Ingredients to avoid in your skincare rotine as a pregnant woman and a new mom

The moment you find out you’re pregnant, your whole life changes. And this might even include your skincare regimen.

While it’s commonly known that you need to reduce your caffeine intake, having to say goodbye to your go-to skincare products may come as a real shock. But it’s all for a good reason – some ingredients can get absorbed into your body and hence, your baby’s body as well.

But don’t worry, most over-the-counter (OTC) skincare products are completely safe to use, however, there are a few ingredients that can be harmful to your baby. The good news is that you can find a balance between keeping your little one safe and maintaining your pregnancy glow. In this article, we’ll talk about skincare products for pregnant women and new moms.

Why Moms Should Be Aware of What Beauty Products to Use During Pregnancy & Lactation?

Before moving forward, let’s establish one thing – evidence-based data on the safety of certain products during pregnancy is quite limited. In nearly every case, clinical trials on pregnant women that have a remote chance of proving that certain ingredients have detrimental effects are restricted on ethical grounds.

However, some case-specific, anecdotal, or animal studies have revealed some serious fetal consequences related to a few popular skincare ingredients. In fact, it is these studies that form the basis for our recommendations. Moreover, as stated earlier, certain ingredients can get absorbed into your body and hence, your little one’s body as well. These ingredients may be harmful to your baby and thus, need to be avoided.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  requires cosmetic products to be “safe” according to their particular uses and labeling, but they don’t have to be FDA-approved to be sold on the market.

FDA’s Classification of Active Ingredient Categories

The United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed a specific drug classification system for expecting mothers that labels drugs on a six-point scale. These include:

  • Category A: No risk in controlled studies conducted on humans
  • Category B: No risk in other studies
  • Category C: Risk not ruled out
  • Category D: Positive evidence of risk
  • Category X: Contraindicated in pregnancy

Generally, products that lie in Category A and B are considered safe for pregnant women, while products from other categories need to be avoided. However, the problem with the scale is that it is only meant for oral medication – not necessarily topicals.

Skincare Products to be Avoided During Pregnancy

Here is a list of common skincare products that need to be avoided during pregnancy.

Vitamin A derivatives

Vitamin A derivatives including retinol, vitamin A, retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate, all-trans retinoic acid, tretinoin need to be avoided during pregnancy because of the links between oral isotretinoin and birth defects. Isotretinoin and tazarotene come in category X, whereas other retinoids fall in category C which means there isn’t sufficient research.

Salicylic Acid

Topical application of salicylic acid in the form of creams is rendered safe. However, taking salicylic acid orally in the late stages of pregnancy may increase the risk for intracranial bleeding in the fetus.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide, commonly found in acne creams, falls under category C and is not advisable for use during pregnancy.

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens can disrupt hormones that babies need to grow normally.


The tanning agent, dihydroxyacetone (DHA) should not be used during pregnancy.


Used in certain hair-straightening treatments and nail polishes, formaldehyde is associated with certain kinds of cancer.


Hydroquinone used to treat melasma and dark spots should not be used by pregnant moms. Even though there hasn’t been any research to study the effect of hydroquinone on a fetus, studies show almost 45 percent of the ingredient is absorbed into the skin after topical application.

Last Few Words

While there’s a lot that’s not known regarding the safety of skincare ingredients during pregnancy and lactation, most skin experts suggest going by the FDA’s pregnancy drug classification. So make sure you properly read the skincare label and avoid any harmful skincare products for pregnant women and new moms.



  • Jablonski, N. (2020, June 30). Pregnancy-safe skin care: What to use and what to avoid. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from 
  • McCoy, S., & Baldwin, K. (2009). Pharmacotherapeutic options for the treatment of preeclampsia. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy: AJHP: Official Journal of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists66(4), 337–344.


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