Skin Care Ingredients To Avoid When Pregnant

Skin care ingredients to avoid when pregnant

If you’re reading this, you’re likely pregnant or know someone that is. If that’s the case, then congratulations!

Pregnancy is no small feat. But now, you, or your loved one who is pregnant, are starting to notice some changes you didn’t quite expect.

No, not the morning sickness or inevitable weight gain. Not even the weird cravings or crying in public while shopping at the Gap.

We’re talking about the changes in your skin. Some people experience that pure complexion throughout the nine months of their pregnancy.

But others aren’t quite so lucky. Your changing hormones during pregnancy can cause different skin conditions like dry skin, acne, excess oil, or even dark spots.

And these changes can also influence other places on your body too. Stretch marks, spider veins, hair growth, or even hair loss can occur, just to name a few.

But none of this is meant to scare you. In fact, it’s always better to be informed about the way your body may or may not react during pregnancy.

You’ve likely had to change parts of your diet to appease these new hormonal shifts. But now, it might be time to change up your skincare routine as well.

Below are some of the top skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy. Reading that pesky label on the side of a small product canister can feel like a pain.

But we promise you won’t regret doing it once you know what is safe to use and what isn’t. So keep reading to find out what ingredients will help or hinder your pregnancy.

See Related: How do you get rid of dry, flaky skin on your face?


Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives. Generally, vitamin A is used for their acne-fighting or anti-aging properties.

One of the more common skincare ingredients, retinoids come in both oral and topical forms. After being consumed or absorbed into the skin, your body converts it into retinol.

And that retinol can help boost collagen and elastin. It essentially creates a sort of plumping effect that rids of wrinkles or enlarged pores.

Sounds pretty nice, right? I mean who doesn’t want healthier-looking skin?

But retinoids are something to avoid during pregnancy. At any other time, vitamin A derivatives and retinol are great for your skin, immune, and reproductive health.

But retinoids have been linked to causing birth defects for pregnant women and people. Most of the retinoids found in skincare products are labeled under category C.

This just means that there aren’t too many studies on its negative effects. But it’s best to steer clear of retinoids and read the ingredients label as it might also be referred to as:

  • Retinoic acid
  • Retinyl palmitate
  • Retinaldehyde
  • Adapalene
  • Tretinoin
  • Tazarotene
  • Isotretinoin

Additionally, if you’re trying to get pregnant, talk to your doctor or OB-GYN about retinoids. You may be using a product with retinol in it.

And if that’s the case, you should stop using it immediately. For those looking to get pregnant or already are pregnant, retinoids are best to be avoided overall.

Salicylic acid

Use healthy alternatives to these skincare ingredients

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid. In beauty and skincare products, salicylic acid is used to treat acne as it contains anti-inflammatory properties.

You might know salicylic acid as a derivative of aspirin. And it can be taken orally just like an aspirin too.

But studies have shown that high concentrations of this acid are also linked to birth defects, like retinoids. And in animal studies, salicylic acid was found to have caused bleeding later on during pregnancy.

For pregnant humans, some say that topical versions of salicylic acid are better safety-wise. And clinical reviews have stated that topical salicylic acid can be low-risk for the baby.

But it is only low-risk if it is used in local areas for a small amount of time. While the use of salicylic acid is not always harmful, the safest option is to avoid use during pregnancy altogether.

That’s not to say you should give up in your acne fight. There are other ingredients like glycolic acid that you can use.

Glycolic acid can help reduce fine lines and brighten your skin. And it is considered safe to use during pregnancy.

But don’t use too much of it at one time. Large quantities of this acid during pregnancy are not recommended.

But it is definitely a safer alternative to salicylic acid. Additionally, glycolic acid can be used as an alternative for retinoids as well.

No need to fret over your next breakout. There are plenty of over-the-counter skincare products that can treat your skin and help you feel more like yourself.


When you think of formaldehyde, what comes to mind? Pressed-wood products or preserving a body?

Well, you might be surprised to know that formaldehyde is commonly used in nail polishes and hair straightening products. But this strong chemical is not one to mess around with.

It has been linked to cancer, fertility problems, and miscarriages during pregnancy. So whether this ingredient is used in your products or not is something you absolutely need to know.

There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to a spa day when you’re pregnant. In fact, that’s one of the recommended treatments for those enduring a tough pregnancy.

But just ask the salon workers if they are using products that contain formaldehyde. Some nail polishes will be labeled “3-Free” or “5-Free” which means you’re in the clear.

But it is always best to ask when trying to be safe during pregnancy. Additionally, be sure to read the label for these following ingredients:

  • Bronopol
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Hydroxymethylglycinate
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Quaternium-15
  • 5-bromo-5-nitro-13-dioxane

Wow, that was a mouthful. But seriously, keep an eye out for these chemicals.

Each of these releases formaldehyde. So it’s essentially just formaldehyde in disguise.

But don’t fall for their tricks. Keep your body and your baby safe. And make sure all formaldehyde is avoided during pregnancy.


Some beauty products contain harmful ingredients for pregnant women

Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent that is commonly found in skincare products. Whether in serums or creams, hydroquinone is used to treat dark spots or melasma.

When you’re not eating for two, this ingredient is just fine. But during pregnancy, it is one of those skincare ingredients that are best to avoid.

After your baby is born, feel free to incorporate this ingredient back into your beauty routine. But while pregnant, the body can absorb a significant amount of hydroquinone in comparison to other skincare ingredients.

