How To Ensure Your Skincare Routine Is Pregnancy Safe

Pregnancy bombards women with all sorts of bodily changes as a result of hormone fluctuations. Some people bask in that much-hyped pregnancy glow, while others struggle with oilier skin and breakouts. The steep rises in estrogen and progesterone, the two particularly important hormones during pregnancy, have an effect on a woman's skin, Dr. Iren D. Hjellestad tells For this reason, pregnancy always has you reconsider your skincare routine and make adjustments to make sure the products that go on your skin are safe for you and your unborn child. 

Turns out, occupational exposure to cosmetic products has been shown to heighten the risk of negative pregnancy outcomes, such as perinatal death, miscarriage, preterm birth, and low birth weight, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports. Therefore, it's essential to exercise extra caution and receive relevant safety information when using skincare products during pregnancy in order to reduce exposure to hazardous chemical substances. With that in mind, we've rounded up six suggestions on how to make your skincare routine pregnancy safe. 

Wear sunscreen to prevent melasma

Melasma, characterized by dark patches or freckle-like spots dotted across one's face, is not uncommon during pregnancy and is usually referred to as "the mask of pregnancy." Triggered by an overproduction of melanocytes or color-producing cells that causes your skin to produce extra pigment, melasma is often seen around your cheekbones, forehead, nose, and lip, per Westlake Dermatology. Naturally pigmented skin such as nipples, freckles, and genitals, can get even darker during pregnancy. Depending on the person, melasma may disappear within six months after delivery or stay around for a long time.

Sun exposure can worsen melasma and intensify the darkened spots. Therefore, it's crucial to minimize and prevent melasma by wearing sunscreen painstakingly on a daily basis and reapplying the formula every two hours when you're out and about. To minimize the damage of sun exposure on the skin, La Roche-Posay recommends using photostable, broad-spectrum sunblock containing UV filters with SPF 30 or higher. 

Avoid hormone-disrupting ingredients like oxybenzone or avobenzone, which might adversely affect you and your baby. When going out, remember to wear other protective gear such as a wide-brimmed hat, shades, and a long-sleeved shirt. In case you develop melasma during pregnancy and it makes you uncomfortable, wait until after delivery or six months postpartum when your hormone levels have largely returned to normal to get treatment. The reason being is melasma treatment might not be safe or effective when your hormones are still fluctuating.

Use gentle cleanser, avoid heavy exfoliation

Your skin is bound to become more sensitive during pregnancy, so it's best to hydrate and cleanse your skin with a gentle cleanser to minimize irritation, dermatologist Dr. Lisa Zhang tells Baby List. For instance, gentle cleansers containing the hydration-boosting ingredient hyaluronic acid such as Cetaphil and CeraVe have deep cleansing power and fit all skin types. When it comes to nourishing your skin and minimizing the occurrence of stretch marks, opt for a fragrance-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer with SPF that works well on sensitive skin. When trying a new moisturizer or serum, buy a small pack and do a patch test on your arm for a couple of days to test skin sensitivity and if it suits you.

Exfoliation is also an indispensable part of any skincare routine, as it buffs away dead skin cells and pollutants from the face and enhances the skin's appearance. Most AHAs, exfoliating acids known for their ability to remove dead cells and better skin texture, are considered unsafe for moms-to-be. However, AHAs such as glycolic acid and lactic acid are generally safe in concentrations lower than 7% and 5%, respectively, says Dr. Laura Nicholas. If possible, choose physical exfoliation over chemical exfoliation, and exfoliate moderately to avoid further sensitizing your skin. "I would not exfoliate more than once every two weeks," says dermatologist Dr. Kavita Mariwalla (via Verywell Family), recommending that you treat your skin in the most gentle way possible so it can recover faster.

