy?

11 skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy

  1. Retinol. Also known as Retin-A and retinyl palmitate, this is a derivative of vitamin A. …
  2. Speaking of sunscreen. …
  3. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. …
  4. Hydroquinone. …
  5. Parabens. …
  6. Aluminum Chloride. …
  7. Essential oils.

Pregnancy skincare routine acne

Along with topical benzoyl peroxide and topical salicylic acid, the ACOG recommends glycolic and azelaic acid as safe treatments for acne while pregnant.

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