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Your Quick Guide to Pregnancy Safe Skin Care

2 years ago6 min read
Last updated: Jan 20 2023

So you knew you had to pack away the wine and sushi for the next nine months, but what about pregnancy safe skin care? When your baby is happily floating around in their amniotic fluid bath, it might be hard to imagine your night cream causing them any harm. While research on safe skincare during pregnancy is few and far between — who’s going to offer themselves up for that clinical trial?! — we’ve taken a deep dive into the world of dermatology to find what’s up.

Pregnancy Safe Skin Care

In this article: 📝

  • Your pregnancy skin is going wild!
  • What skincare products should be avoided during pregnancy?
  • What skincare is safe during pregnancy?
  • What skincare brand is best for pregnancy?
  • What face creams are safe during pregnancy?
  • Is it safe to use products containing retinol while breastfeeding?

Your pregnancy skin is going wild!

You’re patiently waiting for your celebrity-style pregnancy glow to show up, but in the meantime, you’re dealing with acne, oily skin, dry patches, stretch marks, dark spots — the whole shebang.

Skin irritations are a common part of pregnancy and can last the whole nine months (and sometimes into your postpartum life too). One particular skin condition, the very easy to pronounce pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (let’s call it PUPPP) may only show up in the third trimester, but it can be a whole world of itchiness, too.

So what can you do about these skincare catastrophes? Keep reading to find out our favorite pregnancy safe skin care products and the best pregnancy safe skin care brands.

P.S — other Peanut mamas might have their own skincare tricks up their sleeve, so don’t forget to ask around!

What skincare products should be avoided during pregnancy?

So, while we want to get down to the good stuff and talk about pregnancy safe skin care products, it’s just as crucial to know what you might want to avoid. These are top of the naughty list:

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) — generally used as chemical exfoliants, some can be safe at low dosages, but generally best to avoid.

Retinol and retinoids — derivatives of vitamin A, these are often found in prescription acne and anti-wrinkle products. If you routinely use these products, it’s advisable to stop the treatment before trying to conceive.

Oxybenzone — along with a whole host of other scary-sounding chemical names, this is commonly found in sunscreens.

Salicylic acid — while it may be safe to use products containing salicylic acid topically (i.e. creams or lotions) for acne, it’s one to avoid taking orally or in high-dose facial peels.

Hydroquinone — regularly an ingredient in skin lightening treatments, this is readily absorbed by the skin, which can pose a threat to your baby in utero.

Formaldehyde — a known carcinogen, this can still be found in some nail hardeners and polishes.

Benzoyl Peroxide — commonly found in acne treatments, some will say it’s safe to use topically, but it does pose a possible risk, so probably best to avoid.

Parabens and phthalates — ingredients in cosmetics to stabilize and preserve products, the most commonly used compound to look for on the ingredients list is diethyl phthalate (DEP).

BPA — an unstable chemical used in plastics, this can leach into the product held within, so it’s worth checking the packaging of your products too.

Those are the big ones, but this list is by no means exhaustive (we’d probably need a whole other website for that!). So, if you’re concerned about any of the products in your usual skincare line-up, speak to your doctor, dermatologist, or OB-GYN. Another great source is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, where you can search for a safety rating for your skincare products. Amazing!

What skincare is safe during pregnancy?

So now we’ve covered what’s not so safe, here’s the good stuff. Thankfully there are still lots of options for skin care products safe for pregnancy. Generally speaking, products that are naturally derived and fragrance-free, with sensitive formulas, will be good.

If you’ve got a particular pregnancy skin care woe, we’ve got your back. And your front. And, well, all of you.

Acne and hyperpigmentation

If you’re getting pimples to rival your 15-year-old self, we feel ya. And developing dark spots, or “the mask of pregnancy” known as melasma, can make you feel like you don’t even look like you anymore. But it’s not the end. Products containing vitamin C and azelaic acid, which is derived from the wheat plant, can help brighten and clear up your skin tone.

Dry skin

Whether or not you’ve suffered from dry skin or eczema before getting pregnant, now can be the time for a giant flare-up of dry, itchy skin that keeps you up at night. It’s best to run this one past your doctor, and you may need a prescription, but low-dose cortisol steroid creams can sometimes be used. If not, natural ingredients like aloe vera can help.


While your usual go-to products might not be pregnancy safe, formulas including hyaluronic acid, vitamins E, K, and B3 are usually good to go, as is green tea, a great natural antioxidant.

Stretch marks

It’s heavily debated whether you can avoid stretch marks using moisturizers alone, but there’s no harm in trying. Cocoa butter, shea butter, and coconut oil are all super hydrating, but so is a big old glass of water, so don’t forget to drink up!


Thanks to a surge in melanin-stimulating hormones (like estrogen) you might find yourself catching a tan much easier than usual. Mineral-based sunscreens (look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) act as a physical barrier, reflecting UV rays right off the surface of your skin, and should be liberally applied before heading out, as should the ever-stylish wide-brimmed sun hat. Yes, you look like a movie star.

Further reading Can You Tan While Pregnant?

Here are some answers to other top questions about what skin care products are safe during pregnancy….

What skincare brand is best for pregnancy?

Look for natural brands specifically catering to the pregnant and nursing mama sector of the market. Some faves include Belli Skincare, Burt’s Bees, Earth Mama Organics, and Palmers.

What face creams are safe during pregnancy?

Avoid those ingredients we’ve talked about and focus on what specific issue you need resolving, whether it’s acne, dry, or oily skin for example. Different issues will need different formulas, but generally speaking, lighter gels can suit pregnant skin better than thicker creams.

Is it safe to use products containing retinol while breastfeeding?

No, it’s best to avoid products containing retinol, which can also be listed in ingredients as vitamin A and retinoids, until you have fully weaned your baby.

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