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Pregnancy Skincare: What is safe and what you should avoid

Congratulations on your pregnancy! This new chapter is filled with excitement, nerves, and a bunch of changes mostly stemming from a surge of hormones. Some woman breeze through these changes and experience the “pregnancy glow,” while others experience morning sickness and some not-so-friendly skin changes.

Some of these can include, dullness, extra-sensitivity, acne, melasma (also known as the pregnancy mask). You may have a solid skincare regime that has been working beautifully for you, but most likely there are some adjustments you will need to make for the skin changes that come with pregnancy and for what's safe for the baby.

The placenta is essentially a big sieve, it allows certain things through. And in the first few months your baby is busy developing organs, so It’s important to ensure that you are not using anything to disrupt or affect that process. However, breastfeeding is different. Our bodies are very specific about what goes into breast milk so the list of ingredients to avoid is much shorter.

Gentle is what you want to keep in mind when considering your regime while baby is on board. This plus getting pregnancy-safe facials will keep your skin feeling its best. You can feel comfortable asking for lactic and glycolic acids for exfoliation, dermaplaning which not only removes vellus hair from the face, but also gives a gentle removal of dead skin cells. Just make sure your provider is not using salicylic acid, retinols, or electrical modalities.

Below you will find a list of what you need to avoid while pregnant:

  • Retin-A/Retinol/Retinyl Palmitate/Retinoid/Accutane- retinols are your best friends for anti-aging and acne, but can be dangerous during pregnancy. Accutane is a prescription medication used to treat acne and is strongly linked to birth defects. Since Retinoids are all part of the same class, but not nearly as strong as Accutane- almost all MD’s say no to this ingredient.

    • Vitamin A derivatives like Beta-Carotene are considered safe. Look for this as an alternative.

    • Rosehip Oil is another form of vitamin A that most consider safe as well as Bakuchiol. Bakuchiol does work similarly to retinoids. It is an antioxidant made from the seeds of the cotyloidal plant. You will find conflicting opinions about this since many of the studies excluded pregnant women. This is where I would talk to your doctor and use their guidance to make you own decision.

  • Hydroquinone- this is a powerhouse skin lightener than can do wonders for melasma and stubborn sun damage. Don’t worry- you can still achieve the brightening we are all looking for with Vitamin C, Lactic acid and Niacinamide products.

  • AHA and BHA’s – these are hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids which are used in peel pads, cleansers, toners and masks to help exfoliate, brighten and increase cell turnover. There simply isn’t enough data to deem them completely safe during pregnancy. However lactic acid is considered a safe option across the board. Azelaic and glycolic are considered safe by many, but the studies are not that conclusive. If you choose to use glycolic, it's recommended to keep it at lower concentrations of the acid. 7% or lower is a good rule of thumb. Salicylic acid is typically on the no list but you will find many providers who feel it is safe in low concentration. Once again- always consult with your physician first since there are differing opinions on the topic. Here is a great article on the topic of Salicylic Acid.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide – Bacteria that causes acne lives in an oxygen-free environment. BP uses oxygen to kill these acne causing bacteria. It unclogs pores as well. One main concern with BP while pregnant is the amount of peeling, dryness and sensitivity it can cause. This is another one of those products you will find conflicting reports on. I can’t find any studies that really explain why it wouldn’t be safe. Have a chat with your doctor.

  • Hemp/CBD products – there is no straight forward answer to this and that is because there is no conclusive evidence that shows using CBD skincare during pregnancy is safe or isn’t safe. Sorry to be vague here but pregnancy skincare airs on the conservative side for good reason.

  • Chemical Sunscreen – there are two different types of sunscreens. Chemical and Physical. Chemical sunscreen typically has ingredients such as avobenzone, oxybenzone and homosalate. They work by absorbing the sun’s rays and converting them into heat, which prevents the sun from burning. Physical or mineral sunscreen containing only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide work by creating a shield, reflecting the damaging rays and are not absorbed by the skin. Because physical blocks sit on top of the skin there is no affect to mom or baby.

BREASTFEEDING – the only ingredients to avoid during breastfeeding from the list above are oral vitamin A like Accutane, Hydroquinone and Hemp/CBD. There are some OB’s that will say to avoid retinoids too but many deem them completely safe if just topical. Check with your OB on this.

I know it can be an overwhelming time your first go around being pregnant and also one of the most exciting! If you need any further guidance or struggling with your skin, you can reach out to book a virtual consultation. I work with individuals and small groups. Together we will find a way to tweak your regime to address your skin concerns while you have your precious passenger.

You can find more of my skin tips over on IG and TikTok (@jennifer_adell for both)


A licensed esthetician for 20+. years, Jennifer Adell is a beauty content creator and celebrity esthetician. After obtaining her esthetics license, Jennifer trained in a four- year energy medicine program. The merging of her esthetics career with energy work gave her a unique opportunity in which to treat her clients. Jennifer's philosophy is one of service, rooted in compassion and consideration, regardless of age, wellness concerns or course of treatment. Following her education, she held senior-level positions at some of the foremost spas and wellness centers in New York City and Hawaii. She currently splits her time between being the lead esthetician at New Beauty & Wellness in Westport, CT and a content creator on Instagram and TikTok where she offers tutorials, tips and Facetime consultations.

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