Skin Care

Pregnancy Skin Care: The Ultimate Guide to Safe Skincare While Expecting

Pregnancy Skin Care


Pregnancy brings about many changes in a woman’s body, including changes to the skin. As hormone levels shift and increase, the skin reacts in various ways. It’s important to adapt your skincare routine during this time to care for your changing skin properly.

The influx of hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) can increase oil production, stimulate pigmentation, and contribute to conditions like stretch marks, acne, and itchy skin. As the belly expands, the skin is stretched to accommodate the growing baby. Proper skincare can help minimize certain effects and keep skin as healthy as possible.

Special care is required during pregnancy because some skincare ingredients are not recommended. The skin absorbs over 60% of the products applied to it, so anything put on the skin could potentially reach the baby. It’s best to avoid certain chemicals and be aware of safety concerns related to some commonly used ingredients.

With the right products and practices, you can safely care for your skin while pregnant. This guide covers the common skin changes experienced during pregnancy and provides tips to address them. We’ll also go over which ingredients to embrace or avoid, along with recommended products for pregnant skin. With the proper information, you can create a skincare routine that keeps your skin looking its best.

Increased Oil Production

During pregnancy, rising hormone levels like estrogen, progesterone, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more oil (sebum). This can lead to oily skin, clogged pores, and breakouts in some women. The area most affected is usually the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin).

To help control excess oil, use an oil-free moisturizer and avoid heavy creams or rich serums. Look for products labeled as non-comedogenic or oil-free. Gentle cleansers can help keep pores clear without over-drying the skin. Clay masks are also great for soaking up excess oil. Monitor closely for signs of acne and use acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid in moderation.

Increased Pigmentation

One of the most common skin changes during pregnancy is increased pigmentation and dark spots. This is caused by the increased hormones estrogen and progesterone which stimulate melanin production. There are a few specific types of pigmentation changes:

Melasma/Chloasma – Also called the “mask of pregnancy”, this causes darker patches on the face, especially the cheeks, forehead, chin, and upper lip. It affects up to 70% of pregnant women.

Linea Nigra – A dark vertical line that runs from the belly button down to the pubic hairline. It occurs from hormonal changes that cause increased pigment in already existing skin markings.

Darkening Areolas – The areolas (the area around the nipples) darken during pregnancy. This prepares the nipples and areolas for breastfeeding. The color change is caused by increased melanin.

To help prevent increased pigmentation, use a broad spectrum sunscreen daily and limit sun exposure. Melasma usually fades within a few months after giving birth but may persist. Talk to your dermatologist about treatment options if it does not fade over time. The linea nigra and darkened areolas normally disappear soon after delivery.

Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are a common occurrence during pregnancy as the skin expands to accommodate the growing baby. They are caused by the stretching of the skin beyond its normal elasticity, which results in small tears in the dermis layer. This causes scar tissue to develop, creating the streaky lines known as stretch marks.

The areas most prone to stretch marks during pregnancy are the abdomen, breasts, thighs, hips, and buttocks. Some factors that can increase your chances of getting stretch marks include:

  • Genetics – if your mother had stretch marks, you’re more likely to get them
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of exercise and muscle tone

While it’s difficult to prevent stretch marks entirely, keeping your skin moisturized and hydrated can help improve elasticity. Massaging your belly, hips, and thighs daily with moisturizing oils or creams can help keep these areas supple and may reduce the severity of stretch marks. Staying hydrated and eating a balanced diet with foods rich in vitamins C, E, and zinc also supports skin health.

Once stretch marks form, topical creams containing ingredients like retinol, hyaluronic acid, and glycolic acid can help reduce their appearance. These ingredients promote collagen production and skin cell turnover to help fade stretch marks over time. Laser treatments and microneedling are other options that can minimize the look of existing stretch marks.

