Lots of changes occur during pregnancy, especially to your skin. Some are great (hello, glow!) and some are less so (looking at you, stretch marks). Depending on how your skin reacts to the unavoidable hormone surge that occurs during pregnancy, you may wind up with dry or greasy patches, dark spots, stretch marks, newly-sprouted moles, an itchy belly and more. You may even find that your most beloved skin care products are suddenly too harsh for your now super-sensitive skin. The good news? Many of these pregnancy skin quirks fade away soon after baby is born.
In the meantime, however, it’s important to refresh your medicine cabinet with products that not only care for your skin, but don’t cause harm to your developing baby. “It’s very important to avoid products deemed unsafe during pregnancy,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified dermatologic surgeon at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in New York City and mom of two. “My patients usually know that they need to stop retinoids as soon as they get the positive pregnancy test, but we forget about some other toxic ingredients found in everyday beauty products.”
When it comes to pregnancy skin care (and while you’re breastfeeding too), some of the ingredients to avoid include:
• Retinoids. It’s recommended that products such as Avage, Differin, Renova, Retin-A, retinols, retinyl palmitate and Tazorac be avoided. While very little of the ingredient gets absorbed into your skin, studies have suggested a possible link to birth defects.
• Tetracycline. This antibiotic acne treatment can affect the development of baby’s teeth and bones.
• Hydroquinone. Between 34 to 45 percent of Hydroquinone—a topical skin-whitening agent—is systemically absorbed into your body when applied topically. While current studies don’t show a distinct link between hydroquinone during pregnancy and an increased risk of adverse effects, it’s best to avoid.
• Salicylic acid. While local and limited use of topical acne-fighting products that contain up to 2 percent of salicylic acid are low-risk for baby, some dermatologists still suggest avoiding it just in case.
• Benzoyl peroxide. The safety of using benzoyl peroxide to treat acne during pregnancy has yet to be established. Consult your physician before using.
Think of pregnancy as a time to refresh your routine with new and improved skin care products specially created to pamper your changing skin. Here are some of our favorites that get the job while keeping you and baby safe.
Best Facial Mineral Sunscreen: Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46
Daily use of a broad-spectrum facial mineral sunscreen containing zinc oxide with or without titanium dioxide is the very best way to sidestep pregnancy-triggered melasma—aka the mask of pregnancy—which appears as dark patches on the forehead, cheeks or upper lip. Mineral sunscreens are also easier on more-sensitive pregnant skin. While many dislike mineral sunscreen due to the chalky, white aftermath, EltaMD Skincare UV Clear’s lightweight oil-free formula absorbs quickly and leave zero residue. An extra bonus: It contains the pregnancy-safe ingredient niacinamide, which actually works to reduce discoloration and redness.
Buy it: Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46, $22, Amazon
Best Face Wash: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
Less is more when it comes to pregnancy-safe face wash. Clean your face twice daily with a mild, fragrance-free, soap-free face wash, like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. Harsher versions are more likely to irritate your skin. Plus, overstripping your skin will make you more prone to pregnancy breakouts.
Buy it: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, $16, Amazon
Best Acne-fighting Face Wash: Mederma AG Facial Cleanser
Acne is one of the most common skin issues that crops up during pregnancy. But since many common pimple-fighters pose a potential risk of birth defects, opt for something that contains glycolic acid, a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane that’s a safe and effective acne treatment during pregnancy. This breakout-helper is hypoallergenic, soap-free, non-comedogenic and contains zero added fragrances—all while gently removing excess oil, exfoliating dead skin cells and staving off breakouts.
Buy it: Mederma AG Facial Cleanser, $12, Amazon
Best Acne Treatment: Mario Badescu Drying Lotion
Even without the prize acne-fighter ingredients salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, rest assured: Mario Badescu Drying Cream is one of the most effective acne products around. As an evening spot-treatment, this colloidal sulfur-filled gem does a fab job knocking out pimples by drying them out fast. A word of caution: If your nose is especially sensitive during pregnancy, the smell is less than pleasant—but worth it!
Buy it: Mario Badescu Drying Cream, $13, Amazon
Best Exfoliant: Elizabeth Arden Skin Illuminating Retexturizing Pads
Here’s another safe-for-baby, awesome-for-mom glycolic acid-based product. These pads safely exfoliate the top layers of skin and work to combat hormone-related hyperpigmentation. Plus, the essential oil and amino acid combo will help keep dry pregnancy skin moisturized. Essentially, it’s pregnancy glow in pad form.
