At least 10 times a month, I receive a message on social media from an anxious woman unsure about which products she should ditch while pregnant. This is an inevitable consequence of the boom in active skincare ingredients and its resulting landslide of misinformation, coupled with US pregnancy websites and apps so litigation-averse that they seemingly deem everything but air a hazard to the unborn child.
If you’re newly with-child and keen to rejig your routine, there is not very much that becomes off-limits. As with anything in pregnancy (weightlifting and sushi bingeing, for example), the main thing is not to choose now as the time to start something dramatically new. For instance, if you’re already using a vitamin C serum (considered safe in pregnancy), carry on. But it’s not hugely sensible to introduce a strong one from scratch at a time when your skin may be more sensitive (sunscreens are safe, but if you’re sensitive to synthetic SPF, switch to mineral SPF for a bit).
There is absolutely no good reason to switch from synthetic skincare products to natural in pregnancy
Exfoliating acids are another category that sparks fear, but this is unfounded. Alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic and lactic, are fine; beta hydroxy acid (salicylic) is not recommended in large quantities, but you won’t find those quantities in any over-the-counter skincare product. So your daily salicylic toner is fine. A chemical peel in a doctor’s office is not the most sensible (or likely) decision. I’d probably skip a BHA body lotion (uncommon anyway), if you slather on daily and abundantly. There is a relatively short list of products that should not be used: retinoids in all forms (retinol, retinyl palmitate, tretinoin, retinaldehyde and so on) are out until breastfeeding is finished. Pigmentation-busters hydroquinone and arbutin are also off the menu. (Azalaic acid and niacinamide, both effective on discolouration issues so common in pregnancy, are green-lit.)
Finally, there is absolutely no good reason to switch from synthetic skincare products to natural in pregnancy (essential oils can actually irritate sensitive skin).
It’s also worth remembering that the reason many things are not recommended in pregnancy is not because we know them to be dangerous, but because we hardly ever test anything on pregnant people and so have no way of knowing. And that none of the above is to replace your own doctor’s advice. Only they know the particulars of your health and pregnancy.