Skincare Ingredients To Avoid During Pregnancy (+ List Of Harmful Chemicals In Beauty Products)

Moms-to-be may be tempted to try some new beauty products to fight skin conditions related to hormone changes, but it’s important to remember that there are various skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy.

Some chemicals that can be found in many popular beauty products can be harmful for expecting moms and even cause birth defects!

Skincare Ingredients To Avoid During Pregnancy, List Of chemicals to avoid in pregnancy and what ingredients are safe in pregnancy

During the pregnancy your body and skin have to face a lot of challenges. The skin on your growing bump stretches a lot – leading to stretch marks.

Due to hormonal changes you may also experience hyperpigmentation, have spider veins or varicose veins, as well as linea nigra (this is a dark line that runs from the naval to your pubic area).

Another common skin condition during pregnancy is hormonal acne.

If you’re pregnant and concerned about your skin condition, it’s very important to learn about the skincare ingredients and chemicals that you should eliminate – before you decide to try a new lotion for stretch marks or oral medications to treat acne.

Even if you don’t experience any skin conditions during pregnancy (you’re so lucky!), your skin still requires special treatment and intense moisturizing.

Your skin naturally looses its elasticity and softness and you may experience dryness and itchiness.

That’s why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)1 recommends that a pregnant woman should use a heavy moisturizer that will hydrate and pumper her skin.

Even if you’re just looking for a body oil or lotion for dry skin, it’s still important to check the ingredients list of the product you’re about to apply on your skin.

Keep in mind that lots of over-the-counter products and your pre-pregnancy skincare products, contain chemicals that can be harmful for developing baby. Prenatal exposure to come of the chemicals can lead to birth defects.

Some of the ingredients may cause real harm to expecting and nursing mamas: skin irritation, increased the risk of cancer, disrupted hormones, negative effect on your reproductive health.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice.

List Of Chemicals To Avoid During Pregnancy

There are a few ingredients in skin care products that you should particularly avoid during pregnancy.

1. Parabens

You’ve probably heard about parabens – common preservatives that you can find in many beauty products, shampoos and body lotions.

They are easily absorbed through skin and they are known to be hormone disruptors (they may increase the level of oestrogen). For example, one type of parabens – BPA – has been linked to miscarriage, low birth weight, obesity and even behavioral problems.

Stay away from parabens in general, not only during pregnancy, but also during postpartum and beyond. Here you can find my list of the best shampoos for postpartum hair loss which are free from parabens (and other awful chemicals).

By the way, you should avoid BPA and parabens in products for your baby too: choose paraben-free diapers and BPA-free feeding bottles and baby dishes.

2. Essential Oils

Even though they are natural, they are not really that good for pregnant women.

First of all, it’s not a good decision to make a drastic and quick change of all your skin care products when you get pregnant. If you want to introduce something new it’s best to wait even until third trimester. Make sure to read the ingredients list and consult your doctor.

Of course essential oils have lots of benefits, because they are natural, but not all of body oils are suitable for pregnancy, especially pure essential oils.

Another problem with essential oils is that they are not assessed by the FDA which means the brands don’t have to follow strict safety standards.

Essentials oils that you should avoid during pregnancy:

  • Jasmine and clary sage oils – they may trigger contractions.
  • Sage and rosemary oil – these may cause bleeding. Moreover, rosemary has been known to increase blood pressure.

Keep on reading to find out more which essential oils are safe and which ones you should not use when pregnant.

3. Phthalates

Avoid body oils that contain synthetic fragrance which is the source of phthalates. Diethyl and dibutyl are the ones that you should particularly avoid.

3. Retinoids (Retinol, Retin-A & Acne Medications With Vitamin A Derivatives)

It is a derivative of vitamin A. Although vitamin A is important for baby’s healthy growth in mom’s belly, excessive intake has been linked in some studies to many malformations of baby’s body and organs (head, heart, brain, spinal cord).

Even though the absorption of retinol through skin is probably minimal, it’s not worth the risk!

Other vitamin A derivatives that pregnant women should avoid are: tazorac and accutane which are ingredients of prescription medicines.

