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Beauty Products to Avoid While Pregnant

Beauty Products to Avoid While Pregnant

You find out you are pregnant and your world changes. You start to worry about everything you put into your body—you increase your water intake and healthy nutrients and avoid certain foods and beverages (see you in nine months, wine!). But did you know that not only is it about what you put in your body but also what you put on your body, such as certain beauty products, skin care and personal care products.

Yes, it may be surprising, but the truth is, some ingredients in your favorite skin care and beauty products may pose potential risks as they can be absorbed by your body, and, therefore, absorbed by your unborn baby, too.

Keep in mind, most products are safe. But there are a few ingredients to avoid during your pregnancy—these are listed below, along with alternative beauty solutions.


  • Used in various anti-aging skincare products and serums to address acne and fine lines. It can be found in both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription formulations. Retinoid can be absorbed through the skin and may cause birth defects in higher doses, so it should be avoided during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
    • Beauty Back-Up: Keep your skin clear and remove dead skin by using exfoliating scrubs based on salt, sugar, lactic acid or glycolic acid. To moisturize and protect skin with pregnancy-safe, anti-aging properties, look for products made with hyaluronic acid.

Salicylic Acid (in high doses)

  • Used to treat acne, high-dose versions of Salicylic acid are often found in peels and oral medications, and should be avoided during pregnancy.
    • Beauty Back-Up: Low-dose solutions, such as OTC topical(s), are OK to use during pregnancy. Also, try OTC acne treatments made with azelaic or glycolic acid. For severe cases of acne, your medical provider may recommend a pregnancy-safe topical treatment.


  • Available by prescription, hydroquinone is used to lighten skin, treat dark spots or reduce pigmentation in skin due to melasma or chloasma, both of which can occur during pregnancy. Because your body can absorb significant amounts of hydroquinone, it is recommended to avoid use during pregnancy.
    • Beauty Back-Up: Try skincare products containing azelaic or glycolic acid, as these ingredients can help brighten skin and reduce skin pigmentation.


  • Used in a range of products, especially cosmetics, phthalates, including diethyl phthalate (DEP), have been linked to reproductive and hormone dysfunctions.
    • Beauty Back-Up: Several brands offer products that are phthalate-free—so look for this wording on product packaging.


  • A known carcinogen, formaldehyde is not often used in beauty products, however, you may encounter formaldehyde-releasing chemicals in some cosmetics. Because these ingredients have been linked to infertility and miscarriage, avoid products that contain the following ingredients: bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, hydroxymethlglycinate, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15 and 5-bromo-5-nitro-1, 3-dioxane.
    • Beauty Back-Up: Be sure to check the ingredients in your beauty products and choose options that do not contain the above-listed ingredients. Also, it is recommended to avoid beauty regimens such as Keratin treatments.

Chemical Sunscreens

  • Used as an ultraviolet (UV) filter for skin protection, avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone and its derivatives. Chemical sunscreens can disrupt endocrine, potentially causing permanent damage to both you and your baby.
    • Beauty Back-Up: Look for topical sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, as these will not absorb into the skin while still offering protection from harmful UV rays. Also, make sure your sunscreen offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.


  • Used to prevent mold and bacteria growth in personal care products, such as moisturizers, shampoos, soaps, deodorants and cosmetics. While there is not enough research to suggest avoiding products containing parabens, some moms-to-be may prefer to look for “paraben-free” formulations.
    • Beauty Back-Up: Look for beauty products and brands that are paraben-free. Also, you can look for products and brands marketed as organic or natural.

In addition to these ingredients, is it is recommended to avoid the following beauty treatments during pregnancy:

Cosmetic Injections and Other Fillers

  • Used to fight wrinkles, cosmetic injections (such as Botox) and other fillers should be avoided unless the risks outweigh the benefits when fighting certain medical conditions, such as incontinence, overactive bladder and migraines. In these cases, consult your physician.
    • Beauty Back-Up: To plump your skin, look for personal care products containing Vitamin C. Also, it is recommended to keep your skin moisturized and hydrated by drinking plenty of water and using gentle facial creams containing hyaluronic acid or coconut oil.

Essential Oils

  • While these may seem safe and natural, certain essential oils, in their concentrated form, may pose risks. For example, tea tree oil can be toxic if ingested and rosemary oil, in high doses, can raise blood pressure and cause premature contractions.
    • Beauty Back-Up: When diluted, essential oils are OK. Be sure to consult your medical provider regarding the safety of products before using.

Hair Dye

  • While not necessarily toxic due to limited absorption into the scalp, many medical providers recommend that you avoid dying your hair during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, to limit exposure during these critical development weeks.
    • Beauty Back-Up: Hold off on those hair dye appointments until week 13 or later of your pregnancy. Then try to limit your appointments during pregnancy, as well.

Being pregnant doesn’t mean your self-care and beautification should stop; it just means you may need to make some adjustments along the way. First things first, give your beauty products a scan for any potentially harmful ingredients. And, when in doubt, consult your medical provider.

To learn more about the Cosgrove Maternity Center at Southwest General, visit our website.