Cosmetic Components You Can Use During Pregnancy

Some cosmetic components are contraindicated in pregnancy, as they could be harmful to the baby. It's best to consult your doctor.
Cosmetic Components You Can Use During Pregnancy
Maria del Carmen Hernandez

Reviewed and approved by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez.

Last update: 06 October, 2022

The skin goes through different processes in which some cosmetic components are no longer suitable for use during pregnancy. Pregnant women must make important changes in their habits and lifestyle in order to adapt to the new requirements of this period.

The use of cosmetics during pregnancy

There are certain components of creams and cosmetic products that shouldn’t be used by pregnant women, as they can cross the placenta and reach the fetus. Therefore, some products that are considered safe and basic in a facial routine are no longer safe during pregnancy. Below, we’ll detail which cosmetic components can and can’t be used during pregnancy.

Cosmetic actives allowed in pregnancy

It’s important to clarify that evidence-based data on the safety of certain actives during pregnancy is limited. This is because almost all clinical trials in pregnant women are unethical. However, we’ll tell you which products can be used without risk.

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an active antioxidant that contributes significantly to the signs of aging, softens the hyperpigmented spots of pregnancy, and reinforces sun protection. It also evens skin surface tone and protects against free radicals. Like all antioxidants, it stimulates the immune system, safely improves skin vitality, and maintains collagen.

2. Hyaluronic acid

During the nine months of pregnancy, the skin suffers from imbalances, sensitivity, dehydration, and increased susceptibility to acne lesions caused by hormonal changes. To counteract them, hyaluronic acid is one of the most useful active ingredients.

A woman getting injections on her face.
Hyaluronic acid is indispensable for beauty treatments, as it keeps the skin hydrated and reduces wrinkles. However, during pregnancy, it’s better to use it in creams and avoid injections.

3. Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid is one of the most recommended and used active ingredients in the treatment of rosacea, acne, and even as a depigmenting agent. This product is considered to be a safe ingredient in cosmetics during pregnancy because most of the cream remains in the surface layer of the skin and minimal absorption is caused.

4. Niacinamide

Niacinamide is a safe and compatible active ingredient during the months of pregnancy. It’s primarily used for its blemish mitigating effect. In addition, some of its other properties include the following:

  • It contributes to diminishing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
  • It helps improve skin radiance by promoting skin renewal
  • Improves the skin’s protective barrier function and helps optimize hydration rates while preventing skin from drying out

Cosmetic components that are prohibited during pregnancy

Taking care of your skin during the months of pregnancy is very important. However, not just any product will do, as some products cross the placental barrier and can cause alterations in the fetus. Here are the products that shouldn’t be used during pregnancy.

1. Retinol and all Vitamin A derivatives

Retinol is one of the most widely used active ingredients in formulations to combat premature aging. In fact, together with all its derivatives, it works against blemishes, wrinkles, and dull, acne-prone skin.

Retinol in high concentrations is considered to be teratogenic and may cause fetal malformations. Consequently, tretinoin, retinol, and retinoic acid, which are used in topical acne treatments, are contraindicated in pregnancy.

It goes without saying that oral retinoids are also prohibited, as stated in a publication by The College of Family Physicians of Canada.

A gloved hand holding a pill and the blurry image of a pregnant woman in the background.
Neither retinol nor vitamin A derivatives are recommended during pregnancy, as they may cause fetal malformations.

2. Caffeine

Topical treatments to combat cellulite usually contain caffeine as one of their main active ingredients with lipolytic action. This type of cosmetics would be in the first category of products to avoid, as it’s very easy to cross the placenta and enter the mother’s milk. In addition, there are transdermal patches with anti-cellulite effects that have an even greater risk of placental penetration and transfer.

3. High concentrations of salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is indicated in the treatment of mild acne due to its anti-inflammatory capacity. However, when this active ingredient is in high doses (percentages greater than 2%) to act as a surface layer exfoliant, it should be avoided during pregnancy.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has reported that topical products with salicylic acid in low concentrations sold over the counter are safe.

4. Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is one of the cosmetic components indicated and prescribed to decrease skin pigmentation or lighten certain hyperpigmented spots, such as melasma developed in pregnancy. While there’s no evidence between serious birth defects or side effects and hydroquinone, it’s best to limit exposure to it during pregnancy because of its significant absorption.

The importance of medical consultation

In conclusion, while most over-the-counter cosmetic skin care products are considered safe, there are some active ingredients in them that could be harmful to the baby. Therefore, as a general rule, always discuss the safety of such skin care items with your obstetrician, gynecologist, or trusted dermatologist.

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