Skin Care to Avoid and Add while Pregnant

My husband and I have decided to start having children. It’s a weird feeling honestly. I’m nervous, excited and freaking out; we’re not pregnant yet. That whole #adulting thing feels so stupid when I realize that we’re considering bringing a child into the mix. The ultimate adult moment. What make me think of writing this post is that I had my annual visit with my internal physician and my OBGYN and broke the news to them so I could make sure I was on the correct medications. Since we aren’t trying right now I’ve been told I have a month to get off these products and start using a pregnancy safe option or start using these products immediately. Here is where I stand on my pregnancy/conceiving skin care list.

Stop Using Retinol, even while trying to conceive

The bad boy of the skin care world (in more ways than one), you absolutely should not be using retinol topicalyl and definitely not the internal form of Vitamin A (Accutane) while pregnant. For those using retinol for acne resist the urge. There are a number of birth defects that have occured due to it. Collectively these birth defects are known as fetal retinoid syndrome. Oral intake is most severe because of ease of crossing the placental barrier. Topical has shown a lower risk of birth defects but it isn’t worth the risk, especially with alternatives like bakuchiol on the market.

Birth defects include issues with the central nervous system (CNS), heart defects, premature birth, miscarriage, and general fetal malformation.

For those using retinol and looking to use bakuchiol, I’d suggest using Biossance Phyto-Retinol with Squalane. Bakuchiol is considered safe by the EWG and Biossance’s Phyto-retinol formulation gets the seal of approval from the EWG as well.

Except retinol, your topical acne medication is probably safe to use

Your topical antibiotics and benzyl peroxide pose a minimal risk. These products, like DHA, are not absorbed well through the skin and pose a minimal risk of entering the blood stream where it can cross the placental barrier and cause defects.

Remove Bisphenols and Parabens

Parabens have been on the chopping block in skin care for some time. There is quite a bit of evidence to suggest parabens are something we want to avoid in general. They are known endocrine disruptors and appear to be able to cross the placental barrier and affect male fetal development.

Words to look for include: bisphenol A (BPA), bisphenol S (BPS), bisphenol F (BPF), bisphenol AF (BPAF), methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, benzylparaben.

These are present in just about everything. Legally, BPA is not allowed in products that are sold for babies (bottles, baby food containers, diapers, etc.) but that doesn’t include the other bisphenol products (BPS, BPF, BPAF). These an be present in everything from plastic containers to deodorants, sunscreen and other skin care products.

For deodorants: Tom’s and Native are paraben free. Both are also vegan and cruelty-free. Just beware that natural deodorants aren’t always as effective. I’m still searching for one.

For sunscreens: anything that targets babies is going to be a safe option.

Glass bottles: I’d suggest buying a glass refillable water bottle if possible or use a metal water bottle as these are not only more environmentally sound but also going to be free of parabens. The only source of parabens will be the cap so look for branding that includes paraben free.

Quit using products that contain Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is commonly used in skin bleaching/lightening products and is available over the counter and prescription. Search the ingredients list for hydroquinone, idrochinone and quinol/1-4 dihydroxy benzene/1-4 hydroxy benzene. As an alternative look to using Vitamin C with judicious sunscreen use. Look for Zinc Oxide based sunscreens like Supergoop! Zinc Screen for the face. Zinc Oxide provides better UVA/UVB potection than titanium dioxide and both UVA/UVB protection which other sunscreens do not provide.

My favorite Vitamin C is the Turbo Boost C Powder by Philosophy. It is potent and doesn’t turn as fast as other liquid vitamin C options which typically have a shelf life of only 6 months. I have a problem using most of the liquid formulations within 6 months. Even Paula’s Choice, which is an amazing product line, doesn’t hold out and costs more.

Companies that produce sunscreens that are safe to use during pregnancy include Coolio, Earth Mama Organics, Babo Botanicals, Aveeno, Goddess Garden…… there’s several available on the market. For a full list come back later this week to read our post on Sunscreens.

