Q&A: Which facial moisturizer ingredients should I avoid during pregnancy?
I would like to know what types of ingredients should be avoided in facial moisturizers. I read about avoiding retinol. What else should be avoided? There are so many creams today, and they all have so many different vitamins and ingredients!
These are really good questions to ask, but hard questions to answer. Very little research has been done on skin product safety in pregnancy, so we are left with a little scientific information combined with common sense to guide us.
The skin can be an absorptive surface, and products that you apply to your skin can be transferred into the bloodstream and reach the baby. For example, tretinoin, which is sold as a prescription topical treatment under the brand name Retin-A, hasn’t been shown to be dangerous to pregnancy, but its relative, an oral medication for acne called isotretinoin or Accutane, has been shown to cause birth defects. To be safe, many moms-to-be avoid Retin-A during pregnancy, even though very little is absorbed through the skin, because of the known risks of Accutane. Retinol, which sounds similar, is a form of vitamin A. The fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can build up in your system, and can get to toxic levels. Most other vitamins are water soluble, and under usual circumstances you “pee them out” before they can do much harm. If we thought that retinol was well absorbed through the skin, I might be concerned about its use in pregnancy, but the concentrations that are in over-the-counter lotions are very low, and retinol lotions are actually considered safe to use.
Another question that comes up a lot is whether hormones are present in lotions that you can purchase without a prescription. I honestly don’t know the answer to that!
Sunblocks are safe during pregnancy, and you are better off using them than avoiding contact and getting sunburn or melasma.
Probably the most prudent approach to all these dilemmas is to choose a simple lotion without too many strange additives, and stick with that during pregnancy.
And if you really want to pay attention to things that are actually known to affect fetal health, instead of worrying about obscure “what-ifs,” follow general good health guidelines: eat a balanced diet with vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and sources of protein; take a folic acid supplement before conception and during fetal organ formation in the first trimester; avoid toxic exposures like cigarettes, alcohol, and recreational drugs; and talk to your doctor or midwife so you can get good, accurate advice about taking care of yourself during this special time. Enjoy!