Pregnancy is meant to be a stage of life to celebrate, but the truth is that most of us spend countless hours obsessing over what we need to do to keep our babies safe.
We’ve spoken with our GP PhD, Grad Cert in Environmental Health (who cannot be named due to medical board restrictions) to get the lowdown on exactly what you can and can’t use on your skin while you’re pregnant, so you can stop worrying. Here’s what to avoid, and nine natural skincare products that are safe to use while you’re pregnant and breastfeeding.
Pregnant women are meant to have a glow that you simply can’t reproduce with something from a bottle, or so the saying goes. The reality is that pregnancy can wreak havoc on your skin - say hello to pigmentation and adult acne - thanks to all those pesky hormones surging through your body.
Even if you’re one of the lucky ones, you need to be ultra-careful not just about what you’re putting into your body - seeya later sunset G&Ts - but also what you’re putting on it. According to our local GP, the skin is an excellent absorber and it only takes about 30 minutes for the skin to absorb what you put on it.
So to make things simple for you and safe for baby, we’ve taken a look at the products you might be using now and found some safe alternatives.
WHAT TO AVOID (AND WHY)
The number one skincare no-no during pregnancy is retinoids, so say goodbye to your best anti-ageing friend, retinol (also known as Vitamin A), just for now.
While there isn’t a huge amount of conclusive evidence on over the counter topical retinol products yet, there have been studies to suggest oral retinoids can cause birth defects in your unborn bub, so it’s safest to steer clear.
Other ingredients to watch out for include:
- Salicylic acid - while the science is controversial, some studies have suggested high doses of salicylic acid in its oral form can cause pregnancy complications and birth defects (though it’s worth noting some recent studies have found low doses of aspirin helpful in complicated pregnancies). While concentrations of lower than 2% are probably ok, we prefer to err on the side of caution when you’ve got a bun in the oven.
- Willow bark - a close relative of salicylic acid, but not quite as strong, willow bark is in the grey area so you might want to chat with your doctor if you want to continue using it.
- Hydroquinone - occasionally found in skin brightening creams and has a high systemic absorption rate so is best avoided during pregnancy.
- Parabens - some science has found parabens can increase oestrogen levels so watch out for them. Look out for words with ‘ethyl,’ ‘butyl,’ ‘methyl,’ or ‘propyl’ in the ingredients list.
- Some essential oils such as clary sage and rosemary have been shown to cause complications such as uterine contractions during pregnancy. It’s generally agreed that you should avoid all essential oils for the first trimester and then speak with your doctor if you want to add any in after that.
ANTI-AGEING SKINCARE FOR PREGNANCY
If you’ve already got a solid anti-ageing skincare routine, retinol is probably part of it, but there are plenty of alternatives to make your breakup with Vitamin A a bit easier.
Our favourite pregnancy-safe skincare ingredients have got to be Vitamin C and E. Vitamins C boosts elastin and collagen production, thereby reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while the antioxidant properties of both Vitamin C and E help to fight free radicals and damage caused by UV radiation.
If you’re a skin peel junky, you’re probably well versed in the world of acids. While you’ll have to give most of them a rest while the bun in your oven is baking, there are a couple you might be able to play around with.
Glycolic acid is considered safe in low concentrations, but we prefer to stick to lactic, tartaric or phenolic acids – some of the more gentle acids found in skincare.
Enough with the science, we know you’re here for the recommendations.
When it comes to acids, we love the Australian made Biologi Bd Luminosity Face Serum, which is entirely derived from the Davidson Plum, rich in phenolic and tartaric acids and natural nutrients that treat a range of skincare conditions from dehydration and sunspots to acne and inflammation.
For a Vitamin E-rich and nutrient dense cleansing option, we recommend Jane Scrivner’s Core Cleanser. This is entirely free from essential oils and its core ingredient, Jojoba Oil, mimics the skins natural sebum production and can penetrate deep into the skin’s layers to replenish and restore the barrier function.
SKINCARE FOR PIGMENTATION DURING PREGNANCY
Melasma - dark, discoloured patches, usually on the face - is fairly common in pregnant women; a not-so-fun side effect of all those hormones flooding your body right now.
The best thing you can do for melasma is to avoid sun exposure, but there are a few products which can help with hyper-pigmentation.
Our favourite is Kypris’ Beauty Elixir III - Prismatic Array which contains bio-identical CoQ10 (to help with discolouration), Vitamin C ester and more vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids than you can poke a stick at. It’s also free of essential oils which is perfect if strong scents are making you feel more queasy than usual.
Rohr Remedy Kakadu Plum Vitamin C Face Serum is another pregnancy-safe, hydrating, skin-firming, oil-free serum in an aloe vera base. The Kakadu Plum is actually the highest source of Vitamin C in the world with 5300mg per 100g - so it’s a great one for anti-ageing too - but the serum also helps to support a balanced complexion while nourishing and protecting your skin.
5 & 6
Sodashi Enzyme Face Polish is a great weekly treatment that works to exfoliate and even out the complexion. Pair it with the Sodashi Brightening Marine Mineral Mask to enhance that pregnancy glow with some intense hydration.
NATURAL ACNE TREATMENTS FOR PREGNANCY
While some women find their acne clears right up during pregnancy, others get hit with spot after spot for the full nine months - life’s not fair, after all.
Enter Biologi’s Bf Serum - entirely formulated with powerful Australian native finger lime, an ingredient that contains a unique combination of fruit acids that have been super effective in treating acne and are even safe for pimple rash on babies. If you don’t believe us, check out their Instagram page to see the before and after shots!
SUN PROTECTION DURING PREGNANCY
If we had a dollar for every time we heard that sunscreen is the number one anti-ageing product, well, we’d be laughing.
This one is not specific to pregnant women - you’re not more susceptible to the sun, nor will a nasty sunburn harm your baby - but it’s the perfect time to reconsider the ingredients in your sunscreen.
We’re big proponents of physical sunscreens rather than chemical ones. The difference? Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and their ingredients are absorbed into your skin, whereas physical sunscreens sit on top of your skin and actually block UV rays. The ingredients in physical sunscreens also have the added bonus of being natural.
You want to look for ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and the fewer extra ingredients the better.
We love Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30. The base is zinc oxide and it’s infused with replenishing ingredients like aloe vera, grape seed, chamomile, green tea and calendula. It provides lightweight protection with a semi-matte finish—no heavy white cast involved!
PREVENTING STRETCH MARKS
While your body is doing pretty incredible things - like growing a human - your skin might struggle to keep up. Stretch marks are totally natural during pregnancy, though not necessarily welcome, so we prefer to go with the prevention method and get a nourishing routine going from day dot.
We recommend KORA’s Noni Glow Body Balm for both prevention and treatment. It contains certified organic noni extract, coconut oil and cupuacu butter which provide intense hydration, plus it glides onto your skin like silk for convenient on-the-go hydration.
If you’ve got more specific skin concerns, we’d love to sort you out. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or pop into the store and we’ll help you come up with the perfect skin routine for you and your bub.