Using Sunscreen While Pregnant: Is it Safe?

Using Sunscreen While Pregnant: Is it Safe?

Pregnancy makes plenty of mamas-to-be think twice about what they’re putting in their bodies.

From eating the right foods to taking the right vitamins, it’s vital that you’re looking after the development of your little peanut and your own health and wellbeing.

But what about the stuff you put on your body? Is sunscreen safe for pregnancy? Let’s find out.

In this article: 📝

  • Sunscreen during pregnancy — is it safe?
  • What sunscreen is best for pregnancy?
  • What sunscreen is not safe during pregnancy?
  • Can sunscreen cause birth defects (differences)?
  • Pregnancy sunscreen and sun safety tips

Sunscreen during pregnancy — is it safe?

Yes, sunscreen is safe to use while pregnant — in fact, using sunscreen while pregnant is non-negotiable.

Thanks to your crazy hormones, your skin is way more sensitive during pregnancy.

This means you’re more susceptible to sunburns, which can be uncomfortable and also lead to premature aging or even skin cancer.

So, the good news is that sunscreen during pregnancy is perfectly safe and highly recommended — as long as you use the right type.

Embryologist Navya Muralidhar goes even further: “I recommend wearing it daily, regardless of the temperature outside, or exposure to sun. It’s also best to reapply it frequently when spending time outdoors”.

So keep it topped up, mama-to-be!

➡️ Dig deeper: Can You Tan While Pregnant? Is It Safe?

What sunscreen is best for pregnancy?

A safe sunscreen for pregnancy should:

  • Have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  • Offer protection against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Include the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

Otherwise known as physical or mineral sunscreens, these are hypoallergenic and sit on top of the skin (rather than being absorbed into it).

And even if you’re not planning a swim, it’s always a good idea to choose a water-resistant brand, as these tend to stay on your skin for longer.

If you’re ever unsure whether a particular sunscreen is safe during pregnancy, check the label or talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

What sunscreen is not safe during pregnancy?

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the following two sunscreen ingredients should be considered dangerous:

  • PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid)
  • Trolamine salicylate

Thankfully, you won’t find these ingredients in sunscreens sold in the US — it’s illegal. Phew! [1]

Meanwhile, the FDA wants to see more studies into these ingredients to confirm their long-term safety: oxybenzone (more on that below), avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, or octinoxate. [2]

And while not harmful, try to avoid sunscreens made with insect repellent, as they are less effective as a combo.

As Navya suggests, “If you need repellent, it’s best to apply it separately, after applying sunscreen”.

Navya also explains another type of sunscreen it’s best to steer clear from during pregnancy: skin-lightening sunscreens.

“It’s also best to avoid sunscreens having the skin lightener hydroquinone, as there is limited data on its safety during pregnancy.”.

Can sunscreen cause birth defects (differences)?

Maybe — a 2019 study found a link between the common ingredient oxybenzone (found in chemical sunscreens) and a congenital anomaly called Hirschsprung disease. [3,4]

This rare condition occurs in one out of 5,000 children and affects the large intestine, causing blockage and constipation. It may require surgery.

If you’ve been using sunscreen with oxybenzone listed as an ingredient, don’t panic. Switch to a mineral sunscreen (described above) ASAP, and talk to your doctor if you’re worried.

(Side note: We no longer use the term “birth defects.” Here’s why.)

Pregnancy sunscreen and sun safety tips

Can laying out in the sun while pregnant hurt the baby? Nope!

A little sun on your bump won’t harm your baby — but make sure you’re taking extra precautions to protect your sensitive skin.

Here are a few sun safety tips to help you do just that:

  • Avoid being outdoors during the hottest periods. Usually, that’s between 10 am and 4pm.
  • Seek shade, like a beach umbrella or a shady tree—no tan for you, mama!
  • Lather on your pregnancy-safe sunscreen at least 15 minutes before you venture outside. Make sure you take it with you and reapply every two hours.
  • Use about an ounce of sunscreen every time (that’s the equivalent of one shot glass full) and spread evenly over your skin.
  • Don’t forget your lips. Use a high-SPF lip balm or lipstick to keep them from drying out.
  • Keep as much skin covered as possible. Use a light, breathable fabric, like cotton, to stay cool in the heat.
  • Finally, accessorize, mama! A big, floppy hat and UV-blocking sunglasses are a must.

🤔 Now, what to wear? 16 Stylish Summer Maternity Clothes

Protecting yourself from the sun’s rays is crucial, especially during pregnancy when your skin is particularly sensitive.

So rest assured, using a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is the safest and best way to shield yourself and your growing babe.

If you’re not sure about which sunscreen is best for you during pregnancy, chat with your doctor, they’ll be able to give you more personalized info.

And remember, a little sunshine is fine, but seek shade, cover up with light clothes, and accessorize! 😎

It’s safer in the shade, mama!


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