Pregnancy Skincare 101: Ingredients to Avoid, and Ingredients to Use!

pregnancy skincare

If you think you are just going to wake up pregnant with beautiful clear skin 24/7 and luscious thick hair, you’re in for a shock, lady.

Although there will be periods where you feel like your skin is looking the best its ever had, there may still be periods when your skin goes awry due to fluctuating hormone levels. From hormonal acne, to stretch marks, to dry skin that makes you look like you aged 5 years over night. All of these can make you feel beyond frustrated on top of feeling like you’re a slowly inflating balloon.

Since I’ve been pregnant I’ve learned quite a lot about skincare, which has lead me to embrace the “clean beauty” trend and hop on the bandwagon. I was creating natural beauty remedies before I was pregnant, but now that I’m expecting and becoming more aware of what I’m putting on my body, I’m a natural beauty remedy creator and ingredient list inspector on steroids. I’ve learned a ton about what ingredients to avoid (I had to kiss all my retinal products goodbye, for now), ingredients that will *help* with pregnancy ailments, and allll the foods to incorporate into my diet to combat pregnancy beauty symptoms from the inside out.

How is pregnancy skincare different than practicing clean beauty?

Welp in my opinion, I don’t think there is much of a difference. If you are already knee deep into being a clean beauty aficionado, there isn’t too much you’ll have to alter once you become pregnant. From what I’ve researched so far, all the ingredients you’ll want to cut out while pregnant are the same ingredients clean beauty lovers avoid as well. So if you’re not pregnant and reading this – this can still be super useful for your if you are trying to clean up your beauty product list as well!

You know I also had to bring in a commentator that knows a thing or two about skincare as well – so I picked the brain of my esthetician from Exhale Spa who has a hefty client list of pregnant women, Ursula as well. She’s a wealth of knowledge for prenatal skincare and has spoken with countless pregnant gals and obstetricians alike to get extra validation for everything she’s given me the lowdown on. So with Ursula’s help – I’m happy to provide a pregnancy skincare 101 guide!

Skincare for pregnancy: The basics to get you started.

Skincare ingredients to avoid while pregnant

There are definitely specific beauty ingredients that are on the no-no list while pregnant. These ingredients can have damaging effects on your growing and evolving fetus, so you want to make sure you steer clear of these.


Retinoids are found in a common acne medication called accutane, and retinal. It’s a synthetic creation of vitamin A that is typically used to fight signs of aging and acne. Studies have linked the use of retinoids to birth defects, so it’s important to cut retinoids out completely. Ingredients that are forms of retinoids are: isotretinoin, retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, adapalene, tretinoin, tazarotene, retinaldehyde, tazorac and tazarotene.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Another popular acne topical cream, benzoyl peroxide is on the no-no list. It actually falls into a “category C” – meaning that it *may* cause defects to your developing fetus. Some OBGYN’s believe it’s safe to use in moderation (no more than 2%), while others recommend against it. To be safe, consult your gyno.


This is a topical antibiotic that is prescribed to fend off acne. It is found in prescription topical medications such as minocycline and doxycycline.

Salicylic Acid

Man I’ve had to stow away A TON of my anti-acne products containing salicylic acid. This is one of the most common acne topical treatments to zap away blemishes, but it has been linked to cause miscarriages and/or birth defects. Obvi, you don’t want to use this while pregnant. ALSO an important note for pregnant women who love organic beauty. Willow bark is a natural form of salicylic acid, so if you have natural products that contain this, consult your doctor. Some beauty experts believe willow bark is OK to use while pregnant, while others don’t.

Aluminum chloride hexahydrate

This is commonly found in deodorants. Check your antipersperant for this ingredient and if you have it, stow it away. My beauty product guide has an awesome natural deoderant that 100% works for me!


