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The Safety of Skincare Ingredients during Pregnancy


Pregnancy is often an exciting time and it can also present many challenges. While all women dream of having the pregnancy glow, changes to your hormones may tell a different story. 

With so much information out there, it can be quite confusing so we have compiled a list of pregnancy safe skincare ingredients based on scientific research. 


Acne ingredients during Pregnancy

Benzyl Peroxide is a common acne ingredient and is considered safe at a concentration of 5% or less during pregnancy. 

Salicylic Acid has great anti-inflammatory and mild anti-bacterial properties and is commonly used in acne products. At concentrations of 2% or less (usually in the form of a cleanser) is considered safe during pregnancy, but oral intake of Salicylates is not. Other safe alternatives are Glycolic Acid (under 10%) and Lactic Acid. 

Azelaic Acid is considered safe during pregnancy and has been shown to be improve acne and brown discolouration. 


Melasma or Hyperpigmentation during Pregnancy

Increase levels of oestrogen and progesterone during pregnancy can trigger your melanocytes to become more active, thus triggering dark patches or brown spots. This is also known as melasma or pregnancy mask. These usually go away after birth but some may decide to stay around for longer. 

Hydroquinone is a common ingredient used to treat hyperpigmentation or melasma. It is however, not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding. 

Arbutin and Alpha-Arbutin are broken down to Hydroquinone and therefore is also recommended to best avoid during pregnancy.

Cosmetic ingredients which are safe for use during pregnancy and which can lighten surface pigmentation spots are Niacinamide, Vitamin C and topically applied liquorice root.


Anti-ageing ingredients during Pregnancy

Antiageing ingredients such as Vitamin C, Niacinamide, Peptides, and Hyaluronic Acid are considered safe during pregnancy. 

Retinoids (Renova, Retin-A, Differin, Tazorac, and generic tretinoin) and Retinol derivatives (retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde) is not recommended during pregnancy, as they may be associated with birth defects. 


Sunscreen during Pregnancy

Daily use of sunscreen is recommended by dermatologists whether you are pregnant or not. Blockers such as zinc and titanium dioxide is preferred over chemical sunscreens during pregnancy, as both are non irritating. 


The list above is not exhaustive, as there other non skincare ingredients (e.g. tanning ingredients) and does not replace any advice given to you by your doctor or obstetrician. We recommend you share all prescription and non prescription items that you intend to use while pregnant with your physician for their approval. 



Author: Helen Lam, Pharmacist and Editor for ellé derm






1. Bozo, P et al (2011). "Safety of Skincare Ingredients during Pregnancy." The College of Family Physicians of Canada. Jun; 57(6): 665–667. 

2. Shinde, P et al (2019). "Herbs in Pregnancy and Lactation: a Review Appraisal." International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research. ISSN (Online): 0975-8232

3. Ozturk, M et al (2019) "Phytochemical Constituents and Pharmacological Effects of Licorice: A Review." Journal of Plant and Human Health. Volume 3, 2019, pages 1-21.


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