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Maintaining that Pregnancy Glow: a Guide to Pregnancy-Safe Skincare

October 9, 2023
Jeanne Chang MS, RN, CNOR
Image Credit: Yan Krukov

In my late-twenties, I started to get compliments on my “great” skin and questions about my skincare routine. I was always tempted to look around to see if they were meant for someone else, as I had terrible skin all throughout my teenage years. During that time, my mother was never inclined to take me to a dermatologist for my acne as she subscribed to the belief that because she survived these ‘teenage problems’ without a dermatologist, I should be able to as well. It wasn’t until I started complaining about how painful my cystic acne had become that my mother finally made my dreams come true and took me to my first dermatologist appointment. For many years, I tried creams for my back acne that would bleach my favorite shirts and even endured painful injections for my cystic acne. Finally, my dermatologist recommended a course of antibiotics and that kept my acne at bay…for the most part. I still battled periodic episodes of bad acne well into my mid-twenties.

One of my greatest fears during my first pregnancy was that my cystic acne would return. I had flashbacks of my teenage years of monthly visits to the dermatologist and was mentally preparing myself to return; however, other than an isolated heat rash, I surprisingly didn’t have any skin issues during the entire pregnancy. My skincare routine was very basic, comprised of a facial wash, toner and moisturizer from a discontinued, though well-loved, Shiseido line. On top of that -trigger warning: if you're a dermatologist reading this, skip this next sentence- I didn’t even use sunscreen, and I also didn’t check to see if the products were pregnancy safe. In my defense, I was first-time mom preoccupied with avoiding all the other dangers more commonly discussed: unpasteurized cheeses, cold cuts, medium rare meats and raw fish (my favorite).

By my second pregnancy, I had established a much more comprehensive skincare routine (including SPF 50), but I couldn’t tell if any of the products were safe for pregnancy. I Googled pregnancy-safe products and had trouble distinguishing which skincare line was safe for my baby. I finally settled on a line made specifically for pregnancy, but didn’t like it; I found it to be very drying for my skin, the purpose of which I assumed was to combat the increased amount of oil production during pregnancy. Feeling out of luck with my own research, I decided to call on my skin guru, one of my closest friends, who introduced proper skincare to my daily routine by quickly sending over several helpful websites and articles that recommended pregnancy-safe skincare products. The following are the tips that I've learned.

First, every expecting momshould be aware of what skin care ingredients to avoid.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends avoiding the following ingredients in general; however, any specific concerns should be addressed with your dermatologist and OB-GYN:

  • Hormonal Therapy. Medications such as birth control pills or spironolactone are often used to treat acne and do so by blocking certain hormones. However, it is not recommended to use during pregnancy because of the possibility of birth defects.
  • Isotretinoin. Isotretinoin is a form of vitamin A used to treat acne. This ingredient may cause severe birth defects if used while pregnant. 
  • Oral Tetracyclines.  An antibiotic used to treat acne, it can cause teeth discoloration and affect bone growth of the fetus if taken after the fourth month of pregnancy.
  • Topical Retinoids. This topical form of vitamin A is often used to treat acne and lessen fine lines. Since it is topical in application, absorption is much lower than in Isotretinoin. However, it is also generally recommended to avoid it during pregnancy as there is a risk of birth defects.

A popular skin care site shared by my go-to skin resource, Peach and Lily, recommends avoiding the following additional ingredients:

Then, what skincare can pregnant women actually use?

After reading through these warnings, I immediately looked through all the ingredients in my skin care products which quickly became overwhelming - there were so many ingredients! Although my skincare guru’s articles helped me become aware of ingredients to steer clear of, I still wanted to know which of my favorite products could join me in my pregnancy journey. One of the websites she shared quickly became a treasured resource: 15 Minute Beauty is maintained by a mom of two, who is also a pediatric critical-care doctor. It's a comprehensive website that goes beyond pregnancy beauty tips; my favorite section of the website is the brand list, a comprehensive list of brands and products that are safe to use pregnancy and breastfeeding - in short, it's the perfect, quick guide for your pregnancy beauty routine. This site brought quite a bit of joy, as I was able to quickly look up what I was using and keep 50% of my beauty routine, without the headache of reading through each ingredient for all of them and second-guessing whether each was safe to use.

The following is my personal pregnancy-safe skin care routine. It may seem like a lot, but my skin feels hydrated and relatively pimple-free:


Biossance - Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil ($30)
TULA - the Cult Classic Purifying Face Cleanser ($34)


Innisfree - Intensive Hydrating Toner with Green Tea Seed ($19)

Essence & Serum:

Peach & Lily - Wild Dew Treatment Essence ($39)
Peach & Lily - Glass Skin Refining Serum ($39)

Eye Cream:

Biossance - Squalane + Marine Algae Eye Cream ($54)


Biossance - Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil, used on occasion if my skin feels dry ($72)
Neogen - Vita Duo Cream, for both day & night ($32)


Biossance - Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen ($42)

The pregnancy glow is one of the greatest benefits during pregnancy. I encourage all expectant moms to enjoy this time where the influx of hormones and blood flow make you glow like you never have before. I am thankful I did not have to relive my teenage acne problems and got to enjoy the benefits of pregnancy skin, and that I was able to relish it using products that kept my baby safe.

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