I get this question a lot- what are pregnancy safe skincare products I can use? After having 3 babies, I've become aware of what ingredients to avoid during pregnancy to keep baby safe. While I don't subscribe to fear when it comes to persuading somebody to not use a product, I do think it's important to be informed as a consumer. This is the best way to protect you and your baby. The more informed you are, the better choices you can make for you and your growing family.
It can seem daunting to know what to avoid when you first get pregnant. You hear so many things. Don't use this, stop eating that, the list goes on. I find most people actually are way more cautious then not. I found while I wanted to avoid any potential harmful products or ingredients I also still wanted to be able to continue a skincare routine that I loved and felt good about.
It's obvious that there are some products we should avoid in general when it comes to pregnancy. These might seem common if you've been living a natural lifestyle for a while. But for many people not as common if they're just starting to consider what's in their products they put on their body. Often I've found people start to really consider what they're putting on their bodies when they get pregnant. So if that's you- I couldn't be more excited that you're here and wanting to learn!
I'm going to share some ingredients that are definitely wise to avoid in pregnancy specifically, and I'm also going to share some ingredients that don't have as much evidence to support that they should be avoided and are up to your discretion. A lot of pregnancy is doing what feels right for you and your baby. This list also can be used while nursing too. I am even going to cover essential oils. Again, essential oils are a category that can be very gray. There are people who think all essential oils should be avoided, and those that are more carefree and don't adhere to any strict guidelines. I'm more in the middle. While I do avoid some essential oils based on evidence that they are harmful, some essential oils don't have as much evidence to support such claims so I use sparingly. Ultimately it is up to you to decide what you deem is safe for you and your baby.
The biggest consideration I also want to point out when it comes to anything to avoid in pregnancy is the amount at which you are taking or applying to your skin. As with anything the dose matters! If you're applying something everyday to your skin I would question what is in it. Also, taking something internally is different then externally. While we do absorb what we apply to our skin, it is not as intense as if you were orally talking it. Many studies that have been done on deeming ingredients unsafe have been done on large doses- amounts people often wouldn't even be close to. Always consider the amount when taking in things to avoid.
Also, from what I read health experts often say to avoid essential oils in the first trimester more than any since this is the stage where the fetus is growing most rapidly and could be more fragile.
Last thing- As always I am not a doctor, please always consult with your physician before taking on any new regimen that you are unsure of.
First I want to share some ingredients to avoid in pregnancy and why:
- Retinol, Retin-A, Retinoic acid, and Tazaratene- These are all ingredients I would definitely steer clear of in pregnancy. There has been scientific data that proves these are not to be used when you're expecting(Source). These are all a form of Vitamin A and have been shown to cause birth defects when used in large amounts. This also includes oral vitamin A treatments used for acne like Accutane or isotretinoin as it's often called now(Source). Retinols are in the same family of Accutane and while there is more evidence to suggest Accutane is harmful during pregnancy- (most doctors won't even prescribe it if you're pregnant), most doctors agree that since retinol is closely linked to Accutane it is wise to avoid it as well.
- Salicylic Acid- This is often used for treating acne. While the oral salicylic acid has been the ingredient that has shown the biggest negative impact on growing baby, many health experts would suggest avoiding the topical form as well(Source).
- Benzoyl Peroxide- This is also used for treatment of acne. While there have been no definite studies showing it can cause negative impact while pregnant, health experts have said the body has a high rate of absorbing the ingredient and could affect the growing fetus.
- Willow Bark- This is also used often in natural skincare products for acne. This is where salicylic acid is actually derived. Often people take willow bark as an aspirin as well since it's anti-inflammatory. While there is not much evidence on it, since it is part of the salicylic category, health experts have advised to avoid it.
- Beta Hydroxy Acids(BHA) and Alpha Hydroxy Acids(AHA)- These should be avoided in pregnancy. They are often used in skincare to help treat specific conditions, like acne, skin inflammation, or other inflammatory skin conditions. The issue is the salicylic acid found in the acids. Studies have shown oral acids to be harmful but there is no concrete evidence on BHA's or AHA's, however health experts advise to avoid them as the skin does absorb small amounts. This could include glycolic acids as well. Personally I think in small amounts they're fine when used topically but again it's up to you. Do what is comfortable for you and baby.
- Thyme- This is an herb that has caused miscarriage when taken in large amounts while pregnant.
- Licorice Root- Unclear of the effects on unborn baby.
- Dong Quai- This herb should be avoided as it causes bleeding.
- Goldenseal- This herb should be avoided during pregnancy.
- Yarrow- May contribute to miscarriage or preterm labor when taken internally.
- Ashwagandha- May contribute to miscarriage or preterm labor.
- Calendula- May contribute to miscarriage or preterm labor.
- Borage- Potential negative affect of growing fetuses liver.
- Dill Seed- It has been known to cause abortions.