For the baby, it’s too much of a risk. With that much of the chemical in your bloodstream, your safest bet will be to wait after pregnancy.

But don’t feel like you can’t do anything about those dark patches of skin. Remember glycolic acid?

It is also a healthier skincare alternative for hydroquinone. It can reduce enhanced skin pigmentation.

So you no longer have to wear your mask of pregnancy proudly on your chest. But, of course, feel free to do that too!

Bonus: What Does Vitamin C Serum Do For Your Skin?


Phthalates are a chemical that disrupts the endocrine system. In many beauty products, they are used to stabilize the formula.

So it’s not even there to ease your skin conditions. It’s just there to preserve the product itself.

Even worse, they have been linked to liver, kidney, lung, and reproductive issues. So it doesn’t seem to be offering you any good, does it?

Most often, using cosmetics with this ingredient is your only risk of exposure. But there are plenty of products with skincare ingredients that eliminate phthalates altogether.

So avoid any products that contain this harmful chemical. And check the label for any terms ending in -phthalate as well.

Pregnant women and people should avoid this ingredient to help their baby grow big and strong. There are plenty of alternatives out there that will help your pregnancy, not hinder it.

Aluminum chloride

On its own, aluminum chloride is already a controversial ingredient. It is used in many kinds of deodorants and antiperspirants.

And it is generally thought to be safe when used in lower concentrations. But even people who aren’t pregnant have opted for products that are aluminum-free.

Luckily, that means there are plenty of other products out there that are safe to use. Try out brands like Schmidt’s, Hello, or Love Beauty and Planet.

These brands have mostly organic oil and botanical ingredients. As a small way to protect your baby, opt for these beauty brands instead!

Benzoyl peroxide

Harmful skincare ingredients can sometimes cause birth defects

Pregnancy can leave you glowing. But it can also cause you to suffer from acne like never before.

Benzoyl peroxide is a common ingredient in topical acne treatments. And it’s generally thought to be safe for the baby during pregnancy.

But that safety hasn’t officially been cleared. Ultimately, high concentrations of benzoyl peroxide can inflame the skin.

And this causes blood to flow and shift away from your baby. Always talk to your doctor if you are worried that a product might be harmful to your baby.

But know that even this small risk has kept benzoyl peroxide on our list of ingredients to avoid. Acne sucks.

But there are plenty of other skincare products to help you out. Just check the list of ingredients and make sure that benzoyl peroxide is not listed.

Chemical sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens typically contain oxybenzone. And this property is what protects your skin from UV rays.

But oxybenzone is also an endocrine-disrupting chemical. And it can ultimately disrupt your hormones during pregnancy.

Mineral-based sunscreens are considered safe for pregnant women and people. They will still protect your skin like normal sunscreen.

But instead, they use ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These properties are safe for pregnant women and people.

So now you can still protect your skin while soaking in that sun. Another safe alternative is sitting under an umbrella or wearing a wide-brimmed hat!

Essential oils

Essential oils seem like safe ingredients in your skincare products. After all, they contain natural ingredients, right?

But essential oils can be difficult to regulate. They all come in different varieties and concentrations.

And the amount of essential oils used in your beauty products can be difficult to measure. Because of this, it is best advised to limit your exposure and avoid during pregnancy.

Some say that using a small amount of essential oils will not negatively affect your health. But it’s one of those things that are better safe than sorry.

Always talk to your doctor and get their opinion as well. You and your baby’s health are the only things that matter.


Avoid certain skincare ingredients during your pregnancy

Parabens are one of the many chemicals that make up fragrances. Research is still ongoing as to what birth defects it can cause in pregnant women and people.

But as far as skincare ingredients go, parabens are actually used to preserve the products themselves. So they are not necessarily there to help you with acne or provide any anti-aging properties.

Some studies have linked this chemical to breast cancer. So it’s one of those ingredients to avoid overall.

But use during pregnancy is an especially big no-no. There are plenty of skincare products that are safe and do not use this harmful ingredient.

So parabens are best avoided during pregnancy. And in general, for that matter.

Thioglycolic acid

Thioglycolic acid is commonly used in hair-removal creams and products. There aren’t too many studies that prove this chemical has negative effects on the growing fetus.

But medical professionals still advise that people who are pregnant limit their exposure to this acid. The lack of data can trick you into thinking it’s okay to use.

But it’s better to leave these creams off of your body while pregnant. Besides, what’s a little hair here or there going to hurt?

You’re making life! And that’s what you should be most focused on.

Easy, breezy, beautiful

This article might feel overwhelming. Heck, pregnancy can feel overwhelming.

But all of this information is meant to help you make the best of your pregnancy. Out of the ingredients to avoid, there are dozens of healthy alternatives.

Some alternatives are easy like drinking more water. Or, using products with cocoa butter or hyaluronic acid to ease dry skin.

Just because these changes occur in your skin doesn’t mean they can’t be treated. So take that vitamin.

Or switch out that chemical oil for an organic one. There are so many small ways you can make big changes.

Your skin is going through so much in this special period of time. So treat it, you, and your baby well.

Keep Reading: What is the Best Moisturizer for Extremely Dry Skin?

For over 60 years, Viviane Woodard has represented “The Purity of Skincare”. We are the leading beauty brand for water-based skin care products and promote the importance of good skin hydration. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest for skin care tips, product discounts and more.