The good news is that for most women, pregnancy stretch marks do fade and become less noticeable in the months after giving birth as the skin shrinks back and collagen production increases. Over time they typically change from a bright pink/purple to a silvery white color. While they may not disappear completely, they do become far less noticeable for most women.

Pregnancy Skin Care

The good news is that for most women, pregnancy stretch marks do fade and become less noticeable in the months after giving birth as the skin shrinks back and collagen production increases. Over time they typically change from a bright pink/purple to a silvery white color. While they may not disappear completely, they do become far less noticeable for most women.

Itchy Skin

Many pregnant women experience itchy skin during pregnancy. This is often caused by the stretching and dryness that occurs as your belly expands. The increased oil production can also irritate your skin and cause itchiness.

There are a few things you can do to help relieve itchy skin during pregnancy:

  • Keep your skin moisturized. Look for moisturizers made with gentle, natural ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter or aloe. Avoid moisturizers with fragrances or other harsh chemicals. Apply liberally throughout the day.

  • Take lukewarm showers instead of hot showers, which can further dry out your skin.

  • Use gentle, fragrance-free soaps and cleansers. Look for products labeled sensitive or for babies.

  • Wear loose, breathable cotton clothing. Tight clothes can irritate itchy skin.

  • Apply a cold compress or ice pack to intensely itchy areas for relief.

  • Try natural remedies like oatmeal baths, calamine lotion or baking soda paste to soothe itchy skin.

  • Talk to your doctor if the itchiness is severe. They may recommend antihistamines or topical steroid creams for relief in severe cases.

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One of the most common skin changes during pregnancy is acne. This is often caused by increased hormones like progesterone, estrogen, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). These hormones stimulate oil production in the skin, which can clog pores and lead to breakouts. Areas like the face, back, chest are most commonly affected.

The good news is that hormone-induced acne during pregnancy can be treated safely. Topical over-the-counter products containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and lactic acid are generally considered safe during pregnancy. Just be sure to avoid retinoids, oral acne medications, and tetracycline antibiotics as these can be harmful to the developing baby.

It’s also important to continue a regular gentle skin cleansing routine. Use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser and avoid scrubbing or picking at acne which can lead to scarring. Staying hydrated, eating a healthy diet, and reducing stress levels can also help control acne flares during this time. Discuss any severe or cystic acne with your dermatologist to explore pregnancy-safe treatment options. With some minor adjustments, it is possible to keep acne under control and maintain healthy, clear skin during your pregnancy.

Dry/Itchy Skin

Pregnancy hormones can cause skin to become very dry and itchy. As the belly expands, the skin is stretched thin and loses elasticity. This leads to dryness, redness, and intense itchiness. The most common areas affected are the abdomen, breasts, thighs, and arms.

The main causes of dry, itchy skin during pregnancy include:

  • Hormonal changes – increased levels of estrogen and progesterone cause the skin to lose moisture
  • Expanding belly – stretching of the skin decreases natural oils and moisture in the skin
  • Dry indoor heating – heat from furnaces, fireplaces, etc. draw moisture from the skin
  • Cold dry weather – low humidity outdoors can exacerbate dryness

To help relieve dry, itchy skin:

  • Use gentle, fragrance-free moisturizers frequently – look for products with colloidal oatmeal, ceramides, hyaluronic acid
  • Take lukewarm (not hot) showers, limit time in water
  • Use mild cleansers without sulfates or fragrances
  • Apply moisturizer within 3 minutes after bathing to lock in moisture
  • Use an oil or balm for very dry areas – coconut, olive, almond, jojoba oils are safe
  • Drink plenty of water and eats foods with healthy fats like avocados
  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to indoor air
  • Wear loose, breathable fabrics like cotton

If itchiness is severe or rashes develop, consult a doctor for additional relief options. Dry skin is common in pregnancy but excessive itching can be a sign of other conditions like cholestasis.