What’s important, lots of lotions that claim to prevent or treat stretch marks, contain retinol – which is not a pregnancy-safe ingredient. That’s why the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD)2 recommends pregnant women to consult healthcare professional before trying any lotions or oils for stretch marks prevention.

4. Chemical Sunscreens

During pregnancy you should choose a natural sunscreens, mineral-based sunscreens or physical sunscreens, instead of a sunscreen with chemical filters.

Avoid oxybenzone and avobenzone because they may disrupt your hormones. According to some studies, they may also lead to childhood obesity, ADHD and have negative effects on baby’s nervous system.

best sunscreen for pregnancy is mineral, not chemical

5. Benzoyl Peroxide & Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide help to fight pregnancy acne (which is very common because of hormonal fluctuations and increased androgen production).

You rather won’t find these ingredients in body oils, but you should still keep in mind that they are not pregnancy-safe, especially in large quantities taken orally.

6. Hydroquinone

If you’re experiencing melasma (pigmentation of the skin) like many other pregnant women, you may want to use anti-pigment agents. Most of them include hydroquinone which not safe to be used when you’re expecting.

Keep in mind that melasma will probably go away after pregnancy!

7. Formaldehyde

You should avoid carcinogenic formaldehyde whether you’re pregnant or not! This nasty chemical is linked to increased risk of infertility and miscarriage.

8. Aluminum Chloride Hexahydrate

This can be found in antiperspirants and you should definitely avoid this ingredient when pregnant.

9. Tetracycline

It is an antibiotic prescript for many skin conditions. Studies show that tetracycline and its derivatives: doxycyline and minocycline can have negative impact on pregnant women and babies and should be avoided during pregnancy.

10. Dixydroxyacetone

This chemical is a common ingredient of many self-tanners in spray. Even though it’s not absorbed through skin, it can be inhaled when you apply it on your skin. This in turn is not healthy for pregnant woman and the fetus.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s not only the chemicals you should eliminate from your skincare routine, but also some professional treatments! When you’re pregnant avoid chemical peels with salicylic acid, Botox, as well as laser treatments (including laser hair removal).

My Best Tips For Pregnant Women For Avoiding Chemicals In Beauty Products

There’s quite a few skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy but it may be hard to study the ingredient list on all the products you use every day.

To make sure you and your little one stay safe and healthy, I recommend you to consult your doctor, OBGYN and/or gynecologist. Always seek for a professional medical advice when you’re concerned about your health or the pregnancy skincare products you use.

Essential Oils You Should Avoid When Pregnant

There are many essential oils that you should refrain from using when you’re expecting:

  • Aniseed
  • Basil
  • Birch
  • Camphor
  • Clary Sage
  • Hyssop
  • Mogwort
  • Oak Moss
  • Parley Seed or Leaf
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Rue
  • Sage
  • Tansy
  • Tarragon
  • Thuja
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen
  • Wormwood

Essential oils that are more likely to cause allergic reaction and itchy rash:

  • Oregano oil
  • Cinnamon bark oil
  • Jasmine oil
  • Lemongrass oil
  • Ylang-ylang oil
  • Chamomile oil
  • Bergamot oil

What Skincare Ingredients Are Safe During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy you should opt for gentle and fragrance-free cleansers and moisturizers.

Moisturizing Oils

During pregnancy you may experience skin dryness, as well as itchiness. That’s why it’s a good idea to add a nourishing body oil to your daily skin care routine. It will not only keep you skin hydrated, but also help to decrease the appearance of stretch marks (check what’s my favorite best belly oil for pregnancy).

pregnancy stretch marks prevention what ingredients to avoid

It’s not possible to completely prevent pregnancy stretch marks – after all your skin stretches naturally on your growing belly! But it’s worth to use hydrating oils or body lotion to soothe your irritated skin, boost collagen production and at least reduce stretch marks.

Pregnancy-safe ingredients in body oils:

  • coconut oil
  • cocoa butter
  • peptides
  • hyaluronic acid (HA)

Vitamin C

Pregnant moms can use vitamin C serum – go for a product that has vitamin C concentration of 10% and in the active form l-ascorbic acid. In general, vitamin C boosts production of collagen which help to improve skin elasticity and smoothness.

