Beauty

7 Beauty Products You Should Ditch After Seeing A Positive Pregnancy Test (And What To Use Instead)

By Simone Sydel··  9 min read
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Pregnancy glow? But what about pregnancy stress? Suddenly, everything you put on your skin or hair is a potential hazard to your developing baby. The good news is that you don’t have to sacrifice your beauty routine altogether. With a few simple swaps, you can keep your skin and hair healthy and beautiful throughout your pregnancy.

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Pregnancy is an amazing time for many women, but it can also be a time of worry, anxiety, and stress. There are so many things to think about and prepare for, and one of those things is finding safe beauty products that won't harm your developing baby. This might mean that you have to get rid of certain favorites for the time being, but it's important to be vigilant about what you put on your skin while pregnant.

To help you out, we've compiled a list of beauty products that should be avoided during pregnancy and some safe alternatives to maintain healthy and glowing skin during this time.

Beauty Products You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

While most beauty products contain a low concentration of ingredients that are unlikely to harm you or your baby, there are some products that you should definitely avoid during pregnancy. Here are some that might not be the safest for you:

1. Tazarotene

Tazarotene, sold under the brand name Tazorac, among others, is a prescription-only topical retinoid primarily used for the treatment of psoriasis and acne, but it also offers other benefits for the skin, including fading hyperpigmentation and evening out skin tone and texture. 

However, this powerful retinoid is to be avoided during pregnancy due to the limited data on the potential effect on human teratogenicity (the ability to cause defects in a developing fetus). While there are case reports of topical tazarotene exposure in utero, it’s unclear if it affected fetal development. Additional case reports and outcomes studies are needed to further explore the safety of topical tazarotene in pregnancy, so for now, it’s best to avoid this medication during pregnancy, particularly during the first trimester while the baby is most vulnerable to teratogens (Teratogens are substances that may produce physical or functional defects in an unborn baby after the pregnant mother is exposed to the substance).

2. Retin-A, Retinol, and Retinyl Palmitate

Retin-A (tretinoin), retinol, and retinyl palmitate are all forms of vitamin A that have become increasingly popular in skincare products due to their anti-aging benefits. While these ingredients can help improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and sun damage, they are also classified as category C drugs, which means that there is limited data on their potential effect on fetal development.

For example, Retin-A has not been shown to be teratogenic in rats and rabbits when given in doses of 100 and 320 times the topical human dose, respectively (assuming a 50 kg adult applies 250 mg of 0.1% cream topically). However, at these topical doses, delayed ossification of a number of bones occurred in both species, and these changes may be considered variants of normal development. Because there are no adequate and well-controlled studies done on pregnant women, it's best to avoid all forms of retinoids (especially the stronger, prescription-strength options) during pregnancy, and particularly during the first trimester when the baby is most vulnerable to potential teratogens.

It's best to avoid all forms of retinoids, especially the prescription-strength options, during pregnancy.

3. Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is another ingredient found in anti-acne creams, gels, and ointments that many people are on the fence about using during pregnancy. On the one hand, benzoyl peroxide is considered safe to use topically on pregnant women by most experts. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says benzoyl peroxide is an acceptable topical treatment for acne during pregnancy. However, some experts warn that benzoyl peroxide should be used with caution during pregnancy, as it has the potential to be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream.

So while there is no evidence that topical benzoyl peroxide poses a risk to the developing baby, it’s always best to err on the side of caution when using any medication, including over-the-counter options during pregnancy.

4. Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent that works by inhibiting the production of melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin its color. This is why it's most commonly found in creams and ointments that target hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone. Based on available data, hydroquinone use during pregnancy does not appear to be associated with an increased risk of major malformations or other adverse effects. However, because of the substantial absorption compared with other products, it’s best to minimize exposure until further studies confirm safety.

5. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is an ingredient found in nail polishes and certain hair products that has been linked to infertility problems, miscarriage, and premature birth. Therefore, stick to nail polishes that are labeled “3-Free” or “5-Free.” If you visit a hair or nail salon, talk to your stylist about the products they use and make sure they don’t contain formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde, found in nail polishes, has been linked to infertility, miscarriage, and premature birth. 

