A Guide to Pregnancy Safe Skincare

A Guide to Pregnancy Safe Skincare
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Whether you’re expecting for the first time (congrats!) or you’re on baby number two or three (congrats again!), each pregnancy is unique. You may have sudden food aversions or cravings you didn’t have before or notice unexpected changes to your skin and hair. And though we can’t troubleshoot all of the intricacies you might be experiencing during this time, we wanted to help in whatever small ways we can, starting with this thorough guide to pregnancy-safe skincare products, as vetted by an OB-GYN and a board-certified dermatologist.

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The Best Pregnancy-Safe Skincare Products At a Glance

  • Best Face Wash: Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser, Fragrance-Free
  • Best Vitamin C Serum: Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
  • Best Face Moisturizer: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream
  • Best Sunscreen: EltaMD UV Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 46
  • Best Acne Treatment: The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
  • Best Eye Cream: OLEHENRIKSEN Banana Bright Vitamin C Brightening Eye Crème
  • Best Body Wash: The Honest Company 2-in-1 Cleansing Shampoo Body Wash
  • Best Body Moisturizer: Pipette Baby Lotion, Fragrance-Free
  • Best Body Oil: Bio-Oil Skincare Oil
  • Best Deodorant: Corpus California Natural Deodorant
  • Best Foot Cream: Burt’s Bees Mama Soothing Leg & Foot Cream

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Meet the Experts:

  • Dr. Melanie Bone, OB-GYN, is the U.S. Medical Director for gynecological health platform, Daye. Dr. Bone received her medical degree from Albany Medical College and served as Chief Resident surgeon at George Washington University Hospital. She now resides in South Florida, where she owns a private practice.
  • Dr. Kiran Mian, DO, FAAD, is a medical and aesthetic dermatologist at Hudson Dermatology & Laser Surgery in New York. After graduating cum laude from Rutgers University, Dr. Mian earned her medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ, before specializing in dermatology at Western University. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, and an active member of the Women’s Dermatology Society. Dr. Mian also serves as a volunteer faculty at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai University.

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How Much Do Your Skincare Products Actually Impact the Health and Safety of Your Baby During Pregnancy?

“While the impact of your skincare routine on your baby during pregnancy is generally minimal, it’s still important to exercise caution, because certain ingredients can be absorbed into the bloodstream and negatively affect your baby,” explains Bone.

Mian agrees, adding that, “Whether it’s because they have been shown to cause harm or there simply isn’t enough data to prove that they are safe, there are some ingredients that are better to avoid as an extra precaution.” (We’ll get into that more below.)

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What Skincare Ingredients Are Safe to Use During Pregnancy?

Common skincare ingredients that are used to treat conditions like acne, rosacea and melasma and are safe to use during pregnancy include clindamycin, azelaic acid, bakuchiol, lactic acid (used in low concentrations, sparingly) and niacinamide.

Other ingredients that get the green light include ceramides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, mineral sunscreens, topical resveratrol and (whew) vitamin c, the skin-brightening powerhouse. As Bone assures, “Vitamin C, in general, is considered safe to use during pregnancy. When used topically in skincare products, such as in serums, the concentration is generally low and poses minimal risk. That said, I do recommend sticking to low concentrations of it—around 10 percent or lower—and avoid products that have combinations of vitamin C with other, potentially harmful ingredients like retinol or hydroquinone.”

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What Skincare Ingredients Aren’t Safe To Use During Pregnancy?

Ingredients that are shown to be unsafe include retinoids (in all of its forms including tretinoin, retinol, retinal and retinyl), salicylic acid and hydroquinone. Some ingredients, like metronidazole (a topical gel that’s used to treat inflammatory lesions caused by rosacea) have not been proven to be harmful, however limited studies are available to prove their safety, and are therefore used at the patient’s and/or their physician’s discretion.

