Be Sure to Avoid These Scary Ingredients When You're Expecting a Baby
From glowing skin to rapidly changing hormones, pregnancy serves up a plethora of body changes.
While some will experience radiant skin for nine months, others experience acne they haven’t dealt with since their teens. As people try to tackle these new skin issues, many reach for chemical-laden products in a desperate attempt to clear up acne or hydrate their flaky skin.
Unfortunately, there is a range of chemicals commonly found in the beauty aisle that are unsafe for both mamas-to-be and the person growing inside of them. If you are looking to adopt a cleaner, safer skin routine during pregnancy and beyond, read on for what to avoid—and what to use instead.
Pregnancy skin issues
While “pregnancy glow” is totally a thing, there are also a number of skin issues that people may suffer from while pregnant.
Mostly, hormones are to blame (surprise, surprise!). While some people may experience nine months of a beautiful, glowing complexion, most suffer from at least one unfavorable condition such as dry skin, darkening skin, or acne. Additionally, those with preexisting skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea may notice a change in their symptoms, either better or worse.
Aside from the dreaded hormone-induced skin issues, there can also be other changes to the skin, including stretch marks, spider veins, hair growth, and even hair loss.
Skincare ingredients to avoid when pregnant
In addition to caring for possibly new skin ailments while pregnant, there is also a robust list of skincare ingredients to definitely avoid while pregnant. The issues surrounding these ingredients range from hormone disruption to links to birth defects in babies.
It is of course always important to consult your doctor before using any skincare or beauty product, as everyone's situation is different.
Chemical sunscreens have been shown to contain hormone-disrupting ingredients, including oxybenzone or avobenzone. Both of these chemical ingredients can interfere with a fetus' nervous system during development.
Obviously, skin protection is still important. Luckily, there is a growing list of sunscreen products that omit chemical ingredients and rely on mineral protectants instead, during pregnancy. Discover our favorite mineral sunscreens here.
Hydroquinone is added to skincare products as a skin lightener and can be found in pregnancy products to combat issues surrounding melasma or pigmentation of the skin—something that’s called “the mask of pregnancy.” However, hydroquinone should be avoided when you are pregnant (and at all other times, too!).
The FDA classifies hydroquinone as category C, as it has a higher absorption rate than other topical chemicals which makes it more likely to enter your bloodstream and affect the fetus. While there are no proven links between hydroquinone and congenital defects or side effects in pregnant people, because of its high absorption rate, is it best to limit exposure during pregnancy.
This antibiotic is added to skincare products that are used to treat infections of the skin. And while it is common for antibiotics to be prescribed during pregnancy, tetracycline specifically is one that you should avoid.
This antibiotic has been linked to issues for a growing fetus. Tetracyclines can affect bone development and discolor the fetus’ teeth while still in the womb. It has also been linked to negative effects on pregnant people.
While essential oils are usually regarded as safe and natural, the lack of strict FDA standards can raise some questions when it comes to using these ingredients during pregnancy.
Some essential oils have been linked to major health concerns in pregnant folks. Some are perfectly safe, but it is always best to consult your doctor before using any when pregnant.
Vitamin A is a crucial nutrient for healthy skin, immune systems, eyes, and even reproductive systems. Once it is consumed or absorbed through the skin, the body converts vitamin A to retinol. And because of its health properties, retinol has become a very popular ingredient in skincare products as it can help reduce acne and fine lines.
For all of these near-magic benefits, you will definitely want to avoid using retinol when you’re pregnant. Unfortunately, vitamin A derivatives can lead to dangerous birth defects in babies. While it is very important to get enough vitamin A for the forthcoming baby’s development, it is crucial to avoid man-made derivatives, which can affect their development.
While formaldehyde is not used as often in beauty products anymore because it is a known carcinogen (and we think it should never be used!), it can still be found in the beauty aisle, particularly in nail polish and hair products.
Formaldehyde is used in products as a preservative and disinfectant but has been linked to fertility problems as well as miscarriages.
Dihydroxyacetone is a chemical used in many spray self-tanners. This chemical works by reacting to dead layers of the skin and is viewed as a safe alternative to sun-tanning.
Although it is not absorbed into the body, dihydroxyacetone is often inhaled during application. We recommend avoiding this chemical if you’re expecting, since effects on pregnancies are not quite known.
As hormone changes are quite common during pregnancy, so is the acne that often comes with these changes. While salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are common acne-fighters, a 2013 study concluded that products with a high concentration of salicylic acid should be avoided by pregnant people.
However, a study conducted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that in lower doses it was safe for pregnant folks to use.
So, to be on the safe side, you might just want to abstain for the duration of your pregnancy.
Similar to salicylic acids, Accutane is most commonly used to treat acne, which is why it’s been used as a treatment by pregnant folks in attempts to address increases in hormonal acne.