No whole-body heat therapy

Taking a trip to the sauna is one of the most therapeutic activities you can do for your body. You sit still in a steamy, enclosed room heated to temperatures between 150 degrees Fahrenheit and 195 degrees Fahrenheit where intense warmth penetrates your body. As you perspire profusely, every ounce of your strained flesh gradually loosens and you can feel the tension seeping out of your every pore. You might feel a burning sensation in various parts of your body as it heats up, but you always come out feeling more refreshed than ever. Whole-body heat therapy can do wonders for your body, but not while you're expecting. 

According to the United Kingdom's National Health Service, it's better to steer clear of saunas, steam rooms, or hot tubs when you're pregnant because of the risks of overheating, dehydration, and fainting. Your body naturally becomes warmer when you are pregnant, so the additional heat from a sauna causes your core temperature to rise even more. This could have an adverse effect on your pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks. When your core temperature surpasses 102 degrees Fahrenheit, your baby is at risk of developing brain or spinal cord defects, says spa supervisor Samika Traboulay (via The Bump).

Postpone your Botox injections

More than just cosmetic surgery, Botox injections are a necessity for women who need help maintaining their wrinkle-free look. What happens during a Botox treatment is that your healthcare provider uses a needle to inject small amounts of botulinum toxin into your muscles to block nerve signals. If you are, however, planning pregnancy, you might want to hold off on Botox injections until after your delivery or when you no longer breastfeed your child. The use of botulinum toxin during pregnancy isn't advised, Dr. Zaffari Townsend tells L'Officiel. If you consider getting Botox treatment while breastfeeding, you should discuss it with your healthcare provider for expert opinions.

It's worth pointing out that the United States Food & Drug Administration classifies Botox as a Category C medicine during pregnancy, which indicates a lack of research that concludes whether the drug is 100% safe or unsafe during pregnancy or when nursing a child. Since it all comes down to the patient's judgment calls, most medical professionals would recommend postponing Botox treatments until after pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Refrain from using retinol

When it comes to combating acne and preventing premature aging, the first skincare ingredient that comes to mind is usually retinol. Found in many over-the-counter skin care products, retinol is a chemical derivative of vitamin A and a type of retinoid, according to Stanford Medicine. Retinol is considered a powerhouse ingredient in unclogging pores, exfoliating the skin surface, and speeding up collagen production to make room for healthier skin. While retinol and retinoids are perfect additions to your daily skincare routine, they are not meant to be used in large quantities during pregnancy.

The reason being having large amounts of vitamin A in your system, whether from topical products or foods, can adversely impact your unborn child, the National Health Service warns. In fact, exposure to retinoids during pregnancy is linked with the emergence of fetal retinoid syndrome, a condition of physical and mental birth defects in a baby. To reduce hazards, avoid taking retinol and retinoids during pregnancy. For expert assistance in this matter, consult your healthcare provider before using any topical product containing a high concentration of retinol or incorporating vitamin A-rich foods or supplements into your diet.

Avoid these skincare ingredients

Apart from retinoids, there are certain skincare ingredients that you should watch out for when choosing skin care products. Isotretinoin, or Accutane, a drug used to treat severe acne, must be completely avoided during pregnancy as it can cause birth defects and miscarriages. Topical or oral formulations containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid shouldn't be applied in large quantities lest they take a toll on your health, says dermatologist Dr. Roni Munk from MunkMD.

Hydroquinone, a potent anti-pigment agent commonly found in melasma treatment, is also not completely safe to use in pregnant women. Dr. Munk emphasizes, "The safest compounds to use are glycolic or linoleic acids, and sunscreen." Speaking of sunscreen, pregnancy skincare specialist Dr. Jo Mennie (via Women's Health) recommends giving chemical sunscreens a pass. The reason being is chemical sun protection formulas usually contain ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, or octinoxate, which can increase the risk of pregnancy complications. Phthalates, formaldehyde, spironolactone, and parabens are other personal care ingredients to avoid during pregnancy.

Overall, there is no need to alter your regular skincare routine during pregnancy as long as the products you use are free from hazardous elements. However, to be completely sure that your skincare regimen is pregnancy safe, speak to your dermatologist or midwife for expert advice.