Buy it: Elizabeth Arden Skin Illuminating Retexturizing Pads, $56, Amazon
Best Toner: Dickinson’s Original Pore Perfecting Witch Hazel Toner
With no added fragrances, dyes, parabens or phthalates, this 100 percent natural toner is perfect for expectant moms whose skin might be more oily or sensitive than usual. “It helps refine pores, removes excess oil, soothes irritation and maintains skin’s natural balance. It also won’t dry out or strip skin like many other toners,” Engelman says.
Buy it: Dickinson’s Original Pore Perfecting Witch Hazel Toner, $14, Amazon
Best Facial Moisturizer: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream
Whether rollercoaster hormones have made your skin dry, oily or ultra-sensitive, it’s a good bet this hyaluronic acid-based, pregnancy-safe face moisturizer will be your pregnancy skin care hero. The acid, which is already naturally produced by our body, is a long-lasting moisturizing and anti-ageing superstar. This gel version by Neutrogena is oil-free, alcohol-free, dye-free, non-comedogenic and especially loved by moms-to-be with oily skin because the gels formula feels less greasy than traditional moisturizers. It’s also a stellar choice for those with sensitive or dry skin too.
Buy it: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream, $17, Amazon
Best Eye Cream: 100% Pure Organic Caffeine Eye Cream
While you may have to cut back on your coffee consumption while expecting, feel free to let your puffy, sleep-deprived eyes drink up the caffeine. (Topical caffeine-infused creams are pregnancy-safe.) The combo of caffeine-rich green tea and coffee in this 100% Pure eye cream works to naturally reduce under-eye puffiness and the appearance of dark circles. It’s the perfect AM remedy for pregnancy-induced insomnia and a fab addition to your baby-safe skin care routine.
Buy it: 100% Pure Organic Caffeine Eye Cream, $25, Amazon.com
Best Body Wash: Belli Skin Care Pure and Pampered Body Wash
Lavender, chamomile and cucumber makes the light scent of this pregnancy-safe body wash divine. But these natural ingredients also work together to gently and safely nourish and cleanse the skin—and relax the mind too. It’s paraben- and phthalates-free and contains zero artificial dyes or fragrances. Your daily shower will feel more spa-like, for sure—something all moms-to-be deserve.
Buy it: Pure and Pampered Body Wash from Belli Skin Care, $13, Amazon
Best Stretch Mark Cream: Bio-Oil
While stretch marks are based on the individual and genetics, “the more pliable your skin is, the less chance there is that stretch marks will appear,” Engelman says. Which means if you want to ward off stretch marks, it’s a good idea to keep your skin supple and moisturized. She used Bio-Oil twice daily when she was pregnant. This lighter-than-expected, non-greasy oil derived from calendula, chamomile, lavender and rosemary is remarkably hydrating. Simply massage it in circular motions on your breasts, abdomen, lower back, hips, buttocks and thighs. “Studies show that usage helps prevent stretch marks and helps the appearance of scarring for those who are seeing stretch marks,” Engelman says.
Buy it: Bio-Oil, $15, Jet.com
Best Body Moisturizer: Mama Mio Megamama Super-Rich Omega Body Lotion
You’d expect a made-for-moms-to-be body lotion to be super-safe, and Mama Mio Megamama Super-Rich Omega Body Lotion delivers. It’s free of parabens, phthalates, petrolatum and synthetic fragrances. And it’s chock-full of coconut, sweet almond oil and shea butter, which combat dry skin. Bonus: It also contains omega fatty acids, which improves skin’s elasticity.
Buy it: Mama Mio Megamama Super-Rich Omega Body Lotion, $27, Amazon
Best Anti-itch Moisturizer: Sarna Anti-Itch Lotion
While one in 10 pregnant women have to deal with the harmless but super-itchy, red belly rash called Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (aka PUPPP), skin stretching is itchy business. Slathering on pregnancy-safe Sarna lotion helps combat the urge to scratch. Its active ingredients, menthol and camphor, cool and soothe inflamed skin. “Try a lukewarm bath or shower with fragrance-free bath products, then immediately apply lotion to trap-in moisture,” Engelman says. “This allows the product to trap some of the water on your skin, keeping it from evaporating.”
Buy it: Sarna Anti-Itch Lotion, $30, Amazon
Published May 2018
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