Pregnancy is a unique moment in the life of a woman. Their bodies morph to accomodate a new life within them, gearing up to provide for them when born.


Changes don’t occur only on the inside, though – aside from a growing belly women must also face the changes on the outside too. Pregnancy acne is just one example of what effects the body may suffer when hormonal and chemical imbalance first start gearing up; however, what can one use during pregnancy to contrast these unwanted situations?


It is widely known that women must take care of what they introduce in their body when pregnant as it might affect the foetus in the long term. Be it through accidental discovery or via scientific research, certain elements are now on the no-no list. Before listing the skincare ingredients one must avoid, it ought to be pointed out that for ethical reasons evidence-based data on this topic is limited: clinical trials on pregnant women that could even start to prove that certain ingredients are harmful were interrupted in the majority of the cases. Some case-specific studies and animal testing have, however, proven that certain skincare ingredients are harmful if not potentially fatal.


From A to Z


Starting off with Vitamin A, a fundamental nutrient our body takes and converts into retinol, needed by our body for eyesight, maintenance of skin and overall human development.

It is found in skincare as retinoids, a people’s favourite when combating both acne and signs of aging.

Sadly, one must put these miracle workers aside when pregnant as high doses of Vitamin A have been linked to birth defects; although topical application of over-the-counter retinoids is very low, it is always best to remain on the safe side.


If, however, a woman is using prescription medicine such as Accutane or Retin-A, she must immediately stop consuming them as their dose of Vitamin A is far larger and poses a much greater threat to the unborn. Studies have in fact shown how isotretinoin, a form of Vitamin A used to treat severe nodular acne, can cause extreme birth defects in the foetus.


“There is an estimated 20%–35% risk for congenital defects in infants exposed to the drug in utero, including craniofacial, cardiovascular, neurological and thymic malformations. About 30%–60% of children exposed to isotretinoin prenatally have been reported to show neurocognitive impairment, even in the absence of physical defects”  – Choi et al. (2013)


Salicylic Acid


Another popular ingredient amongst women, this amazing ally in the fight against clogged pores is to be taken in very low doses when pregnant.


Although safe in low dosage, it should be used with caution.




Banned for its carcinogenic effects, it has also been flagged as a potential cause for miscarriage and infertility.

It is therefore very important to avoid it and all its derivatives commonly found in skincare (bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, hydroxymethylglycinate, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane) at all costs.




Studies conducted upon animals have shown how this endocrine-disruptive ingredient can permanently affect mammary glands and lactation. In a study with mice, the estrogenic chemical changed the gland morphology and function such as their ductal density.


With the European Union Commission limiting the amount of benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone) from 10% to 6% in cosmetic sunscreen products as of 2017, further studies have been made on its effect on neurological development of prenatal brains. The results show that a constant exposure to it can significantly affect the neural development, which may be the foetal basis of the adult onset of nervous system diseases, particularly schizophrenia and AD-like neurodegenerations.

So what can I use during pregnancy to treat my skin?


Many things! 

Though you may have to limit the aforementioned ingredients, research shows that you can always make use of amongst others:


  • Topical benzoyl peroxide
  • Topical azelaic acid
  • Oral zinc but not for longer than 3 months
  • Mechanical peeling
  • Chemical peeling with glycolic or alpha-hydroxy-acids
  • Topical antibacterials (Clindamycin and erythromycin)
  • Benzoyl peroxide


Mothers-to-be are recommended to always take it a step further and self-research for peace of mind and to stay updated on the latest research as new studies may unearth more information that has not been reported.


  1. Choi, J. S., Koren, G., & Nulman, I. (2013). Pregnancy and isotretinoin therapy. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, 185(5), 411–413.
  2. Bayerl C. [Acne therapy in pregnancy]. Der Hautarzt; Zeitschrift fur Dermatologie, Venerologie, und Verwandte Gebiete. 2013 Apr;64(4):269-273. DOI: 10.1007/s00105-012-2456-2.
  3. Trivedi, M. K., Kroumpouzos, G., & Murase, J. E. (2017). A review of the safety of cosmetic procedures during pregnancy and lactation. International journal of women’s dermatology, 3(1), 6–10.
  4. Charlotte D LaPlante, Ruby Bansal, Karen A Dunphy, D Joseph Jerry, Laura N Vandenberg, Oxybenzone Alters Mammary Gland Morphology in Mice Exposed During Pregnancy and Lactation, Journal of the Endocrine Society, Volume 2, Issue 8, August 2018, Pages 903–921,
  5. Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/23, 2017. Annex VI to Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council on cosmetic products. Available:
  6. Wnuk, A., Rzemieniec, J., Staroń, J. et al. Prenatal Exposure to Benzophenone-3 Impairs Autophagy, Disrupts RXRs/PPARγ Signaling, and Alters Epigenetic and Post-Translational Statuses in Brain Neurons. Mol Neurobiol 56, 4820–4837 (2019).