Skin Care Basics for when You Are Pregnant

Being pregnant is an absolute joy, but it also means giving up some fun foods (thinking sushi and those cold-cut sandwiches) and alcoholic beverages (mimosas, wine, and champagne) for nine months. Pregnant women also have to be careful about their skin care, particularly because several ingredients that disrupt the skin barrier, acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid or fine-line diminishers like retinoids, are exactly the things doctors would urge patients to avoid. That can be bad news for future mamas, whose acne and other skin conditions may get worse during this period.

Fortunately, the majority of over-the-counter products are perfectly safe to use during pregnancy, but there are a handful of ingredients doctors generally tell their pregnant patients to avoid. In most cases, the science isn’t crystal-clear on whether or how dangerous they might be for a developing baby, but since it’s pretty easy to take particular products out of your skin-care and beauty regimens, the guidance is to play it safe.

Moms-to-be battling breakouts—a common side effect of pregnancy—should stay away from the oral prescription treatments Accutane and spironolactone, which are known to cause birth defects. There are alternatives—including the antibiotics erythromycin and clindamycin—which can be safely used during pregnancy.

Retinol users will want to keep their skin-smoothing serums on the shelf. Dermatologist Anna Guanche warns that pregnant women should avoid anything with retin A (tretinoin), retinol, retinoic acid, or any other vitamin A derivative, because they may be associated with birth defects. Not much is absorbed into the body, and the link is still controversial, but doctors recommend nixing retinoids to be safe, especially during the first trimester.

If you happen to experience hyperpigmentation or melasma, which are both common during pregnancy, you can use a skin-brightening treatment as long as it doesn’t contain hydroquinone. There’s only limited evidence that it could cause pregnancy complications, but because it’s known to absorb well into the body, pregnant women are advised not to use it, warns Kameelah Phillips, M.D., an ob/gyn.

Fortunately, the majority of over-the-counter products are perfectly safe to use during pregnancy, but there are a handful of ingredients doctors generally tell their pregnant patients to avoid.

Beauty Necessities for Mamas-to-be:

Non-Whitening Toothpaste

Didn’t think your toothpaste mattered? Toothpaste often contains strong chemicals that are potentially harmful to your baby that can even cause you teeth and gum sensitivity (something pregnant women often already suffer from).

Chemical-Free Deodorant

Most people don’t know it but the majority of deodorants and antiperspirants out there contain aluminum zirconium — a very dangerous chemical for pregnant and nursing mothers.  The chemical which can pass through the mother’s skin upon application has been linked to a number of issues in fetuses.

Gentle Cleansers/Neutrogena Naturals

This is a big one.  Most beauty products (and cleansers especially), contain a handful of severe chemicals that need to be avoided during pregnancy.  You may have heard of the culprits: sulfates, parabens, petrochemicals, phthalates etc.  These are chemicals that have been linked to some issues in fetuses and should therefore be used with caution.

Aquaphor / Safe Skincare

Aquaphor is just one of those products you will fall in love with!  One of the many issues that expectant mothers experience is dry skin-  especially chapped, cracked or even bleeding lips!  Aquaphor works to repair that irritated skin with enriched shea butter, soothing chamomile and Vitamins C and E.  It is fragrance-free, preservative-free, and dye free! I typically get a large jar for baby, a medium-size one to keep in the bathroom, and a mini one for on-the-go use. (Amazon typically has 20% coupon for the first order!)

Gentle, pregnancy-safe moisturizer

Aveeno has always been one of my moisturizers of choice even before pregnancy. For starters, it contains natural ingredients and is both hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic — something a breakout-prone individual looks for.  However, and more importantly, it is free of the most dangerous chemicals in many skin treatments.  Chemicals like salicylic acids and retinoids that have been closely linked to birth defects. Pregnancy is definitely not the time to use the harshest of chemicals. There are various lines of Aveeno products, always check the ingredients to make sure you have the best options.

Shoshi S.
Shoshi is a graduate from Stern College for Women in New York City. Her areas of interest include policy, non-profit organizations, and administration. During winter 2018, she was a White House intern. Shoshi has also interned at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and at Save the Children in New York. As a millennial, Shoshi brings a young and fresh perspective to the worlds of pregnancy and lactation.

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