List: Skincare Ingredients to Avoid While Pregnant

Written by Tatiana Sousa, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on April 23, 2020 No Comments

pregnancy skin care

Now that you are pregnant, you’ll have to forgo alcohol, sushi, and many prescription medications for the sake of your baby. But one thing that some pregnant women overlook is the need to alter the skincare products they use each day. Many common over-the-counter (OTC) products can contain ingredients that are not recommended for use while pregnant.

Go through your current skincare products and look at the label to see if any contain these ingredients (via FitPregnancy.com):

Retinol: A common component in anti-aging products, retinoids fight wrinkles and other aging symptoms by speeding up cellular turnover and preventing the breakdown of collagen. Oral retinoids can cause complications and birth defects. Your physician may advise you to steer clear of various forms of retinoids including Vitamin A, retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde, adapalene, tretinoin, tazarotene and isotretinoin.

Salicylic Acid: This mild acid is used to treat a variety of skin conditions but is an especially common ingredient in acne cleansers. High concentrations in oral form can cause pregnancy complications and birth defects. Although most OTC products have low concentrations, avoiding salicylic acid all together is safe practice. Salicylic acid in higher concentrations (including facials or peels) should be avoided.

Aluminum chloride hexahydrate: This chemical is typically found in antiperspirant and can also be listed under the name aluminum chlorohydrate.

Beta hydroxy acids: Common in acne medications, this compound can also be listed as Salicylic acid, 3-hydroxypropionic acid, trethocanic acid or tropic acid.

Chemical sunscreens: Sunscreen is still important during your pregnancy. Use a physical sun block that contains the ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Avoid chemical sunscreens that contain Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, oxybenzone, oxtinoxate, menthyl anthranilate and oxtocrylene.

Diethanolamine (DEA): Common in hair and body products, look for this listed as diethanolamine, oleamide DEA, lauramide DEA or cocamide DEA.

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA): Normally found in spray-on self-tanning products.

Formaldehyde: Used in hair straighteners and nail polishes; this chemical is linked to cancer, nervous system issues, and respiratory problems. Look out for formaldehyde, quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM), hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol).

Hydroquinone: A common ingredient in skin lightening or skin brightening products. Studies have shown that nearly 45% of this ingredient is absorbed into the skin with no studies on how it may affect babies in utero. Avoid hydroquinone, idrochinone and quinol/1-4 dihydroxy benzene/1-4 hydroxy benzene.

Parabens: These chemicals have been linked to reproductive issues and breast cancer. They may be listed as propyl, butyl, isopropyl, isobutyl and methyl parabens.

Phthalates:Usually found in products with added fragrance; avoid diethyl and dibutyl especially.

Thioglycolic acid: Part of hair removal products; may be listed as acetyl mercaptan, mercaptoacetate, mercaptoacetic acid or thiovanic acid.

Toluene: Common nail polish ingredient; skip methylbenzene, toluol and antisal 1a.


Tatiana Sousa, MD

Dr. Tatiana Sousa is a board certified dermatologist who completed her undergraduate degree in biology at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, New Jersey. She earned her medical degree and completed her internal medicine internship at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX. Dr. Sousa went on to complete her dermatology residency at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where she served as chief resident in her final year.


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