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Skincare Ingredients: Pregnancy Do’s & Don’ts

Skincare Ingredients: Pregnancy Do’s & Don’ts

In part one of our series with Natalie Agulair, we dive into how pregnancy impacts skincare. She also breaks down some common product ingredients we should avoid and offers safe alternatives.

How Your Skin Can Change during Pregnancy

I recently found out that I was pregnant, and I’m a first-time mom. You think you know everything about skincare until you experience a new chapter in your life – and boy, was I in for it.

I thought I knew everything about skin and pregnancy until I started experiencing it myself. First, my skin got so dry, and it continues to get dry no matter how much water I drink. As my belly started to expand, I experienced the itch, the sting, and the burn. I also experienced discoloration due to hormonal imbalances. There have been a few weeks where I had acne and then – boom – cellulite appeared!

These are things we may hear about from other women, but you never really know what it will feel like until you experience them yourselves. It’s been an adventure trying out new products to find what helps.

Updating Your Skincare Routine during Pregnancy

When you're pregnant, you experience many different changes in your skin. It is important to have a disciplined facial and body routine because there are many ingredients that we aren't allowed to use. You’ll also likely want to use new products, because you’ll notice your skin changes.

For example, I had been using a lot of retinol and folic acid in my routine prior to pregnancy. Now that I’m pregnant, I experience so much skin sensitivity that I am no longer able to use the products that I once used on a daily basis. It’s important to review not only the ingredients but also the function of your regular skincare products as you adapt your routine for pregnancy.

Something interesting I like to recommend to my clients is use what you plan on using on your baby, on yourself. Use body wash and moisturizers made for babies, so you can learn what it feels like. And if it's safe to use on a newborn, it's safe to use on yourself. Play around with different kinds of baby wash, baby lotion, and baby oil. See if you like them, and if you do, then you know you’d approve of it for your baby. And if you don't, you can find another one. But I would avoid synthetic fragrances and parabens and alcohol-based products.

Skin Care: Ingredients to Avoid during Pregnancy

There are a few skincare ingredients that you should avoid once you find out you're pregnant. But there are also great substitutes for many of those products!

Avoid: Hydroquinone
Instead Try: Vitamin C, Vitamin B3 or Kojic Acid

One ingredient you should eliminate from your routine is hydroquinone, which is known as a skin lighter. It is banned in many countries, but it is popular here in the United States. Hydroquinone comes in different percentages anywhere from two to 10, and it helps lighten discoloration such as melasma. However, it is known to be carcinogenic. So rather than using skin whiteners, we want to focus on skin brightness. The first brightener that you can incorporate into your routine is Vitamin C, which is a safe and natural source of brightness. Another vitamin that's really becoming popular for a bright and even skin tone is Vitamin B3, also known as niacinamide, which also helps to block the pigmentation process and lightens discoloration. You can also use kojic acid, which comes from a mushroom. With any of these ingredients, always make sure you wear sunscreen.

Avoid: Salicylic Acid
Instead Try: Willow Bark Extract

The second ingredient you want to avoid using is salicylic acid, which is another name for aspirin. As we know, aspirin does affect fetal development. Rather than using salicylic acid, you can use willow bark extract, which is a natural ingredient that serves a similar role in your skincare routine.

Avoid: Retin-A (Retinol/Vitamin A)
Instead Try: Glycolic Acid

The most important product you want to avoid when you're pregnant is Retin-A, also known as Retinol and Vitamin A. If you've ever purchased prenatal vitamins or an essential daily women's vitamin, it will stay on the label: There are products in here known to cause birth defects, and it's usually because of the high dose of Vitamin A. When you’re not pregnant, you might normally use Retin-A to control acne and balance the skin, but when you are expecting, you should switch to something like glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is a sugar derivative and a really nice exfoliant which can help retain moisture in the skin.

Avoid: Benzoyl Peroxide
Instead Try: Probiotics

The last ingredient is a little bit controversial –benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide uses oxygen to kill acne bacteria. Instead of using oxygen to kill bacteria, you can use probiotics to balance healthy bacteria. There's also LED handhelds that you can buy at home, and these blue lights can help to kill bacteria.

With benzoyl peroxide, some doctors say it's okay to use during pregnancy while others will recommend you don’t use it at all. I want to emphasize that with any ingredient, including the ones I mentioned here, it's always important to ask your doctor if it's safe for you to use. But you don’t need to feel like you have to avoid all skincare when you’re pregnant – in reality, there are a lot of different options. We just have to do our research!

Learn More:

Click here to read about treatment options for scars and stretchmarks during and after pregnancy.

Click here to read how to prevent and treat hyperpigmentation and facial puffiness during pregnancy.

Click here to learn what can be done to combat the common pregnancy issues - acne and dry skin.

Click here to find the best DIY’s you can add to your skincare routine during pregnancy.

Natalie Aguilar is a dermatological nurse and licensed aesthetician in LA, and she’s also a mom! A true expert in caring for skin, Natalie combined her medical knowledge with her passion for skincare and founded N4 Skincare along with her sister, Nadia.

You can follow Natalie and her work at N4 Skincare on Instagram @n4skincare.