Safe Skincare Ingredients During Pregnancy

Pregnant women can safely use several beneficial skincare ingredients that are gentle and effective. Some of the top ingredients to look for include:

Hyaluronic Acid – This ingredient is found naturally in the skin and draws in moisture to keep skin hydrated. It is gentle, non-irritating, and safe to use during pregnancy. Look for hyaluronic acid serums and moisturizers.

Niacinamide – Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide can help minimize dark spots and improve skin elasticity. It is a pregnancy-safe antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Niacinamide is suitable for all skin types.

Glycerin – Glycerin is a humectant that helps skin retain moisture. It hydrates without clogging pores. Glycerin is an excellent addition to moisturizers, cleansers, and toners for expectant mothers.

Jojoba Oil – This natural plant oil mimics the skin’s sebum. It absorbs well and moisturizes without feeling greasy. Jojoba oil helps balance oil production and soothe dryness.

Shea Butter – Shea butter is an ultra-moisturizing ingredient derived from the shea nut. It softens, smooths, and conditions skin. Shea butter is safe to use during pregnancy and postpartum.

When checking product labels, these are some of the top safe, non-irritating ingredients recommended for pregnant women. Avoid products with added fragrances, retinol, or harsh ingredients like hydroquinone. Focus on gentle, nourishing products to care for skin during this special time.

Ingredients to Avoid

Pregnant women should avoid certain ingredients that may be harmful to the developing baby. Here are some of the main ingredients to look out for:


Retinoids like tretinoin, adapalene, tazarotene, and isotretinoin are forms of vitamin A that help exfoliate the skin. Oral retinoids in particular can be dangerous, as studies show they are linked to birth defects. Topical retinoids are less risky, but many doctors recommend avoiding them during pregnancy as well.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that exfoliates and clears pores. Oral salicylic acid in high doses is not recommended during pregnancy as it may affect the baby’s heart rate or lead to unexplained bleeding. Topical salicylic acid is likely safe during pregnancy if used sparingly, but some doctors recommend avoiding it.


Hydroquinone lightens the skin and treats melasma and hyperpigmentation. While it is likely safe in small amounts, hydroquinone is potentially toxic in larger doses. Since it is absorbed into the skin, doctors typically recommend pregnant women avoid it.

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens contain active ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, and homosalate. These ingredients are systemic and can be absorbed into the bloodstream. While more research is still needed, some studies suggest chemical UV filters may disrupt hormones. Mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are considered safer alternatives.

Essential Oils

Essential oils like tea tree oil and rose oil are popular in skincare. However, essential oils are highly concentrated and can be toxic at high doses. Their safety during pregnancy is uncertain, so it’s best to avoid them unless a doctor approves their use.

Product Recommendations


When looking for a cleanser, opt for gentle, fragrance-free formulas. Ingredients like glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid can help hydrate and nourish skin without stripping it. Look for creamy, milky, or gel-based cleansers instead of foaming cleansers, which can be more drying. Some recommended cleanser ingredients include:

  • Glycerin – moisturizes skin
  • Niacinamide – calms inflammation
  • Oatmeal – soothes and protects

Cetaphil, Vanicream, and CeraVe make excellent fragrance-free cleansers suitable for pregnancy.


Focus on moisturizers with hydrating ingredients like glycerin, dimethicone, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and shea butter. Thicker creams or ointments are ideal for dry skin. Look for products labeled as non-comedogenic, which means they won’t clog pores. Some examples:

  • Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream – thick, fragrance-free moisturizer
  • Vanicream Moisturizing Cream – gentle formula for sensitive skin
  • CeraVe Moisturizing Cream – contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid


Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day. Mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are ideal, as chemical sunscreen ingredients could potentially be absorbed. Some mineral sunscreen picks:

  • EltaMD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 – contains niacinamide
  • ThinkBaby Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+ – water resistant, fragrance free
  • Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 50+ – lightweight, hydrating

Avoid spray sunscreens to minimize inhalation risk. Reapply sunscreen generously and frequently.