Skincare while pregnant is similar to all the other aspects of pregnancy that you will need to contend with: (1) Everyone has an opinion and (2) getting to the truth of the matter means wadding (or waddling) through a bunch of myths, assumptions, and baloney. And while others in your tribe might be experiencing a pregnancy glow, your skin is breaking and a mess—yet another reason to feel cranky and like you can’t catch a break.

So on top of dealing with pregnancy hyperpigmentation (melasma), feeling befuddled, a little cross, and perpetually tired, you’re left feeling scared to use some cream or another because of something someone’s sister said that may or may not be legit.

First and foremost, before tossing out / giving up on your skincare routine until Little One arrives, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. Your dermatologist’s word on the matter trumps other people’s sisters. Bring your skincare kit or pictures of beauty product labels, even though it might make you feel a little silly. Better to feel a little silly now, then have to deal with irritated skin for however many months you have left before D-day. (And 9 months is really too long to be unhappy with your skin!) 

With that disclaimer aside, you should have a working knowledge of the ingredients to avoid.

Here’s your no-go ingredients list, rounded up from skincare experts and medical publications:

  • Botulinum toxin, aka Botox – beauty treatment to minimize fine lines
  • Thioglycolic acid – found in many hair removal creams
  • Dihydroxyacetone, aka DHA – ingredient often used in spray on tans
  • Ammonia – found in many hair coloring and hair dye products
  • Toluene – often used in nail polishes
  • Formaldehyde – hair straightening treatments, eyelash glue, also nail polishes
  • Phthalates – often found in perfumes and nail polishes
  • Hydroquinone – used in many skin brightening creams and beauty products
  • Tetracycline – ingredient used in acne medication
  • Retinoids (in all its forms and derivatives) – found in anti-aging skincare and acne products
  • Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide – found in many acne products

Deep, calming breaths. There are still ways to deal with common skincare issues while avoiding no-go products.

Dealing with pregnancy acne

Women have different skin experiences during pregnancy. Due to an increase of blood being pumped throughout your body and your face, your glands are producing more oil to your skin—responsible for that “pregnancy glow.” But if your face is already oil-prone, then you might tend toward breaking out in blackheads and whiteheads. And since many ingredients found in acne products are also on the “steer clear list,” what’s a pregnant lady to do?

Look for products that use other exfoliating ingredients, such as lactic acid, glycolic acid, or alpha hydroxy acid. Charcoal masks can help to absorb excess oil. And facial treatments and microdermabrasion at a spa will feel like a lifesaver that will exfoliate, refresh the surface of your skin, unclog pores, and thus minimize their appearance. Which is helpful when dealing with oily skin. 

(Don’t forget to inform the spa you are expecting and to avoid all products that are unsafe for expecting mothers.)

Dealing with melasma and hyperpigmentation

During pregnancy, your hormones fluctuate, which can trigger melanin production, often resulting in what is called the “mask of pregnancy.” This hyperpigmentation is best dealt with by staying out of the sun as much as you can and using sunscreen all the time when you must be out and about. (UV rays trigger further melanin production.) Side note: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has not listed any sunscreen ingredients as being unsafe for pregnant moms.

Dealing with tired, dull skin

Niacinamide, vitamin C, vitamin E, collagen, and hyaluronic acid are your pregnancy-safe friends. Keep these ingredients close at hand to deal with your skincare issues.

Finally, if you are in doubt about a product, skip it until you know for sure. And, by now, you know the drill! Take pictures of ingredient lists and bring them to your doctor or dermatologist! Additionally, ask them for recommendations on pregnancy-safe skincare products. (But avoid late-night phone calls or consider gift baskets if you begin to feel like you’re being a smidgen too annoying.) 

—Eun-Ha Park

Back to all articles