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Skin Care Product Ingredients to Avoid During Pregnancy

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During your nine months of pregnancy you’ve probably been made aware of foods to avoid eating, but what about which skin care products to avoid as well?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies ingredients into five main categories (A, B, C, D, and X), which align with the safety concerns and risks of using each. The recommendation is to only use those in categories A and B during pregnancy.

To keep your glowing mom-to-be skin healthy, check the labels of products in your skin care routine and be sure to avoid those with the following ingredients. And to new moms, if you are breastfeeding your baby, the same guidance applies to the usage of these ingredients as well.

Products That Are OK to Use in Moderation

Benzoyl peroxide

  • Included in: Acne treatment products
  • Concerns in pregnancy: There could be possible risks to the fetus, so it’s best to avoid usage during pregnancy.

Salicylic acid

  • Included in: Acne treatment products and exfoliating products, particularly cleansers
  • Concerns in pregnancy: There could be possible risks to the fetus, so it’s best to avoid usage during pregnancy.
  • Safe Alternatives:
    • Wash your face twice a day with a mild cleanser and lukewarm water.
    • If you have oily hair, shampoo every day and try to keep your hair off your face.
    • Avoid picking or squeezing acne sores to lessen possible scarring.
    • Choose oil-free cosmetics.

Products to Definitely Avoid


  • Ingredients listed as: Retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde, adapalene, tretinoin, tazarotene and isotretinoin.
  • Included in: Retin-A, Accutane, Tazorac, prescription acne and anti-aging medications.
  • Concerns in pregnancy: Too high amounts of vitamin A can cause problems with fetal development, including birth defects.


  • Included in: Antibiotics doxycycline and minocycline, which treat conditions such as acne and Lyme disease
  • Concerns in pregnancy: Can damage a pregnant woman's liver and discolor her growing baby's teeth.


  • Included in: Skin-lightening agents that can treat conditions such as chloasma and melisma and also dark patches of skin that sometimes develop during pregnancy
  • Concerns in pregnancy: The medications are absorbed through the skin, so there could be unknown effects on the fetus.


  • Ingredients listed as: BzBP, DBP, DEP, DMP, or diethyl, dibutyl, or benzylbutyl phthalate
  • Included in: Some perfumes or nail polishes
  • Concerns in pregnancy: could be linked to high blood pressure, ADHD and diabetes, as well as having a connection to abnormal fetal development


  • Included in: Many hair dye formulas
  • Concerns in pregnancy: There is debate around whether or not to completely avoid this ingredient, which can irritate mom’s the skin and lungs, during pregnancy.


  • Ingredients listed as: DHA or Dihydroxyacetone
  • Included in: Many spray self-tanners
  • Concerns in pregnancy: This product could be inhaled during spray tan application, which can be harmful for both mom and baby.


  • Ingredients listed as: formaldehyde, quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM), hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol)
  • Included in: Personal care products made for adults such as hair straightening treatments, nail polish and eyelash glue.
  • Concerns in pregnancy: The product is a known carcinogen and may increase the chances of fertility problems or miscarriage.

Aluminum chloride hexahydrate

  • Included in: Antiperspirants and deodorants
  • Concerns in pregnancy: This ingredient falls into Category C, which is advised by the FDA to avoid.

Products That Are Best to Avoid

Thioglycolic acid

  • Ingredients listed as: Acetyl mercaptan, mercaptoacetate, mercaptoacetic acid and thiovanic acid
  • Included in: Hair removal creams or depilatories
  • Concerns in pregnancy: Solid data on the effect of these ingredients is not conclusive at thistime, but keep and baby safe by avoiding this ingredient.


  • Ingredients listed as: Methylbenzene, toluol or antisal 1a
  • Included in: Some nail polishes
  • Concerns in pregnancy: The product is a suspected carcinogen

Botulinim toxin

  • Ingredients listed as: Botox
  • Included in: Wrinkle treatment
  • Concerns in pregnancy: Tests have not been conducted on the effects of this ingredient on a growing baby, so it would be safest to avoid, if possible.

Essential oils

  • Included in: Numerous health and beauty products
  • Concerns in pregnancy: Essential oils are not assessed by the FDA, but they can be harmful is not used correctly, as they are very strong and concentrated. Certain oils can have side effects that could be dangerous to women during their pregnancy, such as raising blood pressure or causing contractions.

Editor's note: This blog was originally published on March 2, 2018 and has since been updated. 

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