This chemical is commonly found in eyelash glue, nail polishes, and hair treatments. Here’s a list of formaldehydes to keep an eye out for on your ingredient list: 3-diol (bromopol), quaternium-15, hydantoin,  imidazolidinyl urea, ,dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM), diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, d 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1


This is found in certain nail polish brands. YUP – you gotta question your nail polish as well. Luckily popular brands like Essi and OPI or pregnancy safe!


This is a skin lightening and brightening ingredient found in sun spot removal serums. It also comes in the form of:  quinol/1-4 dihydroxy benzene/1-4 hydroxy benzene and idrochinone.

Parabens and Phthalates

A lot of non pregnant women steer clear of parabens and phthalates, so us pregnant women should too! Here’s a list of these types of ingredients to look out for: dibutyl and diethyl, methyl, isopropyl, isobutyl, butyl, and propyl. Pthalates are also found in fragrance, so be mindful of products that have some sort of synthetic fragrance in them.

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA)

This is an ingredient that is found in self tanning products. The problem here is that when you are spraying yourself with a self-tanner, you could be inhaling this ingredient – which is no bueno for pregnancy. There are however many spray tan companies that use all organic products that are safe for pregnancy, so you just need to do a bit of research! A local one in Chicago that is pregnancy friendly is Ortanic!

Chemical sunscreen

Yes you should also be cautious with sunscreen! Since sunscreen is often times applied in large quantities, it’s smart to be mindful of what’s in your products. A lot of sunscreens contain parabens and phtalates, so search for a brand that is mineral based with titanium dioxids and zinc oxide.

Skincare ingredients that are safe for pregnant women

Now that we got that laundry list of ingredients pregnant women can’t use out of the way, here’s a list of types of products or ingredients that are perfectly fine for pregnant women to use! This section includes the tips and ingredients used by Ursula from Exhale Spa – she recently gave me an ahhhh-mazing facial catered to my pregnancy skincare problems. So I’m going to go over all the types of products she used on me and more!

Mineral & fruit peels

These are great to give your skin a deep cleanse. Softening your skin texture and creating smaller looking poors! Peels that are fruit based are perfectly safe to use such as papaya enzymes as they gently whisk away dead skin cells. Look for products that contain papaya or pumpkin enzymes for a safe gentle exfoliation. Malic acids are also found in fruit peels, which is a natural acid found in fruit, and mandelic acid comes from almonds which also has wonderful exfoliating and refining effects!

Lactic acid

I wrote about lactic acid before, and have loved using this to help combat hormonal acne. Lactic acid is naturally found in our body and is a AHA acid that is gentle and helps refine pores! I love using my blemish clearing cleanser from Belli Beauty which contains lactic acid – and this product is specially formulated for expecting mamas. You can find it in my beauty guide!

Glycolic acid

When used in moderation (no more than 10% glycolic concentration), it is considered safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding. Glycolic acid is great to restructure the surface of our skin to create less bumps, and even help with acne scarring. If your skin is extra sensitive, lactic acid is the milder option for an exfoliator.

Hyaluronic acid

I personally LOVE hyaluronic acid (I wrote about it here!). It is such a wonderful anti-aging annnnnd hydrating ingredient. It’s already found in our body and really holds on to water molecules meaning that it will help your skin retain moisture. It’s wonderful to pair with acne treatments if your skin gets dried out, and works well as a serum so that it can really penetrate and do its job!

Vitamin C

Products that contain vitamin C will help brighten any skin discoloration (think acne scarres and sun damage), it promotes the production of collagen, helps heal and minimize damage, and help even out your skin tone.


From all the articles and doctors Ursula has spoken to, she notes that peptides are safe during pregnancy but you do have to be careful ensuring that the product that you are using doesn’t have Vitamin A in it as well. Peptides are short chains of amino acid that act as collagen in a variety of ways to slow the aging process. Incorporating peptides into your serums or creams can help you Reverse or prevent signs of aging.

One comment on “Pregnancy Skincare 101: Ingredients to Avoid, and Ingredients to Use!

  • Adi , Direct link to comment
    Hi Sarah you look soo gorgeous thanks for sharing this lovely post . Love u a lot :)

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