Pregnancy Skincare: What's Safe for Your Face and Body

Experts answer your top questions when it comes to which skincare products and treatments are safe during pregnancy.

pregnant person holding their belly

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From stretch marks and acne to itchiness and rashes, your skin will go through as many changes during pregnancy as the baby growing inside of you! There are lots of ways to treat and soothe your skin, but it's important to make sure that any products you try are safe to use during pregnancy. Here's how to deal with your pregnancy skincare issues safely.

Safe Skincare Products for Your Face

During pregnancy, your body goes through a hormonal rollercoaster, which for many expectant parents shows up on their faces. Dry skin, acne, redness, and swelling are all common facial skincare issues for pregnant people. Some traditional treatments are fine but others may pose a risk for your developing baby.

Aim for natural ingredients that are safe for your baby and gentle, hypoallergenic formulations, which are less likely to cause a reaction to your skin.

How can I treat acne breakouts?

During pregnancy, you must avoid retinoids, or vitamin A derivatives, such as Retin-A or Renova, as well as salicylates, including products containing salicylic acid (also known as beta-hydroxy acid). These can all cause potential harm to your developing baby.

Instead, look for products that contain lactic acid or glycolic acid, says Heidi Waldorf, M.D., director of cosmetic and laser dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Can I get a facial while pregnant?

A salon facial can be a godsend when you're dealing with skin issues that could use some extra TLC. But before you book, make sure you know which treatments are pregnancy-safe!

Skip peels containing glycolic or beta-hydroxy acids (such as salicylic acid) are not advisable says dermatologist Erica Kelly, University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Instead, ask for a peel containing lactic acid, a pregnancy-safe alpha-hydroxy acid.

Should I switch to organic skincare products?

"If you're using a conventional product and it's working, I don't see any reason to switch," says Diane Madfes, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist.

If you decide to go organic, check the ingredients. Stay away from products containing retinols, vitamin A or salicylic acid (often listed as willow bark); all are known to cause birth defects. And if you're evaluating your products on a case-by-case basis, get to know the labels. Here's a rundown on ingredients to avoid.

Is mineral makeup safe?

Mineral makeup is a good choice during pregnancy, when skin may react unexpectedly, says Joanna Schlip, a Los Angeles makeup artist. That's because it doesn't contain ingredients that can irritate skin, such as fragrance or preservatives.

Mineral makeup also contains titanium and zinc, which act as a natural SPF to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays.

Safe Skincare Products for Your Body

The skin on your body goes through lots of changes during pregnancy, leading to dryness, stretching, and itchiness.

What kind of moisturizer can I use?

Look for products with ingredients such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid or shea butter, says Doris Day, M.D., clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center.

Is it safe to get a spray tan or use a self-tanner when expecting?

In a word, no. According to Isabel Blumberg, M.D., a clinical instructor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, the active ingredient in DIY self-tanner and professional spray tans is dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

"The long-term effects of DHA have yet to be tested," says Blumberg. However, tanning products are applied to such a large area of skin that it's best to avoid them—and the potential side effects to you and your developing baby.

Can I use cellulite creams while I'm pregnant?

"Generally, I don't recommend firming and cellulite creams during pregnancy," says Elizabeth Goldberg, M.D., a clinical instructor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

"They contain three ingredients that we suggest pregnant women stay away from: retinols, DMAE and caffeine." Retinols, a form of vitamin A, have been linked to severe birth defects, and caffeine is a stimulant that should only be consumed in limited amounts during pregnancy.

What can I do about varicose veins now and after I have the baby?

During pregnancy, the weight of your developing baby can put pressure on the blood vessels in your pelvis. This causes blood to back up into the veins of the legs, enlarging them.

Wearing support hose as well as getting regular exercise can help minimize the risk for developing varicose veins during pregnancy, says Macrene Alexiades, M.D., a dermatologist and assistant clinical professor at Yale University of Medicine.

After delivery and once you finish breastfeeding, small spider veins can be treated by a dermatologist with a laser or injection procedure. For larger varicose veins, seek out a vascular surgeon.

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