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Which skincare ingredients should I avoid during pregnancy?

Dermatologist and skincare scientists reviewed pregnancy ingredient tips

Under review from Renude’s scientific advisor and consultant dermatologist Dr. Justine KlukPippa Harman, cosmetic scientist and Renude co-founder has has put together a comprehensive introduction to and recommendations for menopausal skincare.

Firstly, congratulations! Pregnancy is an incredibly exciting time in our lives, but it certainly comes with a lot of changes. There are many things to consider - how it impacts what we eat, drink and do, but what about our skincare?

Here we explain which ingredients are best avoided during pregnancy, and recommended alternatives that can offer similar results.

Retinoids during pregnancy

Retinoids, derived from Vitamin A are becoming more and more popular in everyday skincare. Benefits include:

  • preventing pore clogging
  • reducing inflammation
  • increasing production of procollagen that promotes collagen production
  • inhibiting the enzymes that break collagen down
  • smoothing the skin by regulating skin cell turnover
  • reducing the appearance of photoageing (lines, wrinkles & dark spots)

Sadly however, the whole retinoid family, including tretinoin, retinol, retinyl palmitate etc, should ideally be avoided during pregnancy. However, after this period, they are well worth considering.

What ingredients can be used instead of retinoids?

If you’ve been using retinoids to treat spots and breakouts

For those with spots and breakouts, who are not able to use retinoids during this period, there are a few alternatives.

Azelaic acid during pregnancy

This is a pregnancy-safe alternative to retinoids for reducing breakouts.

  • Azelaic acid has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, so works well to calm existing breakouts, and prevent new ones from occurring.
  • Azelaic acid has the added benefit of inhibiting post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and erythema (PIE).

Niacinamide during pregnancy

This is a good supporting ingredient for managing spots and has multiple skin benefits.

  • Niacinamide helps to regulate sebum (skin oil) production, so can help to control breakouts by reducing this excess oil in the skin.
  • Niacinamide offers anti-inflammatory properties so helps to calm redness.
  • Niacinamide helps to fade hyperpigmentation (PIH) and erythema (PIE) as it can block the transfer of the pigment melanin to the skin’s surface cells.

If you’ve been using retinoids to target ageing

If you have been using retinoids as part of your anti-ageing regime, here are some fantastic alternatives.

Peptides during pregnancy

Peptides can be used freely during pregnancy and are great for supporting any youth-boosting skincare regimen.

  • Peptides work by sending signals to the skin to take a specific action, e.g. produce more collagen.
  • Using a blend of peptides which encourage complementary actions is the way to get the best out of them.
    • Most peptide-based formulations will already contain a blend, but you can check this by looking at the ingredients list - anything with the word peptide as part of its name (usually at the end, just before a number), will be a different type.
    • For example, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 are the peptides in a blend known as Matrixyl 3000 - this is used by many different brands in their anti-ageing lines.

Hyaluronic acid during pregnancy

Hyaluronic acid is a fantastic hydrating ingredient to help support healthy ageing.

  • If your skin is dry or dehydrated, any lines you do have will look more pronounced, so in hydrating the skin and plumping the surface, lines will appear reduced.
  • Hyaluronic acid is naturally produced by the body, but this process slows with age, so being able to top-up our hyaluronic acid reserves topically helps to support overall skin health and keeps skin looking younger for longer.

Hydroquinone during pregnancy

Hydroquinone is a prescription-only ingredient designed to fade hyperpigmentation on the skin. It is not advised for use during pregnancy. So, what are the best alternatives?

Azelaic acid during pregnancy

  • Azelaic acid has the ability to inhibit tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for producing melanin within the skin. Inhibiting excess melanin production will help to fade areas of hyperpigmentation over time.

Niacinamide during pregnancy

  • Niacinamide works to fade hyperpigmentation by preventing melanin from being transferred from melanocytes (pigment producing cells) to the skin’s surface cells (keratinocytes), where it then becomes visible on the skin’s surface.

Salicylic acid during pregnancy (usage should be limited)

Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble Beta hydroxy acid (BHA), which is advised to be avoided during pregnancy. You can still use this ingredient at low concentrations, or on small areas e.g. to spot treat, but its usage is best kept to a minimum.

If you are using this to reduce acne breakouts, you can swap this for azelaic acid and niacinamide in combination to offer similar skin benefits.

If you have any specific questions about what skincare can and cannot be used during pregnancy, take our skin quiz and book a complimentary video consultation with one of our trusted, professional experts. If you like what they have to say, join Renude for just £20 every 3 months, fully redeemable against the products we recommend for the same price as in the shops.


Pippa Harman
Pippa Harman
Co-Founder Renude