An Expectant Bride's Guide to Pregnancy-Safe Beauty

If you're expecting, your skin care routine might need a bit of a revamp

Updated 06/29/18

Photo by Forged in the North

Ahh, pregnancy glow—the mythical phenomenon that is said to grace all pregnant women as they’re expecting their bundles of joy. Although, some may need help getting it. Enter pregnancy-safe skin care.

While some might experience a glowing complexion, others might really struggle with their skin throughout all the hormonal ups and downs, and turn to any product in search of a miracle. It’s only natural to want to solve the skin issues that arise throughout pregnancy, but it’s also incredibly important to do so safely.

Brides spoke with Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, for expert guidance on pregnancy-safe beauty.

Ingredients to Avoid

Unfortunately, many anti-acne and skin-smoothing ingredients should be avoided throughout pregnancy. Specifically, Zeichner says, “Topical retinoids such as retinol should not be used, as they may be associated with birth defects. Benzoyl peroxide is pregnancy category C and generally should be avoided. Salicylic acid is over the counter and my public recommendation is not to use it and speak to your dermatologist.”

Aside from these, pregnant women will also want to avoid essential oils, and hydroquinone. The oils are “highly concentrated and can be absorbed at higher than expected levels,” while hydroquinone, a popular skin lightening ingredient, should not be used during pregnancy either.

Generally speaking, “the low concentration of OTC products likely pose a negligible threat when used properly,” says Zeichner. “However, high amounts over large surface areas of skin can potentially lead to significant absorption of the ingredient.”

While the biggest concern of harmful exposures “is always during the first trimester, when the major development of the fetus occurs,” Zeichner explains, “I personally hold the same standards for skin care throughout the duration of the pregnancy.”

If you find that you have been accidentally using ingredients that are considered off-limits in pregnancy, “Immediately stop using the product. If there is any concern, touch base with your doctor.”

Active vs. Inactive

Now more than ever before, it’s important to read the labels in the products you are using. Differentiating between active and inactive ingredients is important also. Zeichner explains, “Ingredients are generally listed in order from greatest to lowest concentration of ingredients, although the actual concentration is typically not listed if the ingredient is considered an inactive ingredient. Active ingredients are generally listed separately and do contain the concentration used.”

Safe Ingredients

While many ingredients should be avoided throughout pregnancy, there are plenty that are safe too. Zeichner says that, for the most part, “general antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E are safe to use, in addition to minerals like magnesium and selenium.”

He adds that botanicals such as colloidal oatmeal, chamomile, and licorice root are safe to use as well. And while salicylic acid is a no-no, “glycolic acid is generally considered safe to use.”

There’s also not much data out there on ingredients like peptides and growth factors, but Zeichner says, “My general recommendation is to avoid these. However this is founded on anecdotal feelings rather than any true data.”

How a Dermatologist Can Help

At your first ob-gyn appointment, you’re bound to discuss many of the pregnancy do's and don’ts, but often skin care and beauty aren’t mentioned. This is because the discussion “is usually left to the dermatologist, as the gyn really focuses on the health of the developing baby and general health of the mom.” So for any questions or concerns regarding your skin care or beauty routine, it’s important to consult both your dermatologist and ob-gyn.

Throughout pregnancy, you might also experience skin conditions including acne, rashes, stretch marks and/or changing moles. (Many of these are the results of hormonal fluctuations and changes, as well as stretching skin.) If you notice any of these happening, or have any other concerns, you should seek the help of a dermatologist too.

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