15 Best Pregnancy Skin Care Products to Get That Mom-to-Be Glow
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 lotions and potions 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. Ready to get the scoop on pregnancy skin care dos and don’ts? Read on for some expert tips, plus our favorite pregnancy-safe product picks.
“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. “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.”
Here’s the deal: Topical treatments can potentially make it into your bloodstream, so choosing pregnancy-safe ingredients is essential. Some skin care products—especially if used in high concentration and with known teratogenic properties—can be absorbed into the bloodstream, explains Julie Russak, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Russak Dermatology Clinic in New York City. This can potentially impact baby’s development, so you’ll want to do your research and check in with your doctor before investing in products. Additionally, Engelman advises using caution when choosing fragranced products; they often contain harmful chemicals, such as parabens, benzene derivatives and aldehydes, that may be linked to cancer and nervous system issues. Moreover, added fragrances may irritate sensitive skin. Feeling overwhelmed already? Here, find a list of the main ingredients to avoid while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Retinoids. It’s recommended that products such as Avage, Differin, Renova, Retin-A, retinols, retinyl palmitate and Tazorac be completely 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 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, dermatologists still suggest avoiding it.
Benzoyl peroxide. The safety of using benzoyl peroxide to treat acne during pregnancy has yet to be established. Consult your physician before using products with this active ingredient.
Oxybenzone and octinoxate. These ingredients, often found in chemical sunscreens, can cause potential harm to the development of the baby’s nervous system. Engelman recommends a mineral sunscreen as a safe alternative.
Essential oils. Engelman advises pregnant people to avoid products containing essential oils, as some have the potential to induce uterine contractions.
Before we get into our list of the best pregnancy skin care, here are three of our favorite brands that cater to moms-to-be.
Juice Beauty: Juice Beauty offers organic, antioxidant-rich skin care—including a wide selection of products deemed safe for pregnant moms. From oil-free moisturizers and anti-wrinkle creams to acne treatments and complexion correctors, the gentle formulas cater to every skin type. Is it any wonder this brand won a Best of Pregnancy award in 2022?
Honest: Amp up that pregnancy glow with Honest. The line of pregnancy skin care includes cleansers, moisturizers, serums and eye creams—basically everything you need to build a daily self-care routine. Bonus: Get 15 percent off your purchase with code THEBUMP.
True Botanicals: True Botanicals creates vegan, cruelty-free and GMO-free skin care. Better yet, all of the products carry the Made Safe seal, meaning they’re free from over 6,500 toxic chemicals known to harm humans and the environment. Browse the brand’s curated collection of pregnancy-safe skin care products to find your perfect match.
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 done while keeping you and baby safe.
Cetaphil has long been hailed as one of the best brands for sensitive skin, but did you know that many of the products are pregnancy-safe too? Used as the first step in your evening routine, this liquid formula gently removes long-wear makeup leaving skin feeling clean and refreshed. It doesn’t contain oil or fragrances and is non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores.
- Affordable price point
- Suitable for sensitive skin
- May not remove waterproof mascara
Less is more when it comes to pregnancy-safe face wash. Clean your face twice daily with a mild, fragrance-free face wash, like Honest Calm On Foaming Cleanser. Harsher versions are more likely to over-strip your skin, leading to irritation. But thanks to the inclusion of glycolic acid this creamy formula still packs a blemish-busting punch. This key ingredient is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), a chemical compound that removes the top layer of dead skin cells and promotes cell turnover. It also happens to be safe for Mom and baby, making it an effective acne treatment during pregnancy.
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,” says Engelman.
- Made from 100 percent natural witch hazel
- EWG rating: 1
- Some customers dislike the natural scent
Searching for the best pregnancy-safe serums to add to your cosmetics case? These brightening drops by Glo come highly recommended. Powered by botanical brighteners—alpha arbutin and azelaic acid—the serum gives you that lit-from-within luminosity and combats hyperpigmentation. According to Engelman, the blend of alpha arbutin (an alternative to hydroquinone), gentle lactic acid and azelaic acid, makes this serum a good choice for people in need of a pregnancy-safe boost of radiance and clarity. Apply to cleansed skin in the morning or add a couple of drops to primer or foundation for an instant glow.
- Reduces dark spots and hyperpigmentation
- High price point
The number one rule of pregnancy-safe skin care: Avoid retinoids. While this common ingredient works wonders in the battle against wrinkles, you’ll need to leave these products on the shelf for the time being. The good news? There are safe alternatives available. Russak likes the Sleep Tight Bakuchiol Serum by Covey. Enriched with moisturizing hyaluronic acid and bakuchiol, a natural alternative to retinol, this serum plumps the skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines. It also contains niacinamide, which helps prevent environmental damage and regulates sebum production. “As a form of vitamin B-3, niacinamide works to minimize pores while locking moisture into the skin,” explains Engelman. “It’s especially beneficial for those with inflammatory conditions looking to treat papules and pustules.”
- Plant-based retinol alternative
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- High price point
Whether rollercoaster hormones have made your skin dry, oily or ultra-sensitive, this pregnancy-safe face moisturizer is a good bet. The star ingredient is hyaluronic acid, a sugar which is naturally produced by the body and has super-hydrating properties. This gel formula by Neutrogena is dye-free, non-comedogenic and loved by moms-to-be with oily skin, because it feels less greasy than traditional moisturizers. It’s also a stellar choice for those with sensitive or dry skin.