6. Spray Self-Tanners

Spray self-tanners contain an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone, and although this component isn't absorbed into the body, it can be inhaled during application, and the potential effects on you and your baby's health are unknown. While achieving a fake tan using cream and lotion formulas (depending on the ingredients) is considered safe during pregnancy, definitely stay away from spray tanners.

7. Essential Oils

Essential oils are often considered a natural alternative for fragrance in many beauty products. However, they’re not assessed by the FDA and don’t follow strict labeling standards. Essential oils come in different varieties and concentrations, so it’s hard to make a general statement on whether you should or should not use them while pregnant. However, several oils have been linked to health concerns and general discomforts such as nausea, drowsiness, and eye irritations if used while pregnant.

7 Pregnancy-Safe Beauty Products

Pregnancy doesn't mean that you can't have healthy and glowing skin! There are plenty of pregnancy-safe beauty products available that will take care of your skin without putting your baby at risk. Here are a few of our favorite pregnancy-safe beauty products:

1. Exfoliating Acids

Exfoliating acids have many women scratching their heads as to whether they should use them during pregnancy. Glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid are all safe to use during pregnancy, as long as they’re used in low concentrations, which all over-the-counter products that contain exfoliating acids do. Glycolic acid is generally sold in concentrations of 10% or less, while salicylic acid is sold at 2% or less. These are safe concentrations to use during pregnancy and can help you maintain clear and glowy skin even while your hormones are going wild.

Product To Try: Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment, $48

2. Vitamin C

Vitamin C serums are a great way to brighten your complexion and get a dose of antioxidant activity in your skin during pregnancy. Vitamin C is also a great option to use when experiencing melasma, which is a common hormonal condition that typically occurs during pregnancy and results in dark patches on the skin.

Product To Try: Vichy LiftActiv – Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector, $29

Glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid are all safe to use in low concentrations during pregnancy.

3. Bakuchiol

Bakuchiol is a potent antioxidant that visibly reduces skin discolorations from environmental exposure and has a pronounced soothing effect on the skin. Additionally, bakuchiol, while having no structural resemblance to retinoids, has been found to show a similarity to retinol effects on the skin. In one product study, bakuchiol showed significant improvement in lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, improved elasticity and firmness, and reduced UV damage after only 12 weeks. Bakuchiol is also vegan and an excellent pregnancy-safe option for targeting multiple skin concerns.

Product To Try: Medik8 – Bakuchiol Peptides Serum, $58

4. Peptides

Peptides are amino acids that are naturally occurring in your skin, and as such, they're safe in a pregnancy skincare routine. Peptides help boost collagen and elastin in the dermis and are best for anti-aging, firming, and brightening the skin.

Product To Try: Paula's Choice – Peptide Booster, $53

5. Ceramides

Ceramides are lipid molecules that make up most of the skin barrier and are responsible for keeping the skin hydrated and protected. Ceramide-rich products are key for a healthy pregnancy glow and replenishing other important components in the skin that may be imbalanced due to hormonal fluctuations.

Product To Try: cocokind – Ceramide Barrier Serum, $22

6. Niacinamide

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that brightens the skin, reduces inflammation, and strengthens the skin barrier. Niacinamide is an excellent ingredient to use during pregnancy as it can help with many of the skin concerns that can pop up due to hormonal changes, such as acne, hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, and rough skin texture.

Product To Try:  Paula's Choice – 10% Niacinamide Booster, $46

7. Mineral Sunscreen

Mineral sunscreens that contain ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the safest and most effective type of sunscreen to use during pregnancy. Mineral sunscreens work by creating a protective layer on the skin's surface and reflecting UV rays away, rather than being absorbed into the skin like chemical sunscreens. Additionally, mineral sunscreens are less likely to irritate the skin and are safe to use on sensitive skin when the formula is fragrance-free.

Product To Try: EltaMD – UV Sport Sunscreen Lotion, $28

Closing Thoughts

Pregnancy is a beautiful time in a woman's life, but it can also be a time of many skin concerns. However, with some knowledge and the right ingredients, you can maintain a healthy and beautiful pregnancy glow.

What are some of your favorite pregnancy-safe beauty products? Let us know in the comments below!

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  Skincare  Pregnancy
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