If you're wondering what ingredients are safe to use on your skin during pregnancy, we turned to the experts to learn more.
Medically reviewed by Kim Nichols, M.D.
During pregnancy, your body goes through many changes. You likely expect to see your breasts grow or to potentially experience morning sickness and food aversions. But pregnancy affects your body in many ways, one of which includes your skin, ranging from unfamiliar acne to newfound stretch marks. These side effects appear because of shifts in hormone levels and the speed at which your body grows to accommodate your developing baby.
While there's a plethora of skin care products on the market, some of these products are not safe to use when you have a baby on the way. We spoke with two dermatologists for insight on pregnancy-safe skin care, so you can be sure to select the right products for the conditions you're facing while expecting.
How Does Your Skin Change During Pregnancy?
You may see a variety of skin changes when you are expecting. Of course, every pregnancy is different, and some people may experience more skin changes than others. The following are some common types of skin conditions that arise while expecting:
Dry or Oily Skin
Some people’s skin becomes itchy and dry, while others’ may get oily and prone to acne. You might even see dry, flaky skin in some areas, like your belly and thighs, and oily skin in other areas, like your face and chest.
Shifting hormones, specifically an increase in androgens, are responsible for these types of skin changes. “Hormonal changes can increase oil production, leading to breakouts,” says Anna Chacon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Miami, Florida.
Your skin may get darker in certain areas. Your areolas may darken and you may see a dark line running vertically down from your belly button, known as the linea negra. It’s also possible to observe dark splotches on your face or other parts of your body, called melasma.
Skin darkening is also caused by rising hormone levels. Increased estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, and more can cause certain areas of the skin to appear darker. Your skin also becomes more sensitive to the sun, so sun exposure could potentially lead to melasma even if you don’t normally experience sunlight reactions.
Spider or Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are bluish-colored veins that usually appear on your legs. Spider veins can be red or purple, and they branch out like little spiders.
Increased blood volume during pregnancy can cause both spider and varicose veins. “Increased blood circulation can cause these veins to become more visible,” says Dr. Chacon. Spider veins may fade after you have your baby, while varicose veins are generally there to stay.
Stretch marks are essentially scars on the top layer of your skin. These scars appear when your skin stretches faster than usual. You may see stretch marks on your belly, breasts, thighs, or elsewhere during pregnancy. “As the stomach continues to grow during pregnancy, one of the most common skin changes are stretch marks,” says Ashley Magovern, MD, board-certified dermatologist, and medical director of Dermstore.
Stretch marks don’t go away on their own, but they typically fade to a light silvery color over time, rather than remaining red or purple like when they first appear.
What to Look for in Pregnancy-Safe Skin Care
There are a few things you can do to prevent or reduce pregnancy-related skin conditions, but it’s very important to choose your products carefully. Some common skin care remedies are not safe for your developing baby. “When choosing skin care products during pregnancy, look for those labeled as pregnancy-safe or OB-GYN-approved,” says Dr. Chacon. “Opt for products that are hypoallergenic, paraben-free, and fragrance-free.”
Using a pregnancy-safe sunblock will help reduce the effects of melasma. While there are not currently any specific recommendations for what types of ingredients to avoid from the American Dermatological Association, it may be best to err on the side of caution. Look for a mineral-based sunblock, which includes zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
The best way to combat acne is to wash your face daily and avoid using oil-based makeup or facial products. “Look for retinol alternatives including glycolic acid azelaic acid,” says Dr. Magovern. “I like recommending products with glycolic acid because I know that almost immediately you will see a healthier, brighter, smoother complexion.”
If your skin is extra dry, on the other hand, it’s important to drink plenty of water and use a good moisturizer. This will also help prevent or reduce the appearance of stretch marks, particularly if you start applying the product early in pregnancy. “Opt for hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid as well as natural soothing ingredients like shea butter,” says Dr. Magovern.
What Skin Care Ingredients Should Pregnant People Avoid?
Some of your favorite skin care products may be off-limits while you’re carrying a fetus. Notably, retinol is a no-no. Studies indicate that retinol or retinoids may cause birth defects.
It is also advisable to stay away from high doses of salicylic acid, hydroquinone, and chemical sunscreens. You should always talk to a health care provider before starting any new skin regimens during your pregnancy.
Skin Care Products That Experts Recommend
Here are some of our expert dermatologists’ top picks for skin care products that are safe to use during pregnancy:
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser: Use this cleanser daily to help remove oil build up and keep your pores clear and acne-free. It is safe, gentle, and won’t irritate your skin.
Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40: This sunblock is chemical-free and oil free so it’s safe and it won’t clog up your pores. It also offers a high SPF to help prevent melasma.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer: This product goes on smooth and it gives you deep moisture to help prevent dry, flakey skin.
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