- Juniper- Can cause abortion.
- Lemongrass- It has been known to cause irritation when used in pregnancy.
- Oregano- Can cause skin sensitization.
- Rosemary- Can effect the baby with it's specific compounds.
- Tansy(different than blue tansy which is safe during pregnancy)- avoid because it is a neurotoxin.
- Aniseed- Has been shown to raise the estrogen levels.
- Cinnamon Bark Oil- Has been shown to lead to kidney or liver issues in fetuses and even contractions later in pregnancy.
- Clove- Some said it was safe, others said it can cause contractions which lead to miscarriage. It also has been shown to slow down the clotting of blood, which isn't good for later in pregnancy. Consult with your doctor.
- Bitter Almond- Can increase birth defects in babies.
- Sage- Should be avoided as it can stimulate the uterus.
- Wormwood- Can affect the uterus and endanger pregnancy.
- Pennyroyal- It has shown in high doses to cause abortion.
*There may be essential oils I missed but in my research these were the ones that came up over and over. Just because I didn't include it doesn't mean it's safe. Make sure and check with your doctor first.
A word of caution when using essential oils during pregnancy.
- Don't ingest them internally.
- Always dilute them or do a patch test on yourself first. Skin and sensitivities can change during pregnancy.
- Always buy oils that are stored in glass.
- Buy oils that are the pure essential oisl, no added fragrance, etc.
- Talk with your doctor if you're unsure about an essential oil before you use it.
Pregnancy Safe Skincare Brands
Below I'm going to share some of my favorite tried and true natural pregnancy safe skincare brands. These brands I've vetted myself and have personally used when I was pregnant. As always, if you're uncertain about a specific product or ingredient do a patch test or consult with your doctor before using.
At Beautycounter they take their ingredient sourcing and ingredients in general very seriously. They test all of their products for 23 distinct safety endpoints to make sure they meet skincare safety when it comes to pregnancy. However, they also share that if you're still hesitant about a specific ingredient to check with your doctor. That being said I feel comfortable recommending and using Beautycounter products when I am pregnant or nursing.
A few of my favorite Beautycounter products:
- Skin Twin Foundation- This foundation is the perfect consistency. It feels hydrating but offers the coverage I still crave. A great medium coverage overall. It looks like your skin but better.
- Skin Twin Creamy Concealer- I love knowing that my concealer- a product I use everyday is safe for myself and baby.
- Countertime Line- This is Beautycounter's Ant-aging line. They use a plant-derived retinol in the products, as well as antioxidants and peptides. After researching plant derived retinals I feel great about using it, but if you're not sure feel free to talk with your doctor.
- Eye Makeup Remover- I love this eye makeup remover. It quickly gets rid of all your eye makeup.
- Face Wipes- These are so nice to have around when you're pregnant and you don't feel like doing much. They make removing your makeup or cleansing your skin so easy.
- All Bright C Serum- A great serum to use in the morning to help brighten your complexion and hyperpigmentation, protect your skin from the elements and even skin tone.
- Resurfacing Peel- This is great to use at night for a light exfoliation. You wake up to brighter, glowing skin!
This is another amazing natural skincare line that is pregnancy and nursing safe. Of course I will always include a disclaimer to check with your doctor as each person is unique. I love so many products from Primally Pure and used their line extensively when I was pregnant with my third. They offer simple, pure products. They even have a baby line!
A few of my favorite Primally Pure Products:
- Deodorant- (Just avoid the lemongrass scent) I love the blue tansy scent, and charcoal scent.
- Blue Tansy Beauty Cream- This is hydrating and so soothing.
- Body Butter- Love the almond vanilla body butter.
- Baby Oil- This is great for baby but I also loved using this during pregnancy because of the minimal ingredients and on my growing belly.
This is another brand that I falls into the pregnancy safe skincare category. They have a whole page on their website dedicated to the discussion of pregnancy. I so appreciate this! Often brands when asked this question will not answer the question and just say to consult your doctor. I appreciate the brands that are digging a little deeper into the conversation and doing the leg work for the consumer. Pai is one such brand. You can view the full pregnancy safe skincare conversation on their website here. The founder used the line in both of her pregnancies. I really love Pai skincare for sensitive skin that needs hydration. Often both of those traits can be true of skin when pregnant. Pai even has some essential oil free products that I'll list below. The only two products that should be avoided are their Living Water and Viper Gloss.
A few of my favorite Pai Skincare products:
- Middlemist Seven Cleanser- This creamy hydrating cleanser removes makeup and impurities but doesn't leave your skin feeling stripped.
- Rosehip Bioregenerate Face Oil- This face oil feels rich and luxurious on the skin and so soothing.
- The Anthemis Soothing Moisturizer- This feels so good on the skin and does the job of hydrating the skin perfectly.
- Virtuous Circle- This is such a great gentle exfoliant. Not too harsh but just enough to get your skin cleared of dead skin but left happy.