Unfortunately, Accutane is extremely dangerous to use by anyone who is or is trying to become pregnant. It has been linked to severe birth defects, even if the fetus' exposure is minimal. So, avoid at all costs!
Phthalates are often found in cosmetics products (but not at Kinder Beauty!), most commonly as diethyl phthalate (DEP). It is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that has been linked to reproductive and hormone dysfunction.
Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes their potential role in negatively affecting congenital reproductive health.
Professional skincare treatments
For those who frequent their aesthetician or dermatologist for skincare treatments, the good news is that some of these treatments will be perfectly safe while pregnant. Facials that focus on hydrating, oxygenation, or deep cleaning are fine for expecting parents.
However, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and retinoid treatments should be avoided. Furthermore, Botox and filler treatments should also be avoided during pregnancy.
Pregnancy skincare routine
While it may feel like all skincare products are off-limits during pregnancy, there are some great ingredients and products that can help with common skin ailments during pregnancy, such as dry skin, darkening skin, or acne as well as conditions like stretch marks.
While the best skincare routine varies from person to person, this simple routine is a safe bet to help you tackle your changing skin.
Across the board, it is best to simplify your routine and use products with natural, plant-based ingredients. Don’t risk using products with a laundry list of chemicals on their label.
Morning Step 1: Cleanser
A good rule of thumb is to opt for products that are labeled “gentle,” since the skin tends to be more sensitive during pregnancy.
Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser is a crowd favorite. It is extremely gentle on the skin, but is also crafted to expertly remove makeup and dirt after a long day of wear.
Morning Step 2: Plant-Based vitamin A serum
While retinol and artificial vitamin A should be avoided, plant-based vitamin A serums are safe for pregnant people. The 100% Plant-Derived Squalane from The Ordinary is a great option. It is alcohol-, sulfate-, and silicone-free and ideal for dry skin, which many experience during pregnancy. It works wonders on skin hydrating and locks in moisture all day long.
Morning Step 3: Mineral sunscreen
As noted above, chemical sunscreens are a big no-no for pregnant folks and, well, everyone, really. Hello Bello is known for its exceptional and safe baby products and also makes a great mineral sunscreen. It is equipped with 55+ SPF, is reef-friendly, water-resistant, and uses non-nano zinc oxide for its broad-spectrum protection.
Morning Step 4: BB or CC Cream
If you are struggling with skin flare-ups while pregnant, keeping your makeup routine clean and minimal is just as important as a good skincare routine. Many foundations can clog pores or be flaky on already dry skin. Try opting for a BB or CC cream instead. BB cream is perfect for minimal coverage while also providing hydration for dry skin, while CC cream offers a little more coverage but is better for those suffering from acne.
Thrive Causemetics has an amazing CC cream that also has 35 SPF. It is available in 18 different shades and offers hydrating and coverage. For BB creams, Pacifica’s Multi-Mineral Cream is perfection: extremely lightweight and offers just a touch of color to help even the skin tone. This cream hydrates with floral stem cells and hyaluronic acid for a nice healthy glow.
Night Step 1: Cleanse
Again, gentle cleansing is key with the extra sensitive skin most people experience while pregnant. Do this morning and night to keep your skin healthy, clean, and balanced.
Night Step 2: Replenishing serum
To hydrate and repair the skin while you are sleeping, look for a serum that is packed with good-for-the-skin ingredients. Tulura’s Botanical Facial Oil has all the right stuff. With skin-loving extracts including squalane and moringa, this oil is formulated to keep the skin healthy and hydrated. It is made from plant-based ingredients so is safe for pregnancies and sensitive skin.
Extras: Stretch marks and hair loss
While things like stretch marks are usually unavoidable, there are some great oils and creams out there that help to minimize the marks and keep the skin hydrated. Hatch’s Belly Oil is a beloved product amongst pregnant people, garnering tons of 5-star reviews. It is a quick-drying formula and rich in botanical ingredients that help calm the mind and the skin.
Hair loss during pregnancy can be extremely frustrating. Due to the rapidly changing hormones, many people do experience this while expecting. Vegamour’s GRO Hair Serum is worth a try if this is something you’re experiencing! This plant-based serum uses a combination of clinically tested and vegan phyto-actives that work together to support a healthy and balanced follicular ecosystem while also soothing a dry scalp and revitalizing your hair roots.
Pregnancy is a wonderful time in people’s lives. But dealing with skin issues can be unpleasant, not to mention unsafe. By swapping out troublesome chemicals for clean, plant-based ingredients, it is easy to naturally manage acne, dry skin, and stretch marks so you can get back to soaking up being a parent-to-be.
Please note: A product appearing in our blog is not an official Kinder Beauty endorsement. While every product we feature in an article is cruelty-free and vegan, these products do not necessarily meet all of our strict brand standards for curation in one of our boxes.
Jackie Lutze has been writing about cruelty-free beauty for years and loves finding the best vegan products to help readers build their ultimate beauty routine.