Image of a pregnant woman holding her bump

Skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy

Beautiful skin is what every pregnant woman wants

With pregnancy comes hormonal changes which in turn, causes your skin to change.  Pregnant women can often be confused about what they can and can’t use on their skin during pregnancy. To try and clear up some of the confusion, here is a list of skincare ingredients women should avoid during pregnancy and which should be used in consultation with your doctor.   

Why avoid certain skin care ingredients during pregnancy?

Naturally you’ve probably changed what you’re eating since learning you’re pregnant, but what goes on to your skin is also important. Some ingredients used in beauty and skincare products can be absorbed in to your bloodstream and have the potential to be harmful to your unborn baby.

The following ingredients should be completely avoided during pregnancy;

Vitamin A (Retinoids, Retinol)

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that plays a critical role in various bodily functions, including vision, immunity, and cell growth. However, high doses of vitamin A can be harmful, particularly during pregnancy.

When a woman takes high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy, it can cause birth defects and other adverse outcomes. The developing foetus is vulnerable to high levels of vitamin A, and excessive amounts can interfere with the normal development of the baby's organs.

It is highly advised that pregnant women avoid consuming high doses of vitamin A and to consult with their healthcare provider about the appropriate amount of vitamin A they should be taking.


Hydroquinone is a chemical compound that is commonly used as a skin-lightening agent to treat hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and other skin discolourations. It works by inhibiting the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin colour.
Hydroquinone is a white crystalline substance and can be found in formulations, such as creams, lotions, gels, and serums, and is often used in combination with other skin-lightening agents. The use of hydroquinone is controversial due to its potential to cause skin irritation and other adverse effects when used improperly or excessively. 
Given its molecular size, it has the ability to penetrate the skin and be harmful to your unborn baby. It is generally recommended to use hydroquinone under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Salicylic Acid (High doses)

Also known as BHA (Beta hydroxyl acid), is commonly used in skincare products for its ability to exfoliate the skin, unclog pores, and treat acne. In low concentrations, salicylic acid is generally safe for most people and can be used as part of a regular skincare routine.

However, in high doses, salicylic acid can be harmful and potentially toxic. Oral ingestion of high doses of salicylic acid can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, and confusion. Severe cases can lead to respiratory depression, seizures, and even death.

Topical application of high concentrations of salicylic acid can also be dangerous, especially for those with sensitive skin or certain skin conditions such as eczema. Overuse of salicylic acid can cause skin irritation, redness, and dryness. In rare cases, it can also cause severe allergic reactions or chemical burns.

We also advise against using the following ingredients as they have been linked to possible adverse effects. Deciding whether or not to use these products during pregnancy should be discussed with your doctor.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a chemical compound that is commonly used as an acne treatment medication. It works by reducing the amount of acne-causing bacteria on the skin and helps to unclog pores.

Benzoyl peroxide is available in various forms, including gels, creams, and washes. While benzoyl peroxide is generally considered safe, it can cause some side effects, including dryness, redness, and irritation of the skin. In rare cases, it can cause allergic reactions and has been known to present risks to the unborn foetus. It is important to follow the instructions carefully and use at the direction of a skincare specialist. 

Aluminum Chloride

Aluminum chloride is commonly found in deodorants and antiperspirants. It is generally thought to be safe to use in lower concentrations, but avoid products with high concentrations


Parabens are a class of widely used preservatives in cosmetic and personal care products, as well as in some food products. They are used to prevent the growth of bacteria, mould, and other microorganisms in these products with the intention of extending shelf life.

There are some concerns about the potential health effects of parabens, as they have been detected in human breast tissue and have been linked to other health issues. As a result, many manufacturers choose to use alternative preservatives in their products or simply none at all. 


Phthalates are used as solvents in a variety of consumer products, including beauty and skincare products to help stabilise the formula. 

Phthalates are concerning because they have been linked to a range of adverse health effects. Studies have suggested that exposure to phthalates may be associated with developmental and reproductive issues, such as decreased sperm quality and fertility, as well as with an increased risk of asthma, allergies, and certain types of cancer.

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens are not inherently bad, but concerns have been raised about their potential health and environmental effects.

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays and converting them into heat, which is then released from the skin. Some of the commonly used chemical sunscreen ingredients, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, and homosalate, have been shown to be absorbed into the body and have been detected in blood and urine samples.

There is some evidence to suggest that these chemicals may disrupt hormone function and potentially cause adverse health effects.

In addition to the potential health effects, some of these chemicals have also been shown to have negative impacts on the environment, particularly on coral reefs. Oxybenzone and octinoxate have been shown to be toxic to coral, and some countries have banned the use of these ingredients in sunscreens in an effort to protect coral reefs.


Formaldehyde is sometimes used as a preservative in cosmetics, including nail polish and hair products. 

Exposure to formaldehyde can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact. In high concentrations, formaldehyde can be toxic and can cause respiratory irritation, as well as skin irritation and allergic reactions. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancers. 


Also known as DHA, is a chemical found in many spray tans. When applied topically, it reacts with the amino acids in the outermost layer of the skin, producing a brown colour that mimics the appearance of a natural tan. It is considered safe for use on the skin, but it should be used as directed, and care should be taken to avoid contact with the eyes, mouth, and mucous membranes. It reacts with the dead layers of skin on your body and although it’s not absorbed into the body, it can be inhaled during application and is unhealthy for you and baby.


It can’t be all bad news, right?



Below is a list of alternatives to treat specific skin concerns during pregnancy.

Sun protection – seek out mineral-based options. 

Mineral-based sunscreens have a number of benefits over chemical sunscreens.

  • Natural ingredients: Mineral sunscreens contain naturally occurring minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are not only gentle on the skin but also safer for the environment.

  • Broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays, which can help to prevent skin cancer, premature aging, and sunburn.

  • Immediate protection: Mineral sunscreens provide immediate protection upon application, unlike chemical sunscreens, which need to be absorbed into the skin before they can become effective.

  • Reduced risk of skin irritation: Less likely to cause skin irritation or allergic reactions compared to chemical sunscreens.

  • Longer shelf life: Mineral sunscreens have a longer shelf life compared to chemical sunscreens, which can break down over time and become less effective.

Acne – look for formulas with no more than 2% salicylic acid

Anti-aging – switch out retinol for vitamin c

Vitamin C serum is a topical skincare product that is not absorbed into the bloodstream in significant amounts. In other words, the vitamin C in the serum stays on the surface of the skin and is not known to have any harmful effects on the developing foetus.

Vitamin C is also an important antioxidant that can help protect the skin from damage caused by environmental factors such as pollution and UV radiation. It can also help brighten the skin and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Hyperpigmentation/melasma – switch out hydroquinone for vitamin c

Dry skin – reach for the hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic Acid is a naturally occurring substance that is already present in the body. It is a large molecule that cannot penetrate the skin deeply and is not absorbed into the bloodstream in significant amounts when used topically in skincare products.

In Summary

We suggest sticking to natural ingredients during pre-conception through breastfeeding. Natural, nourishing ingredients have many wonderful benefits and there is no need to use harsher chemical-based ingredients to see results.

There will always be varying opinions when it comes to what you should and shouldn’t use when pregnant and breastfeeding, so it is always best to consult with your General Practitioner or Dermatologist before commencing any new skincare regime if you have any concerns.

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