Top Skin Care Ingredients To Avoid In Pregnancy
Before we jump into our list, we must point out that evidence-based data on the safety of specific products in pregnancy is limited. In almost all cases, clinical trials on pregnant people that could even start to prove that certain ingredients are harmful are an ethical no-no.
But some animal, anecdotal, or case-specific studies have shown some serious fetal effects related to a few common skin care ingredients. Thats the basis for our recommendations.
The Food and Drug Administration requires cosmetic products to be safe based on their specific uses and labeling, but they dont need FDA approval to be sold on the market.
All of that brings big questions about what cosmetics are truly safe during pregnancy. On this basis, most experts err on the side of caution.
Can I Take Any Medication For Pregnancy Acne
Maybe, but talk with your doctor, midwife, or dermatologist first about safe pregnancy acne treatment. That goes for both prescription medications and over-the-counter medications, oral drugs, and topical ones .
Because researchers don’t test medications on pregnant women, many products are not well studied for use in pregnancy. We know that some medications are definitely not safe, though.
Do not take orally or apply topically any of these medications during pregnancy:
- Isotretinoin and other retinoids, such as tretinoin, tazarotene, trifarotene, and adapalene
- The antibiotics tetracycline, minocycline, or doxycyline
- Hormonal therapy
- Dapsone or clascoterone the safety of these newer medications hasn’t been established yet for pregnancy.
Some of these medicines can cause serious birth defects.
Topical acne medications partly because they’re absorbed in small amounts tend to be safer than oral acne medications during pregnancy. Topical retinoids are not recommended during pregnancy, but these topical acne medications are considered safe to use during pregnancy:
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Antibiotics such as clindamycin and erythromycin
- Salicylic acid , in small amounts
The oral antibiotics erythromycin and cefadroxil are also considered safe for pregnancy acne treatment.
Laser and light therapies are also considered relatively safe during pregnancy, but be sure to talk with a dermatologist. If a numbing solution or medication is used during the process, those may not be safe.
A Super Gentle Face Wash
A simple routine is best for pregnancy, and a good cleanser is key, says Jennie Gao, an attorney and founder of Versine. This one is gentle and well-formulated. It cleans without disrupting your natural skin barrier. It contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture and keep skin from drying out , and its eczema-friendly if you want to use it all over your body. Yes, eczema is something you might experience for the first time when youre pregnant, too.
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What Acne Treatments Are Safe During Pregnancy
This is a newer acne treatment. For this reason, experts recommend that doctors be very cautious when they prescribe dapsone to women who are pregnant. Laser and light therapies: Lasers have been used to safely treat medical conditions in women who are pregnant. As such, lasers are considered relatively safe for women who are pregnant.
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What Acne Products And Ingredients Should Pregnant Women Avoid
Pregnant women should avoid taking isotretinoin and other retinoids, anti-androgen medications and oral tetracyclines . Isotretinoin has been proven to increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and birth defects, including cleft palate, congenital heart defects, hydrocephalus and microcephaly. Oral retinoids have been classified by the US Food & Drug Administration as pregnancy category X, which means the drugs have been associated with fetal abnormalities or positive evidence of human fetal risk.
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What Not To Use For Pregnancy Acne
First up, it’s important to be clear on which acne medications and treatments are absolutely off the table during pregnancy and around conception.
“You must not use treatments such as retinoids , spironolactone, and certain antibiotics during pregnancy, due to a link with birth defects,” says Mahto.
Sadly, she adds: “It is more tricky to say what is safe to use during pregnancy, as researchers don’t carry out studies on pregnant women. Much of our data therefore comes from animal studies.”
As a result, Mahto says: “Most acne treatments during pregnancy should be thought of as ‘holding measures’. In an ideal world, if you suffer with troublesome acne it should be treated before conception if pregnancy is on your radar. Of course, this may not always be entirely possible!”
Is There Really A Pregnancy Glow
If youve ever been pregnant, you might have wondered, like I did, if this glow is a myth or if youre just unlucky. Personally, Ive never known anyone in real life who glowed during pregnancy, says Gao. That glow may be attributed to the increased blood flow that happens when you become pregnant. To be clear, its very real: Your body actually produces nearly twice as much blood as usual.
At the same time, your bodys also ramping up estrogen production, as well as the hormone androgen thats the one that causes the sebaceous glands in your skin to secrete more sebumjust like during puberty. Sebum, as you might know, is basically oil.
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When Does Pregnancy Acne Go Away
When acne goes away depends on a lot of factors. If youve had a risk-free pregnancy and arent too stressed, expect it to go away in the third trimester or shortly after giving birth.
It can linger post-pregnancy because hormones are still fluctuating in the body during these periods, says Seelal. Unfortunately, there is no set time frame. Everyone is different and every pregnancy is different as well.
