7 Skincare Ingredients to Avoid During Pregnancy
A dermatologist outlines the ingredients to watch out for when you’re expecting.
28 February 2021
Even if they’ve never had a baby, most people know the foods and drinks pregnant women ought to avoid, things like raw eggs, fish or meat, unpasteurised cheese and alcohol.
So that’s nine months without booze, brie or steak tartare, which is bad enough, but did you know there are also a bunch of beauty products it’s best to steer clear of while you’re expecting?
Dr Tiina Meder, dermatologist and founder of Meder Beauty Science, recommends erring on the side of caution when it comes to skincare in particular, because there are a variety of ingredients that could have detrimental effects on either mum or baby.
That’s why it’s important to review your current skincare selection and check for any high-risk elements.
So what are they? Dr Meder talks us through seven skincare ingredients it might be worth avoiding, and where you might find them.
1. Systemic retinoids
“Systemic retinoids, particularly roaccutane, used in acne treatments, are strictly forbidden during pregnancy, so much so that dermatologists advise women not to plan a pregnancy for the whole duration of therapy,” Dr Meder says.
Whether taken as an oral pill prescribed by a doctor or applied topically, systemic retinoids can cause harm to an unborn child, so they absolutely must not be used during pregnancy or if you’re trying for a baby.
2. Retinol derivatives
“Skincare products formulated with retinol derivatives are not recommended,” Dr Meder says.
That means you should be looking on the ingredients list for things like retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, retinyl palmitate and retinyl propionate, often found in anti-ageing or acne treatments.
“There is no definitive proof of any negative effects yet, however, it has been suggested that retinol derivatives may pose a risk of harm, however minor, to the embryo.”
4. Salicylic acid
A common ingredient in exfoliating products, salicylic acid is another ingredient that’s technically safe to use, according to Dr Meder. “However, like hydroquinone, salicylic acid is not recommended either, for the same reason,” she says. “It can be found in many skincare products, including body care, so be sure to read a product’s ingredients list before use.”
6. Essential oils
“Although natural, there are several essential oils that should be used with caution during pregnancy,” Dr Meder warns. “The agents they contain have small molecular weight and high volatility, so they may affect the body as a whole.”
Plus, they can increase the chance of skin pigmentation. “Many essential oils increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV, which isn’t great considering the risk of pigmentation is higher during pregnancy.”
7. Camphor and mint
“Camphor, peppermint extract, and mint oil are also not recommended during pregnancy, especially for those late in pregnancy, or those with an increased risk of miscarriage,” Dr Meder says.
Camphor is found in Vicks VapoRub, while peppermint extract can be found in things like face wash, especially those formulated for acne-prone skin types.
“These ingredients are perfectly safe for use outside of pregnancy, however pregnant women should ensure skincare products are free of these ingredients before using them.”