*Pai products free of essential oils-
This is another skincare line that is safe for use during pregnancy except the Gentle Night Retinol Serum and Treatment Retinol Serum. I love Marie Veronique's products because they are not only safe but effective. They are results driven natural skincare products. Many of them are essential oil free as well, another perk to the line. They do a great job of bridging the gap between natural skincare and science.
A few of my favorite Marie Veronique Skincare products:
- Pure + E.O. Oil Cleanser- This has long been one of my favorite natural cleansers. I love that it is an oil and feels hydrating to the skin but then suds up just enough and emulsifies when you add water. Not too mention I love that it comes in a glass pump bottle. The best of all the worlds.
- Soothing B3 Serum- This serum is so good. I love anything with niacinamide in it and this has 10%! Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B. This helps to keep your skin balanced and soothed whether you're dealing with really cold or really hot climates. It helps prevent your skin from becoming sensitive and contributes to an overall glow.
- Barrier Lipid Complex- This is perfect for keeping the skin's moisture intact. It contains ceramides, biomemetic fatty acids, and cholesterol- all responsible for maintaining proper skin health.
This is another brand that has a really well thought out answer when it comes to pregnancy safe skincare. The founder of Osmia is Sarah Villafranco. She is an emergency doctor turned natural skincare expert. I love her stance on pregnancy safe skincare. She wrote a whole blog post on the topic and offers recommendations for products that are completely essential oil free, plus a product list for skincare that does have essential oils in it but are deemed safe and products you should avoid all together. Check out the blog post and the lists here.
A few of my favorite Osmia products:
- Body Mousse- This is SO decadent and feels like a serious treat when you apply it on your body. It's like frosting- but you can't eat it! The perfect treat for any pregnant mama.
- Naked Body Oil- I'm obsessed with this body oil! It melts into your skin upon application and leaves it hydrating for days. I also love that they offer an essential oil free version- perfect for pregnancy safe skincare.
- Bar Soaps- This is Osmia's signature product IMO and so good. They look like works of art, but are actually bars of soap. I love the coffee mint scent- wakes you up in the best possible way.
- Nectar Vital Rose Drops- This is a hydrating facial oil and feels so moisturizing on the skin. If you have very dry, sensitive skin these may be just what you need. I love how rich the oil feels on the skin.
This is a skincare brand I've been a fan of for years. I love knowing that their products are also pregnancy safe. Here is a quote from their website explaining the product: “Aleavia products are alkaloid based bio-stimulants which actually feed a wide variety of friendly microorganisms on the skin causing the healthy bacteria to go into a feeding frenzy. This ultimately results in much higher activity levels of normal friendly bacteria. Over a short period of time, the “good guys” will completely overwhelm any harmful bacteria, virtually eliminating skin disorders of many types. Our skin care products accomplish this on a molecular level using a combination of 100%-natural, organic, and environmentally safe ingredients.” They also help balance the ph of the skin, all while conditioning it. I was amazed at their success stories found here on their website. People's skin literally transformed! For more info. on the exact science behind Aleavia-check out their website here. Now, you may be thinking they must put a ton of ingredients in their products…but that's not the case! They use just a handful of ingredients and all completely natural.
A few of my favorite products from Aleavia:
- Body Wash- My whole family uses this! I love that it's a prebiotic body wash and isn't getting rid of healthy beneficial skin bacteria as well.
- Hand Wash- They have a brand new hand wash that you can feel good about using while your pregnant too!
- Facial Cleanser- This is a great basic everyday facial cleanser that will keep your good bacteria in check on your skin.
The more products I've tried from Goop the more I am totally sold on them! They really do perform so well. I found an entire blog post dedicated to the topic of Goop pregnancy safe skincare written by a doctor- it's a good read. She shares a lists of products that are safe and products that aren't. I even found the comment section underneath the blog post to be helpful as readers asked thoughtful questions. Check out the full post here.
A few of my favorite Goop products:
- G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scrub Shampoo- I love this shampoo! It cleans my hair so well and leaves it feeling bouncy and shiny.
- GOOPGLOW 20% Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Glow Serum- This is going to give you that glow you've been craving! It helps to brighten the skin, and give it an overall even complexion. You're skin will feel moisturized, and glowing!
*I also wanted to share some safe sunscreen options as I get this question often:
- Earth Mama Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 40
- Coola Mineral Body Sunscreen SPF 30(fragrance free)
- Suntegrity Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen(fragrance free)
- Ursa Major Force Field Daily Defense Lotion SPF 18
- Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
- Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-FREE Moisturizer
- Badger Clear Zinc Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
I hope this helps you when you're searching for pregnancy safe skincare products. It can often seem daunting to know what to avoid in our products when pregnant on top of all the other factors we are facing. Hopefully this list helped eliminate some of the confusion and stress!
What are some of your favorite pregnancy safe skincare products?
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