Another benefit of vitamin C is that it inhibits the overproduction of pigmentation which is common in late stages of pregnancy (it’s called melasma or mask of pregnancy).

This means that vitamin C (as well as mineral-based SPF sunscreen can help to improve uneven skin tone.

There are a few pregnancy-safe antioxidants that can help with skin cell rejuvenation, reduce wrinkles. These vitamins have anti-aging properties:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K
  • vitamin B3
  • green tea

Hyaluronic Acid

Lots of moms-to-be wonder: “Is hyaluronic acid OK for pregnancy?”.

The answer is yes, hyaluronic acid is pregnancy-safe and it ensures proper hydration. It keeps skin soft and moisturized. If you have dry skin, you may want to look for a lotion or body oil with hyaluronic acid – it will give your skin that fantastic pregnancy glow.

Which Essential Oils Are Pregnancy Safe?

As an expecting or breastfeeding mama, you should pay attention to the ingredients of body oils that you use, to make sure you and your little one are safe.

Here are some of the oils that are beneficial for pregnant women:

  • Cardamom and ginger oils – help with morning sickness and nausea,
  • Frankincense, German or Roman chamomile oils, lavender, neroli, petitgrain, rose and rosewood oils – they are great for relaxation and calming down, and help to get a good night sleep.
  • Geranium, lemon, patchouli, sandalwood, wild orange oils – they improve mama’s mood.
PRO TIP: Keep in mind that during the first trimester you should avoid ALL essential oils, because they can potentially cause uterine contractions or have negative effects on baby’s early developmental stages.

Pregnancy-Safe Skin Care Brands

Here are some of the brands I tried which offer pregnancy-safe beauty products with short list of ingredients (usually organic and plant-based):

  • Earth Mama Organics
  • Zoe Organics
  • The Spoiled Mama

Is AHA And BHA Safe During Pregnancy?

Let’s start with a quick explanation what AHA and BHA are. AHA acids are chemical exfoliants, which hydrate the skin and stimulate collagen production. They also make your skin sensitive to the sun – therefore you should use them in your nighttime routine.

AHA helps to even skin tone, fade hyperpigmentation (melasma), reduce fine lines and restore moisture in your skin.

BHA acids include salicylic acid. They work well for congested skin and help with acne, clogged pores, whiteheads, blackheads and rosacea. BHAs are also used to treat the inflammatory process of ingrown hairs.

Not all of the topical acids are safe in pregnancy.

In general most AHA and BHA acids are considered unsafe during pregnancy and should be avoided. BHAs, especially the salicylic acid, should not be used by pregnant women. There are some exceptions for AHAs though.

Glycolic acid and lactic acid are two AHAs that are considered safe in pregnancy. Moreover, the latter one is less irritating for skin.

It’s important to choose the right concentrations of these skincare acids: for glycolic acid choose concentration of 7% or lower, for lactic acid it’s 5% or lower.

However, some dermatologists recommend switching from AHA chemical exfoliation to physical exfoliator during pregnancy.

If you’re thinking about using an exfoliator make sure to choose a body scrub that is safe for pregnancy and doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals or BHAs.

Can I Use Vitamin C Serum While Pregnant?

Vitamin C is pregnancy-safe ingredient and you can use Vitamin C serum while pregnant. It works well for dark spots. In fact it is a great safe alternative to hydroquinone – which is unsafe for pregnant moms and should be avoided.

Is Niacinamide Safe For Pregnant?

According to FDA niacinamide is safe to use for pregnant ladies. You can apply it topically to the skin and it may help manage acne, plus it has anti-inflammatory properties.

What Chemicals Can Cause A Miscarriage?

Here are some of the toxic household products that you should avoid, as they can increase the chances of miscarriage or lead to various health problems.

  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Paint that contains lead
  • Copper, chromium or arsenic in treatment for outdoor wood
  • Mercury
  • Formaldehyde (in nail polishes and hair-straightening products)
  • Dry cleaning chemicals
  • BPA
  • Naphthalene
  • Alcohol & drugs (cocaine)

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.

About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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