Can You Use Retinol When You're Pregnant?

Pregnancy can alter your appearance. When you're pregnant, your skin can appear glowy and rosy thanks to an increase in hormones and blood flow. However, more hormones can also stimulate your oil glands to produce more sebum, making your skin more oily and vulnerable to breakouts, says Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson (via Mayo Clinic). Melasma, characterized by dark patches on one's facial skin, and stretch marks, can also occur as your bump starts to grow. Generally speaking, some people seem to have more skin issues while carrying a child instead of basking in the much-hyped pregnancy glow.

In general, people tend to deal with more emotional challenges during pregnancy. Seeing their skin developing acne scars or pigments can affect their confidence. To treat various skin conditions, many people seek out retinol, a skincare powerhouse that makes every problem small and every pore shrink. According to Stanford Medicine, retinol is a vitamin A derivative found in many over-the-counter skin care products and a type of retinoid. Like retinoids, retinol has proven effective in unclogging pores to tackle acne and stimulating collagen production to prevent wrinkles. Retinol can also treat melasma by exfoliating the skin surface to pave the way for a new layer of skin, as well as improve the appearance of stretch marks, according to InStyle

Obviously, retinol is essential to any anti-aging and anti-acne skin care regimen. Will the formula, though, have an impact on your unborn child if you're using it while pregnant?

Retinol is not advised for pregnant people

While vitamin A benefits the upper and lower layers of your skin, consuming a large quantity of it during pregnancy might harm the fetus, per National Health Service. Even though retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is usually applied topically, it can pass into the bloodstream and cause vitamin A toxicity. Therefore, retinol should always be used with caution. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends consulting a healthcare provider before applying creams or serums that contain retinol when you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

Despite the fact that retinol has not been confirmed to cause abnormalities in newborns, medicines containing isotretinoin, another kind of retinoid, have been linked to fetal retinoid syndrome (FRS), a disorder characterized by mental and physical birth defects, according to Verywell Family. Therefore, it's advisable to refrain from using retinol until you're no longer pregnant or breastfeeding. Many doctors may also recommend you stop using retinol while trying to conceive. Since some over-the-counter products contain retinol, make sure to check labels carefully or run your skin care regimens by your healthcare providers first.

Safe alternatives to retinol for pregnant women

Although retinoids and retinol are off the table for pregnant women, there are skin care alternatives that doctors give their nod on. "Consider ingredients like azelaic acid, kojic acid, and glycolic acid," dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian tells Verywell Family. For instance, glycolic acid, a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), is used in many exfoliating products and is similar to retinol in many skin benefits. Not only can glycolic acid exfoliate your skin surface and remove dead skin cells for a healthier complexion, but it can also minimize hyperpigmentation and stimulate collagen production.

Beta salicylic acid (BHA), an exfoliant that works wonders for oily and acne-prone skin, shouldn't be used frequently when you're pregnant, according to Dr. Laura Nicholas. A small amount of BHA shouldn't warrant any concern, but to be on the safe side, you should check with your doctor first. When it comes to brightening and hydrating your skin, vitamin C makes a great choice. When you're pregnant, however, it's safer to use vitamin C topically than to take oral supplements. Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide also contribute to a more hydrating, soothing skin and progress in the appearance of acne.

The bottom line is, a high concentration of vitamin A in your body causes harm to your unborn baby. While you're expecting or trying to get pregnant, it's best not to consume too much vitamin A, whether it's through food, supplements, or skin care products. If you have skin conditions that require treatment with retinol, it's better to wait until you and your baby are in the clear or speak with your healthcare provider for expert guidance.