Beauty Products to Avoid During Pregnancy

By Sally Wadyka. Medically reviewed by Tom Iarocci, MD. May 7th 2016

Pregnancy is a time of numerous changes — new clothes, new cravings and a whole new body. But don’t forget that it’s also a time to fine-tune your beauty regime. Certain products and treatments are best left behind for the nine months, or at least the first three.

“There isn’t a lot of hard science about some of these things, so most obstetricians tend to err on the side of caution, especially during the first trimester,” says obstetrician Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. “Those early months are when all of [the] baby’s internal organs are forming, so why take any risks you don’t have to?”

Follow these safer, doctor-approved beauty guidelines to get glowing.

Skin Changes In Pregnancy

During pregnancy, you can expect your hair to look fuller and lush, and of course, your skin will have that gorgeous, mother-to-be glow. But the same hormones that create these rosy effects can create some less-than-beautiful problems.

Acne breakouts, stretch marks and dark patches are some of the most common pregnancy-related skin conditions. Treating those issues safely — as well as maintaining the rest of your beauty routine — will require paying a little more attention to what’s in the products you’re slathering on your ever-blooming body.

Beauty Products to Avoid While Pregnant

There’s plenty of debate over what’s okay to use while you’re pregnant and what should be avoided. Since ingredients in some products for the skin or scalp can penetrate and find their way into your bloodstream, it is worth being extra cautious during these important months. Here are some general guidelines:

Benzoyl peroxide: Based on what is known about absorption and metabolism, this zit-zapping medication might be OK to use, but on review notes that no studies with use of benzoyl peroxide in pregnant women have been published, so it may be best to stick to lower concentrations or a different ingredient while you’re pregnant.

Retin A: Topical Retin A and retinol (found in many anti-aging lotions) are derived from vitamin A, and this ingredient is not recommended for use during pregnancy. To help keep skin looking fresh — and fend off wrinkles — switch to products that contain antioxidants instead.

Salicylic acid: This ingredient is sometimes used as an acne medication and is also in other products like toner. Out of caution, this ingredient should be avoided during pregnancy, and especially so when there is soaking involved such as in face and body peels.

Hydroquinone: This skin-lightening ingredient can help fade pregnancy-related dark patches, but don’t use it while you’re pregnant. Some experts have recommended soy-based products instead, but if you can wait until after this special time for you and your baby, there are many more options for skin lightening, and more.  

Parabens: This ingredient is a commonly used as a preservative in makeup, moisturizers and hair products. While the FDA acknowledges parabens’ potential as an endocrine disruptor, the agency maintains that it is safe at the low levels used in cosmetics. Luckily for those who disagree, more and more cosmetic brands are reformulating products to be paraben-free.

Other Beauty Recommendations

Sunscreen: Sun protection is essential for everyone, and during pregnancy, it’s your best bet for helping to prevent, or at least minimize, the appearance of dark patches. Look for one that’s SPF 30 or above. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens are considered safe and effective in all camps; there is more debate about possible risks associated with oxybenzone as an ingredient.

Hair color: Hair dyes have been shown to penetrate the scalp, so although many obstetricians don’t forbid patients from using them, most will urge caution during the first trimester. Highlights are considered a safer alternative to all-over color since they are painted directly onto the strands and have little or no contact with the scalp.

Baths: The potential danger with baths is the water temperature. Experts advise keeping the water about the same as your body temperature (under 100 degrees). Anything higher can raise your core body temperature and potentially cause harm. Likewise, hot tubs are often set pretty high, and soaking in one can cause the body to overheat, so this should be avoided.

Next Steps

If you’re a mother-to-be or a breastfeeding new mom, read labels on your cosmetics to see if they include any ingredients you’d rather avoid. If you have any questions or concerns, your doctor can also help you safely navigate the dos and don’ts of expectant motherhood.

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