8 Skin Product Ingredients You Should Avoid When Pregnant

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Pregnancy can be one of the most amazing (but delicate) experiences women go through in their lifetime. Besides a growing belly, you’re bound to experience plenty of changes in your overall disposition and well being, such as mood swings, cravings, nausea, fatigue, and skin sensitivities. It pays to be extra attentive to what your body is telling you at this time.

Other than congratulatory notes from your friends and family, you’ve also probably been to the doctor a lot lately—emerging with a list of dos and don’ts during your term. Usually, these reminders have a lot to do with your diet and physical activities, but it also heavily involves the products that you’re not allowed to use on the skin.

Some ingredients may cause harm to you or your unborn child when applied, and as an expecting mom, it’s never wrong to be too careful! Expecting moms should take care of their skin, too. It’s time to review all the products you’ve been using and carefully read their ingredients label. Here’s a list of what you should avoid and why.

8 Skin Product Ingredients You Should Avoid When Pregnant


Formaldehyde is not safe whether or not you’re pregnant, but being exposed to it during your term can pose a higher risk. This offending ingredient has been linked to cancer and the development of other respiratory issues.

It’s commonly found in hair-straightening products in the salon, as well as some nail polishes. If you can check the ingredients list of your favorite nail lacquer, make sure it’s marked as 3-free or 5-free—these indicate that there is no formaldehyde present in the product.


Retinol is a popular anti-aging skincare ingredient that helps fight acne, minimize the appearance of wrinkles, and stimulate collagen production. It’s also called Retin-A or retinyl palmitate and is naturally derived from vitamin A. While adequate portions of vitamin A can help in embryonic growth, there have been studies that link excessive intake to deformations of a baby’s head, brain, heart, and spinal cord.

Retinol is also an ingredient in anti-acne treatment Accutane, which has been said to cause congenital disabilities. If you’re getting rid of pimples, it’s recommended to switch to skincare products containing glycolic or oleic acid instead. If you want to continue reaping retinol’s anti-aging benefits, wearing all-natural sunscreen is a better alternative.

Oxybenzone and Avobenzone

While on the topic of sunblock, it’s worth noting that many are created with chemicals that aren’t safe for pregnant women. Oxybenzone and avobenzone are commonly present in chemical sun protectants, so make sure to get a natural or organic variant.

These ingredients have been linked to controversial issues such as possible hormone disruptors, a contributor to childhood obesity, ADHD, and defects on a child’s nervous system—not exactly what you want for your baby!


Parabens are another popular beauty ingredient commonly found in makeup and hair and body products. This harmful ingredient has been linked to the development of breast cancer, as well as reproductive issues. It’s mainly used as a preserving agent in different products, but the truth is, many other products in the market don’t need parabens to stay fresh. Go for the alternatives instead!


Commonly in tandem with parabens, phthalates are used to stabilize the formulas in everyday beauty and skincare products. However, it’s been in the spotlight for causing liver, kidney, lung, and reproductive issues. If an ingredient ends in -phthalate, avoid this and look for something else, stat! A great place to start looking is at organic, natural, or zero-waste brands.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is another popular acne-fighting ingredient. While dermatologists deem it safe for topical use on pregnant women, they do advise against oral medication. There have been reports suggesting that this ingredient can cause intracranial bleeding in the fetus. If you’re too wary about even applying this topically, you may refer to the same alternate ingredients recommended for retinol.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

SLS is commonly found in shampoo products, especially those from highly commercialized brands. There’s a high chance that you might already have a bottle or two containing this ingredient sitting on your bathroom shelves. It’s the chemical component that makes your hair products lather well onto the skin.

However, dermatologists advise against this because the level of concentration can act as an irritant to many. Your body is not capable of breaking down the chemicals, and with prolonged use, you can be susceptible to nervous system disorders, as well as kidney and liver failure.


Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening ingredient used to treat skin discoloration issues such as melasma or chloasma. These usually develop during pregnancy, and you may be thinking of having them removed or treated as soon as they show up.

It may be better to wait until after your baby is born before you push through with the procedure, as studies show that your body can absorb up to 45% of the chemical during topical application. That’s a lot of chemical exposure in the bloodstream that you wouldn’t want for yourself or your baby!

Don’t Forget to Read the Fine Print

With a new baby on the way, moms must think twice about the products they use on their bodies. Something as simple as reading the ingredients list can already help in ensuring that their pregnancy, delivery, and the growth of the child will go as smoothly as possible. You can never be too safe!

With the overwhelming amount of alternatives out there, you might not even feel restricted with the products that you have to avoid.

If you suspect that there are other ingredients you should be wary of, or you have more follow-up questions, the best thing to do is to ask your doctor about this matter. They’ll happily inform you of great products you can use and even notify you of more things or habits you should avoid. Remember: the most important thing you can do for your baby right now is to take care of yourself.

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