A Complete Guide to Pregnancy-Safe Skincare

Pregnant Woman Doing Skincare

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Along with what you can eat and drink while pregnant, there are certain guidelines to follow when it comes to beauty and skin products.

While acne treatments and anti-aging products are generally safe, there are certain ingredients that are considered a no-no when expecting.

However, before you get nervous that you’ll have to completely overhaul your routine, you don’t have to worry. “Most people don't need to make significant changes to their beauty routines,” says Hayley Goldbach, MD, FAAD, FACMS, a double board-certified dermatologist, dermatologic surgeon, and assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University. “Most over-the-counter products are perfectly safe in pregnancy."

We turned to the experts to learn more about the few harmful ingredients pregnant people should avoid, along with what to use instead.

Why Does My Skin Change During Pregnancy?

“During pregnancy, the internal environment of the body changes,” says Dr. Goldbach. “Hormonal shifts, changes to blood vessels, the metabolism, and the immune system all have an effect on the skin,” says Dr. Goldbach.

This increase in hormones and blood flow can sometimes give you that well-known pregnancy “glow,” but it can also give you acne, stretch marks, eczema, spider veins, itchy skin, and/or melasma.

“Due to hormonal changes, increased weight gain, an increase in melanin production, increased oil production, and increased blood volume leading to increased blood flow, there might be many changes in the skin,” explains Sunny Jun, MD, the co-founder and co-medical director of CCRM Fertility San Francisco, and board certified in obstetrics, gynecology, reproductive endocrinology, and Infertility.

Sunny Jun, MD

Someone’s routine regimen that consists of safe ingredients could still become more sensitive or irritating to the skin once pregnant.

— Sunny Jun, MD

Dr. Jun points out that because of these changes, ingredients that are still pregnancy-safe could cause a new and unexpected reaction once you find out you’re pregnant.

“Someone’s routine regimen that consists of safe ingredients could still become more sensitive or irritating to the skin once pregnant,” says Dr. Jun. “If someone is not sure about the products they are using, it is always best to check in with their OB/GYN,” adds Dr. Jun.

While some may experience acne and excess oil, others may experience dryness. Remember, everyone is different. “Skin changes will affect everyone differently, as pregnancy is experienced differently by everyone,” says dermatological nurse and celebrity aesthetician Natalie Aguilar.

Natalie Aguilar

Skin changes will affect everyone differently, as pregnancy is experienced differently by everyone,

— Natalie Aguilar

“Hormones may also play a role in oil production and acne. It’s nearly impossible to predict how hormonal fluctuations will affect the skin of every individual during this great time of change on the body and the mind,” adds Aguilar.

You may also experience different symptoms within the different trimesters. Your beauty routine can change week to week, but bear in mind these ingredients below.

Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

“The frustrating part of pregnancy skincare is that we don't have studies looking at most ingredients in pregnant women, so we have to rely on animal studies, or looking at the way something works in the laboratory, and make our best guess,” says Dr. Goldbach.

Nevertheless, there are some ingredients that have proven to be harmful if taken orally. “As far as common ingredients, we tell patients to avoid retinols/retinoids, some antibiotics, and hydroquinone,” adds Dr. Goldbach.


Many dermatologists will recommend that you skip any Vitamin A derivatives (like retinol, Retin-A, and retinyl palimitate) treatment during pregnancy. "There are some studies linking usage of these ingredients to birth defects,” explains Dr. Jun. However, more recently, retinoids such as adapalene will be prescribed during pregnancy. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options before starting any treatment.


Hydroquinone is commonly found in "bleaching creams" and products aimed to help fade hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and melasma.

“Hydroquinone, which helps lighten the skin, should also not be used during pregnancy as it can be absorbed by the skin at a faster rate than other ingredients, which means that it can reach the baby in greater amounts,” says Dr. Jun.


Parabens are commonly used in items from skincare to shampoo to preserve products and increase their shelf-life. In particular, BPA can be of concern. (Note that at this time, the FDA has not found conclusive evidence that shows parabens as harmful during pregnancy.)

“These substances can act as endocrine disruptors and can be absorbed by the skin easily,” says Dr. Jun. There are studies that suggest BPA may have negative effects in pregnancy. However, current research is not conclusive and more studies are needed to determine if they are harmful during pregnancy.

