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The Ultimate Pregnancy-Safe Skincare Routine

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Article Summary:

  • Pregnancy can ravage your skin, but some skincare products are best avoided at this sensitive time.
  • We evaluated the data to determine which skincare products you can safely use in pregnancy and which ones to leave on the shelf.
  • You should always check with your doctor or other qualified clinician when deciding whether or not a product is safe to use, especially during pregnancy.

Pregnancy-related skin issues

With all the hormones rushing through your body, it’s no surprise that your skin may suffer during pregnancy. Enduring everything from dry to oily patches and from puffy eyes to acne, you might wonder what happened to your skin when you’re pregnant. Here are some of the main skin problems you may experience:

  • Acne: increased production of the hormones called androgens can lead to pregnancy breakouts.
  • Stretch marks: as your body grows and stretches during pregnancy, you may develop pink, grey, brown, or red stretch marks, particularly on your belly.
  • Melasma: pregnancy hormones can provoke areas of dark skin on your forehead and cheeks which may be exacerbated by sun exposure.
  • Dark eye rings: melasma can also affect the delicate areas around your eyes, leading to dark rings and puffiness.
  • Spider angiomas: hormonal changes can cause blood vessels that look like tiny spider webs to develop on your face or body.
  • Dry skin: as your skin begins to tighten it loses elasticity which can lead to dry, flaky skin.
  • PUPPP rash: Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy rash can occur in the stretch marks around your belly in late pregnancy, causing itchiness and occasional blisters.

While none of these skin conditions are dangerous, they can be bothersome. The good news is that there is a host of pregnancy-safe skincare products available for use.

Pregnancy skincare do’s

You may be told to avoid many things at this time, and with all the information out there, it’s always best to check with your gynecologist or dermatologist before using a product. Thankfully there are plenty of safe skincare products for use during pregnancy. What’s more, you can buy many pregnancy-safe skincare products at the drugstore.


To improve sun-damaged skin, a serum containing antioxidants such as green tea or vitamin C can help. Vitamin C is one of the best antioxidants for repairing skin damage and promoting collagen synthesis. A vitamin C product will moisturize dry skin and improve the appearance of melasma on your face and around the delicate eye area. While creams containing vitamin E may prevent stretchmarks, be aware that high dietary intake of vitamin E in pregnancy has been linked to infant congenital heart disease. Although consuming vitamin E is very different to applying it topically, consult your medical professional before using vitamin E on your skin.


Topical peptides that help maintain your skin’s elasticity are completely safe to use in pregnancy. Hexapeptide-11, soybean, and rice bran peptides have been shown to improve skin elasticity, increase collagen production, and have anti-aging effects.

Marine algae

Marine algae is an excellent moisturizer, containing a host of trace elements that are essential for skin health. Completely safe for use in pregnancy, a marine algae product will deposit zinc, collagen-boosting copper and manganese, and strengthening silica straight to your skin. Watch out though – marine algae often absorbs heavy metals, so look out for wild-harvested, heavy metal-free ingredients.

Hyaluronic acid

Well-known for its anti-aging effects, hyaluronic acid hydrates your skin while decreasing the depth of wrinkles. Hyaluronic acid often comes from animal sources, but you can also find plant-derived products which are kinder and more natural. It’s safe to use topically in pregnancy and you can even add it to your diet in the form of fermented soy products and starchy root vegetables such as beetroot.

Treat your PUPPP rash

This annoying skin condition should go away naturally within a couple of weeks after birth, but if you can’t wait that long, try a rich moisturizer containing ingredients such as shea butter or chamomile.

Stay hydrated

One of the best things you can do for your skin at any time of life is to keep it hydrated. Make sure you drink plenty of it to protect your skin from the drying effects of the sun.

Use sunscreen

A broad-spectrum sunscreen will help preserve your skin against dryness and melasma. Choose a product whose active ingredients are minerals such as zinc or titanium dioxide rather than harmful chemicals that may enter your bloodstream. Ingredients to avoid include:

  • Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • Nanoparticles

Eat well

Your skin is a reflection of your overall health and one of the most important things you can do to look after it is to follow a healthy diet. Pregnancy is no exception. Choose vitamin C-packed fruits and green, leafy vegetables. Pile your plate high with colorful foods and eat plenty of whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, and oats contain high levels of zinc which is essential for collagen production.