Bone also adds the following to the list of ingredients that should absolutely be avoided during pregnancy:

  • High-concentration chemical peels
  • Botox/any form of neurotoxins
  • Fillers
  • Products containing formaldehyde or phthalates
  • Products with high levels of essential oils or artificial fragrances

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Both experts agree that you should always read the product labels and consult with your healthcare provider if you have any doubts about the safety of a particular ingredient. And on that note…

Here’s How to Check if a Skincare Product Is Pregnancy-Safe:

“As a first step, I recommend reading product labels very carefully. Some brands actually label their products as ‘pregnancy-safe’ or ‘suitable for use during pregnancy,” says Bone. “Look for well-established and reputable skincare brands that prioritize safety and ingredient transparency. Also, make use of resources that offer ingredient databases or provide guidance on selecting safe products during pregnancy,” she adds. (You can search for the safety of a specific ingredient, brand or product on the Environmental Working Group’s website. We also like Beautypedia’s Ingredient Checker, which is run by Paula’s Choice, a skincare brand, but cites independent research and is a relatively easy starting place to learn more about ingredients.)

“When it comes to evaluating whether or not a product is safe to use during pregnancy, there are a few variables we consider. The effects of the ingredient, the bioavailability of the ingredient, meaning how much is actually being absorbed into the bloodstream; the surface area to which the product is being applied—for example, some studies have shown salicylic acid to be safe in very small quantities (i.e., on one or two isolated spots), but not recommended to use all over the face in pregnancy,” explains Mian.

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She adds: “The most important variable is weighing the risk versus the benefit of using something. Is the condition we’re treating medical or cosmetic? While we all want to maintain the appearance of our skin, it’s OK to put certain treatments on hold to avoid posing any risk to the baby, especially when there are usually safer alternatives that are available.”

As parting advice, Mian recommends taking your skincare products to your dermatologist or OB-GYN and have them evaluate the ingredients with you to ensure they are safe. “Ideally, a collaborative approach between the dermatologist and OB-GYN would be the most helpful,” she says.

To help get you started, here are 11 pregnancy-safe skincare products you can swap into your routine.

,pregnancy-safe-skincare-Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser: a bottle of face washAmazon

Best Face Wash

1. Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser, Fragrance-Free

Cetaphil

  • What We Like: price, fragrance-free, can be used as a cleanser with water or like cold cream you wipe off
  • What We Don’t Like: can leave a residue (which might bother people with oily skin)
  • Standout Ingredient: glycerin, vitamins B3 and B5
  • Promising Review: “My regular skincare products, which cost a lot more, have stopped working during my pregnancy and I even suspect has contributed to making my acne getting worse during the first trimester. Accompanied with my pregnancy, I am faced with horrible acne that not only hurts but itches TERRIBLY on my face and back. Within 48 hours of using this [two] times a day, the itching has lessened, and my cystic acne has reduced. If you’re planning to get pregnant, I recommend having this product beforehand just in case. Had I known I wouldn’t have waited till the third trimester to get it.”

This no-frills cleanser is a longtime favorite, thanks to its pH-balanced, fragrance-free and glycerin-packed formula. With the runny consistency of a lotion, it spreads easily over your skin, and you can either use it like a cold cream, applying it over dry skin and wiping it off with a clean cloth or you can massage it into your skin and rinse off like any other face wash. Either way, your skin will be left feeling fresh and clean, never tight or dry.

$12 at Amazon,pregnancy-safe-skincare-Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Vitamin-C Day Serum: a bottle of vitamin c serum and powderSephora

Best Vitamin C Serum

2. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

Drunk Elephant

  • What We Like: powder comes separately so you can mix it in when you get it for maximum freshness
  • What We Don’t Like: has an odd scent to it that has been described as “hot dog water”
  • Standout ingredient: L-Ascorbic acid, ferulic acid, vitamin E
  • Promising Review: “I started using vitamin C when I started trying to get pregnant. I have to say I did notice [a] difference with this serum, but it is potent! I think this is worth a try if you can’t use retinols or salicylic acid due to pregnancy or breastfeeding.”

Though retinoids and retinols can’t be used during pregnancy, there’s another well-known powerhouse that’s, thankfully, safe to use: vitamin C. For best results, layer this serum underneath your sunscreen each morning to offer additional protection against UV rays and other environmental pollutants. Combined with ferulic acid and vitamin E, it helps to address pigmentation, which is common in pregnancy, while brightening your skin overall.

Buy It ($78),pregnancy-safe-skincare-Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Gel-Cream: a container of face creamUlta Beauty

Best Daily Moisturizer

3. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream

Neutrogena

  • What We Like: available at most drugstores, refreshing feel
  • What We Don’t Like: comes in a tub
  • Standout ingredient: hyaluronic acid
  • Promising Review: “I love, love, love this moisturizer. In pregnancy my dry skin has become even more sensitive and dry, and this stuff has been a miracle.”