Chemical Sunscreens

Use mineral sunscreens instead, and definitely steer clear of chemicals like oxybenzone, which has been linked to hormone disruption in studies with mice. However, chemicals like oxybenzone are known to be irritating to some people—a particular problem since skin often becomes more sensitive during pregnancy.

“To be safe, it is better to use physical sunscreen which contains mineral ingredients like zinc oxide that physically blocks both UVA and UVB rays," says Dr. Jun.


“Fillers are very commonly used these days to reduce wrinkles,” says Dr. Jun. Most doctors won’t take the chance of injecting these into pregnant patients. “However, the studies are not as clear. It is best to avoid usage of these until after the pregnancy,” says Dr. Jun.

It’s best to consult your dermatologist or healthcare provider about ingredients, but a safe bet is to re-schedule your treatments until after your baby is born.

“I don’t advise anyone who is still pregnant or nursing to do treatments that involve peeling, lasers or injections of any kind,” adds Aguilar.

Skincare Ingredients to Use Instead

For Melasma and Sun Damage

Sun exposure can worsen the appearance of melasma, also called the mask of pregnancy,” says Dr. Jun. Use a zinc oxide-based mineral sunscreen to minimize sun damage.  

Stay out of the sun as much as possible, and wear a hat and/or protecting clothing as well as sunscreen.

“It’s also a great idea for expecting moms to begin using and testing out which baby sunscreen they prefer to use on their baby once born,” says Aguilar. “I use Babo Botanical Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen. This SPF is chemical free, fragrance free, vegan, gluten, and dairy free. It also glides on and applies to the skin nicely.”

For Acne

“Acne is most common in pregnancy because of the hormones and increased blood flow and oil production,” says Dr. Masterson. “In general, most over-the-counter acne products are okay—topical benzoyl peroxide, Azelaic acid, topical salicylic acid, and topical glycolic acid.” Most doctors agree these are fine in moderation, especially if using a small percentage formula that is applied topically.

“Vitamin C serum is a great way to brighten the skin and help nuke breakouts,” says Aguilar. “It’s important to ensure there are no other ingredients that may be harmful for use during pregnancy, but a pure, quality vitamin C is amazing for use during pregnancy.”

Keep your bedding extra clean during this time as well. “Cleaning pillowcases and sheets frequently, and avoiding touching the face are great practices to help keep the skin clean and minimize breakouts,” adds Aguilar.

What to Use for Specific Conditions


Melasma is very common during pregnancy and often appears as gray or brown patches on the face.

“Melasma is caused by increase melanin production due to hormones,” says Lisa Masterson, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN in private practice in Santa Monica, California specializing in obstetrics, gynecology, infertility, adolescent gynecology, family planning, and weight management. “The best practice for melasma is to wear a hat in the sun and minimize sun exposure” adds Dr. Masterson. Most cases will fade or disappear after pregnancy.

There are also lasers you can try to lighten melasma if you’re still experiencing it postpartum. “It’s best to be patient and wait for hormones to return to normal levels before treating melasma,” says Aguilar.

Stretch Marks

“The best prevention for stretch marks is moisturizer,” says Dr. Masterson. Use oils or creams on your stomach, hips, thighs, and breasts daily to keep skin hydrated and supple.

“After pregnancy, products containing Retin-A can be used as well as skin treatments with laser, microneedling, or radiofrequency,” says Dr. Jun.

Spider Veins/ Varicose Veins

“Spider veins or varicose veins are also due to hormones and increased blood and pressure on the veins,” says Dr. Masterson. “To improve them, move frequently, exercise regularly, try not to be in a cross-leg position for too long and wear support hose or compression socks,” adds Dr. Masterson.

A Word From Verywell

Pregnancy-safe skincare doesn’t have to be complicated.

You don’t need a chemistry degree when reading your skincare labels, but do keep in mind that certain ingredients like Vitamin A derivatives like Retin-A and retinol, as well as hydroquinone should be avoided. Lasers, fillers, and Botox should be postponed under after pregnancy and breastfeeding has ceased.

A number of ingredients are considered safe, like mineral sunscreens, benzoyl peroxide, Azelaic acid, and Vitamin C, and these ingredients can help with common pregnancy side effects like melasma and acne. Be sure to speak to your OB/GYN and dermatologist about what skincare to use and what to avoid while pregnant.

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By Dory Zayas
Dory Zayas is a freelance beauty, fashion, and parenting writer. She spent over a decade writing for celebrity publications and since having her daughter in 2019, has been published on sites including INSIDER and Well+Good.