Pregnancy & Skincare Safety

Pregnant or planning a pregnancy? Obstetricians tend to run through the basics of diet changes, consuming prenatal vitamins, and lifestyle changes that should be made during this time. What tends to be skimmed over, though, is what is safe or not safe for your skin. It’s important to remember that topicals don’t always just SIT on your skin and can be absorbed into your system, so there are some products that are not recommended for use while pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Let’s break it down.


The first product you want to discontinue or avoid would be retinol. Retinols are wonderful for anti-aging and skin repair, but the potency of Vitamin A in retinols can be considered dangerous to the fetus. The dosage of Vitamin A in each retinol product is not always clear, and it’s not fully researched what amount of Vitamin A is officially safe for pregnancy. It’s best to avoid all retinoids, including over-the-counter retinols and prescriptions such as Tretinoin.

A lot of skin acids are also best to discontinue. This includes most AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acid), but some that are still considered safe for use include lactic and glycolic acid. We advise sticking with lower dosages, still, to remain on the cautious end. These products are chemical exfoliants that break down dead skin cells. You could also consider switching entirely to physical exfoliants instead.

Salicylic acid is a well-known BHA (beta-hydroxy acid) that can be wonderful for keeping pores clear and fighting breakouts, but it penetrates deep into the pore, therefore making it a riskier product during this time.

Hyaluronic acid, though, is not an exfoliant—it is a hydration booster. It’s best when used right after cleansing before applying a moisturizer to bind, absorb, and retain moisture in the skin. This is perfectly safe to continue use of.

Many women rely on aromatherapy for soothing symptoms such as nausea, but some essential oils are best to avoid. Consult with your OB before choosing which oils to massage onto your skin, as they can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Brightening treatments such as hydroquinone are wonderful for concerns of hyperpigmentation, but some studies have shown that this product can be absorbed into the body by as much as 45%. Due to this, we’d advise avoiding the use of HQ when a developing baby is involved.

Accutane is one of the most popular oral medications used to treat hormonal acne in teenagers and adults. Though it is extremely effective, it involves consuming a high dosage of Vitamin A, which can pose risk to the development and life of a fetus. It is recommended to not try to conceive if you are already on a cycle of Accutane or have just recently finished. If considering options for acne treatment while pregnant, we’d recommend an alternative such as azelaic acid.

Azelaic acid is neither a BHA nor an AHA. It is used most commonly to treat acne due to its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This is actually a wonderful alternative to other acne medications that may not be considered safe for use during pregnancy, such as Tretinoin or Accutane.

1 Topical Products for the Bump

Aside from product safety, you may be wondering about topical oils and creams for your baby bump. Some moms-to-be swear by using body butter to prevent stretch marks. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but stretch marks are not a preventable symptom. Stretch marks more commonly are hereditary. Therefore, if you’re already genetically bound to get them, there’s no way to truly stop them from coming.

The use of topicals CAN, of course, be beneficial for general moisture of the skin and improving the severity of the stretch marks, but don’t stress over trying to avoid them entirely. We love to remind women that your skin adapts and changes over time to your chapters of life, but we also understand that it can be frustrating. *Our office does offer cosmetic treatment options to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks after they’ve formed. We’re always happy to discuss your options during a FREE Cosmetic Consultation.

What about SkinMedica?

SkinMedica is one of the major brands carried within our clinic, so here are the specific products best to avoid while pregnant:

  • Retinol Complex
  • Vitamin C + E Complex
  • Even & Correct Dark Spot Cream (just the cream, as it contains retinol; the pads and serum are completely safe to continue)
  • AHA/BHA Cream and AHA/BHA Cleanser
  • Pore Clarifying Serum with a Diamond Glow treatments

So, to wrap things up:

  • Avoid products containing heavy fragrances, parabens, and phthalates
  • Wear sunscreen – this is important in general for skin health, but also can protect against melasma, a pigment condition that is common in pregnancy
  • Consider switching to physical exfoliators vs chemical exfoliators
  • Continue to maintain a skincare routine
  • Consult any questionable products with your healthcare provider
  • Abandon the care of your skin
  • Use salicylic acid
  • Use AHAs
  • Use retinol
  • Use benzoyl peroxide
  • Use hydroquinone
  • Take Accutane
  • Receive laser treatments

Always be sure to inform a consultant or healthcare professional that you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy. This may impact the treatments and products recommended to keep the health and safety of you and your little one at the highest priority of those guiding you through this journey.

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Visit Edgebrook Dermatology

Monday – Friday: 7:30 am to 5:00 pm
Saturday & Sunday: Closed

Rockford, IL

1639 North Alpine Road
Suite 360
Rockford, IL 61107

(815) 229-9333

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