Add a Prenatal Vitamins

Even though I’m 3 months out from really trying to conceive, my internal medicine and OBGYN physicians have instructed me to add a multivitamin that includes folic acid/folate. Folic Acid is the synthetic form of Folate and are interchangable. According to my doctors they absorb at roughly the same rate. Both doctors said I could use something over the counter I just had to look at the amount of folate/folic acid. My OBGYN instructed me to take 400 mcg a day. My pharmacist said to take 1mg per day. I’m currently taking Raw One for Women which has 400 mcg folate per pill. One pill, it doesn’t cause any of the constipation issues that some prenatal vitamins have. But with 6% of my daily iron i do need to take a supplement.

The other thing I’ve been told to add is an iron supplement or increase the amount of red meat I consume. I really don’t eat much red meat but I do take FerroFood by Standard Process which is a natural iron supplement that doesn’t cause the the side effects as other over the counter iron supplements.

Folic acid/folate and iron are the only elements I was told to look at. Between those two supplements and a balanced diet I should be good to go if I take them everyday.

A trip to the nail salon

Photo by Pixabay on

In the US and EU, this isn’t quite as big an issue as it is in other countries. What you’re wanting to avoid are phthalates, formaldehyde, and toluene. This is typically found in nail salons; however, we’re seeing these products less and less in the industry. I often see women in their third trimester getting a pedicure as it does get a little difficult to touch those toes and massages for the feet help to relieve swelling/edema that tends to occur during pregnancy.

Beta-hydroxy-acids (BHA)

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Aspirin is an absolute no-no to use while pregnant. Serious birth defects can occur. So even if you’re trying to get pregnant it’s best to avoid taking aspirin if not under doctor supervision. The active ingredient in aspirin is salicylic acid which is the most popular BHA used in the skin care industry. Because of this, BHA has been labelled unsafe to use during pregnancy by the FDA. I’ve heard differing opinions from several OBGYNs. Mine leans very conservatively and says to avoid it in general, whereas one of my best friends says it’s fine to use as a facial serum just don’t ingest it. My pharmacists has also told me it’s ok to use on the face just don’t ingest it. The reason why some say it’s safe is because BHA is not absorbed through the skin nor does it absorb into the blood stream effective using a topical application.

In the end it’s a decision to be made with your doctor to become as informed as possible and make that final decision. Personally, I’ll be skipping the BHA peels for 9 months + breastfeeding. At least I can still use AHA since AHA is deemed safe for use during pregnancy. Bring on those glycolic acid peels!

Self tanners

Photo by Lara Santos on

What you’re avoiding in this product is DHA (dihydroxyactone) which gives the colorant ability. DHA binds to amino acids in the skin. Very little is absorbed through the skin; however, when spray tanning quantities are typically inhaled which poses a higher risk of the chemical entering the bloodstream. Due to the inhalation risk spray tanning is often not suggested; however, use of foams and lotions pose a less than minimal risk to the fetus.


For those who do any chemical treatment to their yards or backyard/patio gardens, absolutely no use of pesticides is allowed. Some organic pesticides are more of a risk to fetal development than conventional pesticides. I test pesticides as part of my 9-5 job and apply them as part of regular maintenance of our study sites. My boss and I have already had this conversation and under no circumstance am I allowed to apply pesticides once we try to conceive. Even those 2-weeks before a missed period it isn’t worth the risk.


This is more for newborns. Lavender does help people fall asleep and promote a calming feeling. BUT, we now know that lavender can be an endocrine disruptor and cause developmental issues in boys. And lavender is absolutely everywhere: baby wash, baby powder, softeners (sheets, clothing), essential oil diffusers. I covered this particular topic in a previous post. The science is at a point it seems safe to avoid lavender everything, particularly in boys. Th exact dosage isn’t understood though so it’s unclear if just the lavender bath is safe. We have seen reports where continual usage of lavender in products that are in continual contact with the skin like lotions and fabric softeners can result in tissue changes in young boys.

There is the short list. As with everything do consult with your doctor. This list is only meant to serve as an education source and make you aware of products to avoid and discussions to have with your doctor. All doctors will give their suggestions based on our current scientific understanding. The problem is that science is always evolving, so we get new understandings of what affects fetal development every year. Hopefully this helps, hopefully this has made you a little more aware and help with ingredient checking. Best of luck. Congratulations!!

Comment with some baby stories or baby pictures. Do babies not smell the absolute best/ or worst. We’re gonna keep this baby fever going with more baby pictures. My friends send me constant updates of their buddles of joy on Instagram and some days my ovaries might actually explode with the adorables of it all.

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