This drugstore moisturizer is oil-, dye- and fragrance-free, as well as non-comedogenic, for our acne-prone mamas. The water-based gel cream feels refreshing as you apply it and your skin stays plump and hydrated, thanks to the hyaluronic acid and glycerin in the formula.

Buy It ($30),pregnancy-safe-skincare-EltaMD UV Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 46: a bottle of sunscreenAmazon

Best Sunscreen

4. EltaMD UV Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 46

EltaMD

  • What We Like: rubs in nicely, broad-spectrum mineral formula, won’t cause breakouts
  • What We Don’t Like: bottle is relatively small for the price
  • Standout ingredient: zinc oxide, niacinamide, lactic acid
  • Promising Review: “I’m an avid sunscreen user and have been dedicated to non-chemical sunscreens the last few years through pregnancy and breastfeeding phases of life. I also suffer from hormonal acne and am always hunting for great oil-free products. [This is the] best daily facial sunscreen I’ve used. Super moisturizing but also super lightweight. The texture makes it easy to spread. It’s a really great final step in my skincare routine before applying makeup.”
  • We’ve written about our love of this sunscreen many times before, and that’s because it’s one of those rare products that works for just about everyone—including expecting mothers. The zinc oxide formula is oil-free and easy to spread over your skin, protecting against UV rays without causing breakouts.

$39 at Amazon,pregnancy-safe-skincare-The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream: a tube of skin brightening creamSephora

Best Acne Treatment

5. The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

The Ordinary

  • What We Like: lightweight texture, is cruelty-, fragrance-, and paraben-free
  • What We Don’t Like: tube can get gunky at the opening
  • Standout ingredient: azelaic acid
  • Promising Review: “Since I’ve been pregnant, I’ve been experiencing a lot of hormonal acne [but] my options for acne products are very limited. After [trying] many pregnancy-safe serums, this is the only one that made an immediate difference! I’m an esthetician and I’ve tried many, many treatments. After only using it twice my larger breakouts had already disappeared, my pores looked smaller, my skin looked softer and I had a brighter complexion overall.”

Looking for a sub in for your usual salicylic acid? This multifunctional treatment is worth a try. Its namesake azelaic acid targets a range of skincare issues that can affect women during the various stages of pregnancy, including breakouts, overall dullness and uneven tone. Layer it underneath your sunscreen in the a.m. or moisturizer in the p.m.

Buy It ($28),pregnancy-safe-skincare-OLEHENRIKSEN Banana Bright  Vitamin C Brightening Eye Crème: a tube of eye creamSephora

Best Eye Cream

6. OLEHENRIKSEN Banana Bright Vitamin C Brightening Eye Crème

OLEHENRIKSEN

  • What We Like: has light-reflecting yellow mineral pigments to color-correct and revive tired under eyes, fragrance-free
  • What We Don’t Like: comes in a tub instead of a pump
  • Standout ingredient: triple vitamin C complex
  • Promising Review: “I’m 9 months pregnant and can use all the help I can get brightening my under eye area (thanks to a real lack of quality sleep happening over here!) This really did the trick and also looks great under makeup—no slipping! Definitely recommend.”

Not getting enough shut-eye lately? Keep this eye cream on standby. Supercharged with a vitamin C complex and light-reflecting mineral pigments that color-correct dark shadows, the brightening formula also wears well under concealer.

Buy It ($42),pregnancy-safe-skincare-The Honest Company 2-in-1 Cleansing Shampoo   Body Wash: a bottle of body washAmazon

Best Body Wash

7. The Honest Company 2-in-1 Cleansing Shampoo Body Wash

The Honesty Company

  • What We Like: made without phthalates, dyes or synthetic fragrances, has a pump applicator, whole family can use it, can be used as a shampoo
  • What We Don’t Like: may need to use more product to get a good lather
  • Standout ingredient: calendula, aloe
  • Promising Review: “After becoming supersensitive to smells due to pregnancy I tried several different-scented shampoos before opting to go unscented. I couldn’t stand the way my hair smelled with scented shampoos. This shampoo was a godsend.”

