Pregnancy Skincare: A Complete List of Ingredients To Avoid

pregnant woman holding her belly while doing skincare routine
Photo by lucas mendes from Pexels
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The moment you find out you are having a baby, it’s like the whole world shifts. Being a mother, I know what that tiny little blue mark on the pregnancy stick means! While the 9 months are full of surprises, it can also be challenging, thanks to the list of dos and don’ts that come with it. You have to bid goodbye to your favorite wine with dinner, those perfectly-fit skinny jeans, and even sushi! But did you know that these may not be the only things you have to ditch for the next 9 months (or more if you are breastfeeding)? Few ingredients from your everyday skincare routine also have to be nixed and for a good reason.

Pregnancy Skincare

When I was pregnant, like every mom-to-be, I looked forward to that pregnancy glow. But honestly, every skin and body reacts differently. While some women look downright radiant, some women, like me, have to deal with dry skin, breakouts, or darkening skin. But whether you look radiant or have skin issues, during pregnancy skincare needs to amped up. Your skin needs more nourishment and care during this special time. Some might even look into ayurvedic skincare.

But at the same time, you need to be careful about what you are exposing yourself to. The skin is the largest organ in your body and is quite capable of absorbing everything you put on it. So, whatever you lather on your skin during pregnancy invariably is also exposed to your baby. And that’s exactly why you need to be very careful and sure about the products you are using. Here’s a list of skincare ingredients you need to avoid in your pregnancy skincare routine.

Top Ingredients to Avoid in Pregnancy Skincare

1. Retinoids

A hero ingredient is many women’s skincare products – this vitamin A derivative is known to boost collagen production and help slow down the ageing process and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Available in both oral and topical forms, it is the main ingredient in many drugs like Amnesteen, Sotret, and the now-discontinued drug Accutane. Retinoids are known to cause birth defects of the heart and brain as well as physical abnormalities. In fact, it has been documented that prescription retinoids posed a 20% to 35% more risk of congenital defects. Doctors even advise waiting for at least 30 days once you stop the drug before trying to conceive. So, retinoids might be the skincare superstar, but it’s best to steer clear of this one for a while.

2.   Parabens

paraben-free makeup for pregnancy skincare
Photo by Emma Bauso from Pexels

Found in almost everything from body lotions to foundations to hair styling gels, parabens are used to preserve makeup or skincare products. They prevent mold or bacteria growth and hence make your cosmetics last longer. However, they have been known as endocrine disruptors and are linked to breast cancers. What makes them highly potent is the fact that they penetrate the skin very easily and enter your bloodstream and eventually your baby’s. For pregnancy skincare routine make sure to use products that are labeled as paraben-free.

3. Phthalates

Phthalates are used as solvents in almost every product around us from cosmetics, skincare products, food packaging to even kids’ toys. But they are known to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to hormonal dysfunction, infertility, kidney, lung, and liver issues. Various animal studies have proved this and there have even been human trials to support this. However, they are still widely used in cosmetic products.

Skincare products are considered the top source of exposure to phthalates, especially in women. The most common form of phthalates used in skincare and beauty products is diethylphthalate (DEP). With growing awareness, more and more brands are introducing phthalate-free skincare products. So, make sure you check the label!

4.   Formaldehyde

Although formaldehyde is nowadays very rarely used as a preservative in beauty products, there are formaldehyde-releasing chemicals that are still widely used in skincare products. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, formaldehyde is a carcinogen and can increase the risk of infertility in women trying to conceive and chances of miscarriage in pregnant women. Scary, right? So, apart from the term formaldehyde, make sure to check the labels for ingredients such as bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, hydroxymethylglycinate, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, and 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane.

5.   Chemical Sunscreens

Most chemical sunscreens have an ingredient called oxybenzone and its derivatives. Oxybenzone does a fantastic job of protecting from the UV rays but has potentially serious effects on the health and environment when used long term. There have even been concerns where chemical sunscreens have been known to disrupt hormones and cause irreversible damage to both the mother and the baby. So, why expose yourself to such toxins when you can easily get that golden glow by bathing in the sun using natural ingredients and mineral sunscreens?

6.   Hydroquinone

A skin-lightening agent, hydroquinone is a widely used ingredient in skincare products and prescription drugs to treat skin conditions like melasma and chloasma. Unfortunately, melasma (dark patches) often appears during pregnancy and women do look for products to help reduce the signs. But this is one ingredient you should steer clear of in your pregnancy skincare routine. Hydroquinone has a high rate of systematic absorption, as much as 45% of it is absorbed into the skin by just topical application and then enters the bloodstream. Animal trials have even linked this ingredient to stillbirths and birth defects. Switch your pregnancy skincare routine to products that include Vitamin C, mulberry extracts, or lactic acid that help lighten the skin naturally.

7.   Fragrance

perfume bottle near a flower
Photo by Valeriia Miller from Pexels

Fragrances are made up of dozens of harmful chemicals like fillers, derivates, parabens, and more. It is a common ingredient in deodorants, anti-perspiration, lotions, and more. If the label mentions the word ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’, then the product might have more than one toxic ingredient that the manufacturer hasn’t mentioned. These are linked to cancer, asthma, and nervous system problems. Why opt for something so toxic when you are pregnant when you can easily choose fragrance-free skincare products? Nowadays, many manufacturers and brands sell fragrance-free products.

8.   Salicylic Acid

An anti-inflammatory agent, salicylic acid is commonly used to treat acne breakouts. The FDA categorizes salicylic acid as a Pregnancy Category C, which means when used in low doses it cannot be harmful. However, when used in higher concentrations like a chemical peel or orally, then salicylic acid can increase the risk of intracranial bleeding in the fetus. If you have pregnancy acne then you can zap those zits without exposing yourself to toxins by using either witch hazel or lactic acid.