I am often asked what skincare products can be used in pregnancy. A specific ingredient I am hearing more about is glycolic acid during pregnancy. Let’s face it, pregnancy can bring about some unwanted changes to to our skin…hello hormones;) Add to that we can’t always use products we have become accustomed to – it gets overwhelming! After having 4 babies, I’ve become aware of what ingredients to avoid during pregnancy to keep baby safe. And today I am sharing all about glycolic acid in pregnancy.
*As always I am not a doctor, please always consult with your physician before taking on any new regimen that you are unsure of.
*Affiliate Disclosure: I do have affiliate links in this blog post. If you purchase something from my link, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This comes at no cost to you, but is paid by the company. I do not take becoming an affiliate with any company lightly. If I am, it’s because I believe in the company and their product.
What is glycolic acid and what is it used for?
Glycolic acid is one of the stronger Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA), which are chemical exfoliants for your skin. This powerhouse ingredient is derived from sugarcane and works by loosening the bonds between our skin cells and allowing the top layer of skin to slough off.
This cell turnover can help with skin dullness but it can also be great for anti-aging purposes by helping to minimize fine lines and wrinkles. It even helps with blemishes and hyperpigmentation caused from past blemishes by increasing collagen and hyaluronic acid production in the skin.
To understand exactly what Glycolic Acid is, you need to know that there are two categories of exfoliating acids (chemical exfoliants): Alpha Hydroxy Acids(AHA’s) or Beta Hydroxy Acids(BHA’s). They can be used separately for different purposes or in combination. Glycolic acid is probably one of the most well known AHA’s.
AHA’s are not as strong as BHA’s. They are water soluble so work more on the surface of the skin versus BHA’s are oil soluble and able to penetrate into your pores – which is great for oily or acne prone skin.
What will be on an ingredient label if there is glycolic acid in a skincare product?
You should be able to look on the ingredient list and see if glycolic acid is listed on any skin care product. You should have a pretty good idea based on the type of product if it is something you should even be looking for. It can be found in exfoliants, face washes, face masks, moisturizers or (at much higher concentrations then over the counter products) in-office chemical peels.
Even more important, you should be able to find the concentration of glycolic acid that is in the product. Over the counter skincare products will be a lower concentration – 20% and under. In office chemical peels can be upwards of 70%.
When considering a product with glycolic acid, you may want to start with a lesser concentration to see how your skin reacts. Especially during pregnancy, your skin has likely become more sensitive and more easily irritated than you are used to. You can always get a higher concentration later if you feel like the lower concentration isn’t working and your skin isn’t irritated in any way.
What does research say about glycolic acid use during pregnancy?
Yes, glycolic acid is thought to be safe in pregnancy. However, I think it is important to look at available research if you question any ingredient. Having an open mind and realizing that science is always evolving at the same time. If you don’t feel comfortable with an ingredient, there are usually alternatives that you can use in place of that ingredient.
Here are just a few research articles I found that support glycolic acid use being safe in pregnancy:
- Safety of Skincare Products During Pregnancy: Glycolic Acid use during pregnancy should not be of concern due to minimal amount being absorbed systemically. This conclusion has been come to despite there being no studies examining the use of glycolic acid during pregnancy.
- A review of the safety of cosmetic procedures during pregnancy and lactation: Glycolic Acid peels found to be relatively safe due to limited dermal penetration. Peels have concentrations of glycolic acid that can range from 30-70%, whereas at home products usually aren’t greater than 20%.
And here is a study that was done on animals that looked at oral administration of glycolic acid:
- Oral Administration of Glycolic Acid Animal Study: This is an older study that was conducted on rats that showed adverse reactions to the fetus. It is important to note that the glycolic acid was given orally to the animal in much higher doses than would be found in any skincare products. But, important to note that there was evidence of “developmental toxicity” found in the offspring.
But ultimately, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology approves glycolic use during pregnancy. While still advising that you may want to consult your doctor regarding higher percentages of glycolic acid.
Safety Precautions To Take When Using Glycolic Acid During Pregnancy
Because you are using a chemical exfoliant, it is important to take precautions when using it at any time, but especially during pregnancy. Here are my top tips for safely using glycolic acid:
- Start with a concentration of 5-7%, definitely no more than 10%.
- Use your sunscreen! It’s important to protect your skin after you have used a chemical exfoliant. My favorite facial sunscreen during pregnancy is this one.
- Wear a hat when you are in the sun.
- If you have extra sensitive skin prior to pregnancy, you may want to skip the glycolic acid completely.
- Look for alternative products that can still do the same thing. I am sharing my favorite pregnancy safe exfoliant below that doesn’t even have glycolic acid in it!
- Be aware of other ingredients that may be in a product that contains glycolic acid. There may be other ingredients you want to avoid due to pregnancy.
Gurl Gone Green’s Favorite Exfoliant during Pregnancy
All this to be said, my favorite exfoliant to use during pregnancy is Laurel’s Honey Berry Enzyme Mask. It actually contains no glycolic acid. I haven’t found a glycolic acid product that I felt good using, but this mask is a standout in my eyes.
Laurel uses whole plants in her products. There are no toxins or man made pharmaceuticals in her creations. Also, all of her formulas contain essential oils at around 1%, which is so low. The only ones that don’t are her Blemish Treatment and California Body Oil. The ingredients are so simple and mostly things you would actually eat!
Here’s the ingredient list:
Raw California Wildflower Honey°, Raspberry°, Blackberry°, Aronia Berry°, Blueberry°, Black Raspberry°, Schisandra Berry°, Papaya Seed°, Cranberry Seed Oil°, Macadamia Nut Oil°; Essential Oils of Grapefruit°, Sweet Orange°, Frankincense°, Orange Blossom Enfleurage°, Vanilla°
I feel completely ok using it during pregnancy and find my skin has responded well to it. It has a combination of enzymes and acids that help to really slough off the dead skin and give your skin an overall glow. Check out the Laurel Honey Berry Enzyme Mask here.
*As with any skincare product consult with your doctor if you’re unsure.
Conclusion: Is it safe to use glycolic acid during pregnancy?
Glycolic acid during pregnancy is totally safe, I just haven’t been able to find a skincare product that just contains glycolic acid and is completely safe for pregnancy. All the glycolic acid products always have additional ingredients in them that I wouldn’t want to use on my skin during pregnancy. Whether it’s the preservatives or fillers they add in, there is always something I don’t love about the ingredients. So, I stuck with Laurel Honey Berry Enzyme Mask during pregnancy and was very happy with it!
Have you used glycolic acid during pregnancy?