This two-in-one gets a lot of praise for being gentle on your scalp, skin and senses; both eczema sufferers and the fragrance-adverse alike say it’s the only wash they can use without causing any irritation. It simply cleans without stripping your skin dry. We also appreciate the pump top applicator, which makes it easier to use with slippery hands in the shower.

$11 at Amazon,pregnancy-safe-skincare-Pipette Fragrance Free Baby Lotion: a tube of body lotionUlta Beauty

Best Body Moisturizer

8. Pipette Baby Lotion, Fragrance-Free

Pipette

  • What We Like: lightweight texture, free of synthetic fragrances, absorbs nicely
  • What We Don’t Like: tube is on the smaller side
  • Standout Ingredient: ceramides and squalene
  • Promising Review: “I don’t like thick lotions or heavily scented products. I am happy with how the Pipette products keep my skin from feeling dry and tight. My skin feels comfortable all day.”

This beloved brand is known for their baby products, but they’re just as good for parents-to-be. Grab a tube of this body lotion for yourself now and use it on the little one when they arrive. The lightweight formula has squalene, ceramides and glycerin to keep your skin feeling soft and soothed, not sticky. It’s also free of any sulfates, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, parabens and petrolatum.

Buy it ($10),pregnancy-safe-skincare-Bio-Oil Skincare Oil: a bottle of body oilUlta Beauty

Best Body Oil

9. Bio-Oil Skincare Oil

Bio-Oil

  • What We Like: lightweight, non-comedogenic, moisturizing oil for all skin types
  • What We Don’t Like: has a subtle scent (noting for anyone who is sensitive to fragrance)
  • Standout Ingredient: vitamins A and E
  • Promising Review: “I have been using this product since I have been 6 weeks pregnant. It’s been a nighttime ritual for my husband and I. He rubs it on my belly and says hello to our baby girl! I am currently 37 weeks pregnant and have NO stretch marks.”

Bio-Oil gets the stamp of royal approval from Kate Middleton—and many other mamas. Massage the vitamin E-rich formula over your growing belly to soothe any tightness and itchiness, while also helping to prevent stretch marks. In addition to vitamin E, it has chamomile and lavender oil, which gives the oil a calming scent that’s not too overpowering.

Buy It ($26),pregnancy safe skincare-Corpus California Natural Deodorant: a bottle of deodorantCredo Beauty

Best Deodorant

10. Corpus California Natural Deodorant

Corpus

  • What We Like: formulated with naturally derived plant to help reduce body odor, glides on easily, doesn’t stain clothes
  • What We Don’t Like: pretty pricey
  • Standout Ingredient: tapioca starch
  • Promising Review: “I’m a sweaty person naturally (used to get prescription antiperspirant) and I can tell you that most natural deodorants do nothing for me. Honestly, I had given up on going natural for deodorant and was happy to stick with my trusty drugstore brand (aluminum poisoning be damned). But then I got pregnant and [wanted] to detox everything for the baby. I would say [this is] 95% as good as [other] brands (which is way better than I expected!) Smells nice and keeps me from sweating buckets.”

If you choose to swap your deo during pregnancy, here’s a luxe pick that’s free from aluminum, parabens, talc, phthalates and baking soda. In its place? Naturally derived enzymes and plant extracts that have been clinically proved to help reduce body odor, and non-synthetic scents like California, which smells of sea salt, bergamot, white musk and jasmine.

Buy It ($26),pregnancy-safe-skincare-Burt's Bees Mama Soothing Leg & Foot Cream: a tube of foot creamAmazon

Best Foot Cream

11. Burt’s Bees Mama Soothing Leg & Foot Cream

Burt’s Bees

  • What We Like: feels cooling on skin, absorbs quickly
  • What We Don’t Like: tube is small for price
  • Standout Ingredient: peppermint and coconut oil
  • Promising Review: “[It’s] a very useful cream for the last days of your pregnancy when your legs and ankles are swollen and itchy. Can also [help] relieve your irritable leg syndrome.”

Ease tired, swollen feet with a nighttime massage using this cream. Packed with a coconut oil and glycerin, it smoothes over every dry nook and cranny, while somehow not being too greasy. Plus, it has a tingly, cooling sensation to it that feels especially nice after a long day. (Just make sure to wash your hands after using this, so you don’t accidentally rub your minty hands over your eyes.)

$17 at Amazon,

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