- Formulated with hyaluronic acid
- Not suitable for use around the sensitive eye area
Treat the sensitive eye area with this rich gel cream, made with certified-organic ingredients. A combo of essential fatty acids and vitamins work to naturally reduce fine lines and the appearance of dark circles. It’s the perfect remedy for pregnancy-induced insomnia and a fab addition to your baby-safe skin care routine.
- Massaging applicator wand
- Organic, vegan and cruelty-free
- High price point
Next up on our list of the best pregnancy-safe skin care is this calming face oil by True Botanicals. Designed with moms in mind, this luxurious oil contains 27 plant-actives that help reduce skin sensitivities. Pure botanical ingredients—like chamomile, calendula and cold-pressed cucumber seed oil—reduce inflammation and calm redness. It’s particularly useful for those with rosacea-prone skin, but is still suitable for most skin types. Use it as the last step in your nightly routine to lock in moisture and boost your natural pregnancy glow. Bonus: This product bears the EWG verified mark, meaning it meets the strictest standards for health and safety and is a Best of Pregnancy award-winner to boot.
- Reduces irritation and calms redness
- Hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic
- EWG verified
- High price point
Daily use of a broad-spectrum facial mineral sunscreen containing zinc oxide is the 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 kinder to sensitive skin. While many dislike mineral sunscreen due to the chalky, white cast it leaves behind, EltaMD Skincare UV Clear’s lightweight oil-free formula absorbs quickly and leaves zero residue. An extra bonus: It contains the pregnancy-safe ingredient niacinamide, which actually works to reduce discoloration and redness.
- SPF 46
- Doesn’t leave a white cast on the skin
- EWG rating: 3
Acne is one of the most common skin issues that crops up during pregnancy. But since the ingredients in many common pimple fighters can pose a potential risk of birth defects, Russak recommends using something that contains azelaic acid. This ingredient is great at fighting acne and also decreases pigment production, which contributes to melasma—another common skin condition during pregnancy. This gel formula by the Ordinary contains a potent dose of azelaic acid to combat pimples and pore congestion. It also helps improve skin texture and brightens dull complexions. Is it any wonder this affordable acne treatment won a Best of Pregnancy award?
- Affordable price point
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- This product can increase skin sensitivity, so you’ll need to use sun protection during the day
According to Russak it’s fine to exfoliate your face during pregnancy, as long as you do so gently. New sensitivity and increased angiogenesis (aka the formation of new blood vessels), mean that capillaries can easily be broken, explains Russak. Luckily, there are plenty of pregnancy-safe exfoliants to choose from. Engelman recommends these nifty glycolic acid-based pads by First Aid Beauty. They’re safe for all skin types, and effectively tone and brighten the skin. So you can say bye-bye to bumpy texture and dark spots, and hello to a brighter, polished complexion.
- Gentle enough for sensitive skin
- Non-comedogenic, vegan and cruelty-free
- Some customers report the pads left a sticky residue on the skin
A reviving blend of orange and bergamot makes the light scent of this pregnancy-safe body wash divine. The natural ingredients work alongside omega-rich oils to gently hydrate and cleanse the skin (and relax the mind too!). It’s dermatologist-tested and contains zero artificial fragrances. Your daily shower will feel more spa-like, for sure—something all moms-to-be deserve.
- Gently cleanses and hydrates the skin
- Made from 94 percent natural ingredients
- Natural citrus scent
- Expensive for a body wash
Searching for a pregnancy-safe moisturizer you can use all over? Designed for pregnant and postpartum moms, Pipette Body Lotion is our top choice. Enriched with squalane—an intensely hydrating ingredient derived from natural sugarcane—and other plant-based emollients, this lotion leaves skin feeling soft and soothed. It’s also free from synthetic fragrances and received a top rating from the EWG for safety.
- Plant-based ingredients
- Hypoallergenic and cruelty-free
- EWG verified
- Some customers find the natural citrus scent off putting
Here’s yet another pregnancy-safe skin care product we love: Bioessence Squalane + Enzyme Sugar Scrub. This product offers a one-two punch of exfoliation, as sugar crystals gently buff the skin’s outer layer and pomegranate enzymes dissolve dead skin cells. The gentle yet effective formula polishes rough, dull skin without disrupting the ever-important moisture barrier. Plus, it’s EWG verified and free from parabens, meaning it ticks the box in terms of safety.
- Physical and enzymatic exfoliation properties
- EWG verified
- Some customers dislike the natural fragrance
Frida—a go-to brand for baby and parenting essentials—recently released a line of safe skincare for pregnancy. This set includes all new products, each of which address a different skin concern. A water-activated shower lotion locks in moisture to relieve dry, itchy skin. A cooling spray eases swollen feet and legs. An anti-chafe stick glides on to relieve friction. And a luxurious balm, enriched with vitamin E, helps to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. We’ll take the lot!
- Dermatologist tested
- Free from phthalates and parabens
- Limited reviews
About the experts:
Dendy Engelman, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the director of dermatologic surgery at the Metropolitan Hospital in New York City. She earned her medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina.
Julie Russak, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Russak Dermatology Clinic in New York City. She earned her medical degree from the New York University School of Medicine.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.