Anxiety during your pregnancy or after can trigger acne as well, regardless of how far along you are. Its not just the fact of carrying a child, its all the other things that come along with that, Skotnicki says. Some people will find the stress or worry will aggravate their acne, and that can be at different times. If your acne persists, and you want to treat acne while breastfeeding, many over-the-counter treatments including benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are considered safe. Talk to your pharmacist about whats right for you.
Try not to stress and remember that the acne, whether you have it and when you have it, isnt something you can decideyour hormones are leading the charge here.
Does Pregnancy Acne Go Away After Birth
It would be nice if those pesky pimples went poof the moment your baby was placed into your arms. While pregnancy acne does eventually get better as your hormones return to their pre-pregnancy state, it doesnt always happen overnight.
In some cases, postpartum hormonal fluctuations paired with sleep deprivation and the stress of caring for a newborn can be yet another acne trigger.
Try to stick with the same healthy skin care habits you had during pregnancy . And ask your doctor about the acne treatments that were off-limits during your pregnancy. Even if youre breastfeeding, some topical treatments may now be okay.
Hormonal birth control may help too. If the pill had helped keep your acne in check before becoming pregnant, youll likely notice an improvement in your skin once you start taking it again.
Keep in mind, though, that the mini-pill a progestin-only birth control pill often recommended for breastfeeding moms wont help acne and can actually make it worse.
Above all, try to be patient. A fresh wave of postpartum pimples isnt fun. But eventually, your skin will settle back down.
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Is It Safe To Have Blue Light Therapy During Pregnancy
During Pregnancy. Because Blue Light Therapy is non-invasive and the visible violet light used does not pose the same kind of danger as ultraviolet light or x-rays, the procedure is generally considered safe for pregnant women and their babies, although professionals do not recommend performing the treatment near the abdomen at this time.
How To Check If Your Skin Care Products Are Safe
First, discuss the safety of your skin care products with your dermatologist and OB-GYN, especially if youre taking prescription medications or are concerned about a pre-existing skin condition.
Next, you can scan your products list of ingredients for any weve reviewed, or others that may be concerning to you. A very credible resource for learning more about skin care and personal product ingredient safety is the EWG.
Because personal care products arent heavily regulated, the EWG developed a database of over 87,000 personal care products, delivering a safety rating for each. The safety rating is generated by referencing each products ingredients with over 60 toxicity and regulatory databases.
You can reference the EWGs Skin Deep® database online or get the app . In the app, you can quickly scan a products bar code to get its safety rating.
When To See A Provider
Realistically, you dont need to see a healthcare provider at all for pregnancy acne. The blemishes may be uncomfortable but, Skotnicki says, its not harmful to your health or to the viability of your pregnancy. That being said, if severe acne becomes unbearable or it begins to scar, it might be worth speaking to your primary healthcare provider or dermatologist. If you have nodules or cysts or acne in more than 50% of your face, back, or chest, you should seek medical expertise.
What Products Arent Safe For Pregnancy Acne
Many of the creams and meds that are typically used to zap zits contain ingredients that could potentially harm your growing baby, so youll want to steer clear. Acne products to avoid during pregnancy include:
- Retinoids. Serious breakouts in adults are sometimes tackled with such strong-arm products as Retin-A and other topical retinoids . All of these are completely off-limits until after you deliver and wean, since they can be absorbed through the skin into your breast milk and your and your babys bloodstream.
- Doxycycline and minocycline. These are another definite no-no, since their use during pregnancy can negatively affect your baby. In fact, its best to avoid virtually all oral acne medication during pregnancy .
- Oral isotretinoin. It poses the risk for birth defects, premature birth or miscarriage.
Topical salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, two chemicals found in a huge range of skin care and drugstore products, are generally okay to use in small amounts during pregnancy, according to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as well as the American Academy of Dermatology .
However, not all experts consider them safe for expecting women. If youre considering using a product containing one of these ingredients, talk with your doctor first.
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Acne Management During Pregnancy
There are several systems that rate the teratogenicity of medications, including those developed by the Food and Drug Administration , Briggs Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation, and other international health agencies . Historically, there were often discrepancies in safety classifications between systems, with risk categories commonly viewed as confusing or overly simplistic . In response in 2015, the FDA replaced their long-standing letter labeling schema with the Pregnancy and Lactation Labeling Rule to provide more detailed safety data specific to pregnant and lactating patients in clinical trials .
Table 2 FDA and Hale medication safety rating systems
Recommendations for acne therapies during pregnancy based on acne severity and trimester are summarized in Table 3. Acne management in pregnancy should consist of a step-wise approach to minimize risk, starting with topical treatments for mild-to-moderate acne, adding systemic therapies for moderate-to-severe acne, and reserving oral corticosteroids or procedural treatments for fulminant or refractory cases .
Table 3 Acne treatments during pregnancy
What Are These Drugs
Accutane: Accutane is a prescription medication that is taken orally to treat acne. The generic name for Accutane is isotretinoin.Retin-A: Retin-A is a prescription cream that is applied to the skin to treat acne. The generic name for Retin-A is tretinoin. Tetracycline: Tetracycline is an antibiotic taken orally to treat acne and respiratory infections.