Pregnancy skincare don’ts

You may read long lists of ingredients to avoid while pregnant and this can be confusing – if not downright scary. Ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and benzoyl peroxide are often cited as being no-no’s in pregnancy, so do speak to your health practitioner before using them. Some ingredients are more dangerous than others though, and there are some you should definitely steer clear of.


Topical retinoids may be some of the most common skincare ingredients around, but while the amount of product your skin absorbs will be low, they should be avoided in pregnancy. Some studies have linked retinoid use with birth defects, and they are especially contra-indicated in the first trimester.


Often used as a cosmetic skin-whitener or for melasma treatment, hydroquinone is definitely not recommended in pregnancy. In fact, hydroquinone is not recommended at any time due to its possible cancer-causing effects. The ingredient has been banned in Europe and other countries as it’s deemed potentially unsafe.


When your skin breaks out in acne it can be tempting to reach for the strongest antibiotics to get your skin glowing as soon as possible. But if you’re pregnant or lactating, avoid tetracycline. It has been associated with yellowing of infants’ teeth when used in early pregnancy and acute fatty liver in mothers when used in the third trimester.


While a little sunshine initiates vitamin D production which is essential for your health, too much of a good thing is contra-indicated in pregnancy. Excessive sun exposure can lead to sunburn, melasma, premature aging, and skin cancer at any time of your life. During pregnancy your skin is even more likely to burn. Overheating in pregnancy is linked to fetal spinal abnormalities. By all means, enjoy a bit of natural sunshine (rather than a tanning bed, which is not recommended), but do protect your skin with clothing and sunscreen.

Other products to avoid include:

  • Parabens which may harm fetal development
  • Sodium lauryl sulphate, found in shower gels and shampoos
  • Phthalates, linked to problems with motor and language development in fetuses
  • Botox (botulinum toxin A)
  • Dihydroxyacetone, a fake tan ingredient

The perfect skincare routine during pregnancy

When it comes to treating your skin in pregnancy, be kind to yourself and follow a gentle routine. Look for plant-based ingredients and avoid harsh treatments that may lead to skin damage, such as chemical peels or tanning beds.


Choose a gentle cleansing product that won’t strip away your skin’s natural oils as this may lead to further skin problems. Ensure your product is soap and fragrance-free to avoid pregnancy skin breakouts. And don’t wash your face more than twice a day if you have dry skin – only once if your skin is excessively dry. If this is the case, make sure you clean your face thoroughly every night, getting rid of every trace of dirt and grime.


Keep your skin oil-free and sparkling clean with a good quality toner. Choose a natural ingredient such as rosewater or witch hazel to get every last bit of dirt off your face.


Apply a light serum before moisturizing to tackle dry areas or fine lines. Look for hyaluronic acid and peptides in the ingredients to fully hydrate your skin.


It’s important to moisturize every day to maintain balance in your skin. A good product will prevent your skin from becoming overly dry or oily. Look for a moisturizer with broad-spectrum sun protection and an SPF of at least 15.


Combat dry skin and acne by exfoliating several times a week. This will help prevent skin breakouts by removing build-up and will enable the products you use to better penetrate your skin. Don’t forget your eyes. Fight the tiredness caused by hormonal changes and treat any dark areas with an eye cream containing vitamin C or peptides.

Use mineral makeup

If you do wear makeup, choose one with minerals. The zinc and titanium will naturally protect your skin from the sun and the minerals are better for your skin than the preservatives and fragrances found in other products.

Final thoughts

Pregnancy is a time of change and with all the decision-making you have to do at this time, it can be stressful too. Taking the time to get a little skincare savvy will help you manage any skin conditions that arise and keep you and your little one safe. Remember that if something is considered a no-no in pregnancy, you should probably also avoid it when breastfeeding. And remember, you should always check with your doctor or other qualified clinician when deciding whether or not a product is safe to use, especially during pregnancy.

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