Skincare During Pregnancy

That retinoid products should be avoided when pregnant

We are constantly told about how important is it to be aware of what we put into our bodies when pregnant. What is less frequently discussed is the importance of understanding what we put onto our bodies as well.

Whatever is applied, rubbed, massaged or left to sink into our skin may have the ability to penetrate the deeper layers and enter our blood stream. This means any chemicals or ingredients within our skin and body care might end up going straight to the baby.

While there are many, many products out there that are safe to use, it is helpful to be aware a few particular components that crop up frequently in our skincare products. The following are ingredients that should be used with caution when pregnant.


These are often found within anti-ageing products as they stimulate new cell production. The use of oral retinoids, however, have been linked to birth defects. While there is no sufficient clinical testing to say that topical retinoids can do the same, doctors exercise extreme caution with women who are pregnant. Any products that list the likes of ‘retinol’, ‘retinoic acid’, ‘retinyl’, ‘differin’ or ‘tazorac’ contain retinoids and should be avoided until after breast-feeding.

Essential oils:

While they can seem fine to use as ‘all natural’ products, some essential oils can be harmful to a growing foetus. Unless you have been giving a recommendation from your doctor, you should step away from essential oils, being a potent version of their original sources. Oils such as jasmine and rosemary oils, for example, have been linked to triggering early contractions. It’s best to do your research, but your doctor should give you the final word on whether a particular oil is safe for you to use.


Beta hydroxy acids (or BHAs) are definitely having a moment in the skincare world with their ability to promote cell turnover and exfoliate the skin without need for scrubbing. However, they should be used with caution when pregnant. While they can take different forms, salicylic acid is perhaps the most common BHA found in skincare. Much like retinoids, BHAs in their oral form have been linked to birth defects in developing children. For this reason, it is also recommended to avoid topical application as well.

Alpha hydroxyl acids, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, are considered safe to use at this time.


While it may seem like a natural alternative in skincare, in some situations soy can actually worsen a condition. Particular when dealing with melasma (also known as the ‘pregnancy mask’), soy can exacerbate the pigmentation and make it more obvious.

As always, consulting your doctor is always the safest method to ensure you are putting the best things into and into your body. If you are concerned with a particular issue that has developed during pregnancy – many women experience hormonal acne, dryness, oiliness and/or melasma – you could also consider seeking advice from a dermatologist.

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