Is It Safe to Use Exfoliants During Pregnancy?

Exfoliants during pregnancy should be gentle and contain small particles to drag and remove impurities from the skin. Learn more.
Is It Safe to Use Exfoliants During Pregnancy?
Maria del Carmen Hernandez

Written and verified by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez.

Last update: 07 April, 2023

The use of exfoliants during pregnancy is a great way to maintain a correct skincare routine during this period. Although there are different methods, not all of them are suitable for pregnant women.

In the following article, we’ll tell you more about it.

What are exfoliants and what are they for?

Exfoliants cause the controlled destruction of the skin surface with or without part of the dermis. This leads to regeneration and remodeling of the skin surface. In turn, it collaborates with the removal of dead cells found on the surface, along with all other impurities.

They’re used as an effective and valuable procedure for the following conditions:

  • Photoaging
  • Aging skin
  • Acne scars
  • Melasma

Types of exfoliants

Exfoliants can be chemical or mechanical:

  • Chemical: There are various types of solutions and acids used as exfoliating agents, such as Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), beta hydroxy acids (BHA), trichloroacetic acid (TCA), and phenol.
  • Mechanical: Also called manual or physical, they include soft granulated creams, vegetable sponges, microblading, or certain gloves.
A woman applying an exfoliant scrub to her face.
Peels are used in certain procedures to accelerate the skin’s own renewal processes.

Indications for use

There are several indications for the use of any type of exfoliant, be it chemical or mechanical:

  • Facial rejuvenation to treat conditions such as wrinkles or enlarged pores.
  • Inflammatory disorders, such as acne vulgaris, rosacea, pseudofolliculitis of the beard, and post-acne scarring.
  • Epidermal proliferation and precancerous lesions including actinic and sebaceous keratosis.
  • Pigmentary disorders such as ephelides or freckles, melasma, post-inflammatory pigmentation, and lentigines.

Exfoliants and pregnancy, everything you need to know

The safety of exfoliants during pregnancy is a complex clinical issue surrounded by questions. In general, it’s best to avoid the use of certain topical agents with unclear safety data, such as tazarotene and hydroquinone. You also shouldn’t  initiate treatments to combat physiological changes that may recover during pregnancy or improve postpartum, such as melasma.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels with glycolic and lactic acid are considered safe. However, salicylic acid and trichloroacetic acid should be avoided or used with extreme caution.

Glycolic acid peels in concentrations ranging from 30% to 70% are considered safe during pregnancy because of their negligible dermal penetration. In turn, 2% lactic acid is often used as a therapeutic option in gestational acne without generating fetal risks.

Mechanical or physical exfoliants

This type of peel doesn’t involve acidic substances but involves the use of a physical agent as an abrasive. Some of them can be exfoliating sponges, mechanical facial brushes, or granulated creams.

This type of exfoliation is more superficial and can cause irritation or microtears in the skin in case of generating too much friction or pressure. Mechanical exfoliants should be implemented in the daily skincare routine every 2 weeks. In addition, sunscreen should always be applied, with constant renewal every two hours, to avoid hyperpigmented spots on the skin.

A pregnant woman putting sunscreen on her belly.
The use of sunscreen on a daily basis is very important. A filter greater than 30 should be applied after a cosmetic procedure and renewed every two hours.

What to do if you want to exfoliate your skin

When the skin is dry and dull, choosing to exfoliate is an excellent option to remove impurities and dead cells from the surface. It even contributes to cell renewal and leaves the skin smooth and soft. Ideally, choose mechanical exfoliants during pregnancy and postpone the use of acids until after the baby is born.

Post-peel care

After exfoliating the skin, apply a moisturizing cream to nourish the new skin surface. Also, during the pregnancy period, the skin is more susceptible to developing melasma. This is due to hormonal alterations that stimulate melanin production. Therefore, one of the most important indications is the use of sunscreen every day.

If in doubt, consult your doctor

One of the safest and most effective procedures to clean the surface of the skin and pores of pregnant women are mechanical or physical exfoliants. These remove dead skin cells that are found in the most superficial layers of the skin and clog the pores.

Gentle exfoliants containing small particles are recommended to drag and remove impurities from the skin. In any case, you should always consult your doctor if you have any doubts or questions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bozzo P, Chua-Gocheco A, Einarson A. Safety of skin care products during pregnancy. Can Fam Physician. 2011 Jun;57(6):665-7. PMID: 21673209; PMCID: PMC3114665.
  • Castillo DE, Keri JE. Chemical peels in the treatment of acne: patient selection and perspectives. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2018 Jul 16;11:365-372. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S137788. PMID: 30038512; PMCID: PMC6053170.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.