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Acne Management During Preconception And Pregnancy Planning
Careful selection of acne treatments during the pregnancy planning stage is important to reduce future maternal and fetal risks. While the definition varies, the preconception period in this review refers to when a patient first decides to attempt pregnancy .
Acne therapies that are absolutely contraindicated during the preconception stage are summarized in Table 1. For example, isotretinoin and spironolactone require a washout period of at least 1 month before pregnancy planning . Additional acne medications that should be avoided, but are not absolutely contraindicated, in the first trimester are also listed in Table 1.
Table 1 Acne treatments to avoid during pregnancy planning and preconception
Avoid Temptation To Pick
As irresistible as it can be, picking pimples or over-exfoliating your skin is not the right idea. “I always say, start to bug out, and then they scrub,” says Dr. Gohara. Try to avoid that. Do not overdo any treatments in an attempt to heal your acne. It could just make it worse. “It destroys the skin barrieryour protective mechanismand just enflames things a hundred times worse,” says. Dr. Gohara.
Plus, picking just gives the bacteria that lives in acne more opportunities to spread, says Sylvia Brownlee, an esthetician, holistic acne specialist, and founder of Skin by Brownlee Co., a Cincinnati, Ohio-based spa. “This can just lead to more breakouts!” she shares.
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Is Calcipotriene Safe During Pregnancy
US FDA pregnancy category C: Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks. Use is not recommended unless clearly needed.
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How Long Does Pregnancy Acne Last
Unfortunately, its not just something that crops up for a short period of time. Like everything else in pregnancy, its unpredictable, according to Holey. It tends to start around six weeks, and it might fade gradually, last well until after babys arrived or come and go in waveskind of like your appetite.
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Can I Use Dovonex When Pregnant
There are no adequate studies of the topical use of Dovonex, Taclonex, or Vectical ointment in pregnant women. All of these medications should only be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit outweighs the potential risk to the fetus and only if they are recommended by a health care provider.
How To Remedy Acne During Pregnancy
If youve suffered with acne before, you might feel that you can treat this new bout of acne by stocking up on products that youve used in the past.
However, acne care during pregnancy requires a lighter touch.
Not only is your skin likely more sensitive, many common acne treatments are strictly off-limits during pregnancy.
This is because some chemicals used in acne treatments both topical and oral pose a risk to the unborn baby.
These risks include birth defects and an increased risk of miscarriage.8
Acne treatments which are unsuitable for use during pregnancy include:
- Oral retinoid medicines including acitretin, alitretinoin and isotretinoin. These are a strong synthetic form of vitamin A used to treat more severe acne.9
- Topical retinoids are less likely to cause harm to the unborn child. However, as a precaution, they must not be used during pregnancy and by women planning to have a baby.10
- Trimethoprim an antibiotic sometimes used to treat acne.11 It may lower levels of folic acid in the blood and interfere with a babys healthy development.12
- Tetracycline an antibiotic sometimes used to treat acne which can cause tooth discolouration in babies and bone growth issues.13
- Hydroquinone this topical depigmenting agent is not advisable for use during pregnancy due to its high absorption rate.14
Acne-fighting ingredients which can be used during pregnancy include:
Always check with a healthcare professional first before starting any treatment.
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Hormonal Acne: Diet Dos And Donts
The exact role between diet and hormonal acne isnt fully understood. Some foods may help prevent acne particularly inflammation-fighting foods.
Plant-based foods high in antioxidants may help reduce inflammation and promote clearer skin. Omega-3 fatty acids may also decrease skin inflammation.
Contrary to popular belief, junk food alone doesnt cause acne. But overdoing it on certain foods may lead to increased inflammation.
You may consider limiting the following:
- refined carbs, such as white bread and pasta
To clear up hormonal acne and keep it at bay its important to establish an appropriate skincare routine.
Are Any Acne Treatments Safe During Pregnancy
- benzoyl peroxide
- fruit acids, such as glycolic acid
are probably safe
- antibiotic creams
are not safe
- retinoids, such as tretinoin, adapalene, and isotretinoin
- high concentrations of salicylic acid
Acne pills and tabletsare safe
- other antibiotics, such as tetracyclines and fluoroquinolones
Other ways to treat your acne
- Wash your skin with a gentle cleanser and lukewarm water, no more than twice a day.
- Wash your face using your hands or a clean, soft wash cloth. Don’t scrub too hard or use wash cloths made from rough material, as this could irritate your skin.
- Pat your skin dry, don’t rub it.
- Use oil-free moisturiser.
- Leave spots alone. Scratching or squeezing will make them worse.
- Choose make-up products that are water-based instead of oil-based. And look out for products that are labelled non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic. This means that they won’t clog your pores.
- Take off your make-up before you go to bed.
More on pregnancy skincare:
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