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When it comes to pregnancy, there’s no telling what gifts those hormones will bestow upon you. From mood swings to morning sickness, they can wreak havoc on every single system. And your skin? Well, that’s where things get even more interesting.
When you’re pregnant, of course there’s the glow everyone talks about. Unfortunately, hormone surges can also manifest as new and exciting skin issues like acne, dark spots, dry or greasy patches, dullness, redness or extra sensitivity. And while you may have a pre-pregnancy skincare routine in place, there’s a good chance not everything you’re currently using is one: suited to your newfound needs or two: safe for baby.
What skincare ingredients should you avoid during pregnancy?
Well, first and foremost, talk with your doctor about what’s best for you. However, as a general rule you should nix the following:
Hydroquinone—A skin lightener that’s used to treat dark spots and melasma. Research is limited and it’s very easily absorbed, so best to avoid for now. As a pregnancy-safe alternative look for products with niacinamide and Vitamin C to help combat that “pregnancy mask.”
Retinoids—Topical retinoids like Avage, Differin, Renova, Retin-A, retinols, retinyl palmitate, and Tazorac should be avoided throughout pregnancy. Despite the fact that just a small amount of the chemical is absorbed via the skin, various research has revealed a link to birth abnormalities.
Salicylic acid—Found in many acne treatments and peels, the jury is out on this one too. Some suggest that it’s ok in small doses, but check with your doctor to determine what’s safe for you.
So if you’re looking to revamp your skincare routine and switch to pregnancy-safe skincare that will tackle the hormonal woes, look no further than our top picks below!
To call the Motif Plumping Phytoceramide Cleanser just a cleanser is like calling a gorgeous, gold dusted French macaron a cookie. The dermatologist-developed and tested formula, which has accurately been described as a “facial in a bottle,” turns washing your face into a mini ritual–with maximum payoff. Unlike a traditional cleanser which you wash right off, apply a thin layer and leave on for about 60 seconds. Texturally, it reminds me of a whipped clay mask and leverages tiny bits of dried luffa fruits to help exfoliate. As it sits, a collection of exotic, but effective ingredients go to work. Monkey fruit wood and fermented rice help brighten while white orchid and licorice root can assist in fading pigmentation. A powerhouse of pineapple ceramides plumps and hydrates, and what you’re left with is the softest skin you’ll get outside of time in your facialist’s chair.
This holy grail oil cleanser is EVERYTHING. The thick, honey-like formula (which emulsifies to a creamy consistency once you add water) is made with natural fruit oils including enzymatic papaya that cleanse, exfoliate and moisturize. Not only does it effortlessly take off every bit of make-up—mascara included—but it leaves skin feeling soft and supple. We love that it can also be used as a 10-minute mask for an extra dose of softness.
This super popular drugstore cleanser is a gentle but effective way to wash the day off (or get it started!) and a favorite among folks with reactive or sensitive skin. It’s formulated with three essential ceramides to help reinforce your skin’s barrier and lock in moisture without making your face feel tight the second you dry off. The addition of hyaluronic acid helps to improve skin texture and keep it looking fresh, plump and ready to glow.
It’s called the cult classic for a reason. Developed by a gastroenterologist, Tula’s beloved skincare line harnesses the power of probiotics to achieve a healthy and balanced complexion, no matter what issues you’re battling. Along with probiotics, this gentle but effective purifying cleanser soothes with natural ingredients like chicory and turmeric root, making it a great match for mamas-to-be who are dealing with breakouts and blemishes.
This obsession-worthy face oil is one you’ll turn to long after pregnancy to recreate that mama-to-be glow. It’s loaded with skin-soothing botanicals and antioxidants to instantly moisturize tired, dehydrated skin, leaving behind a healthy, vibrant complexion. If you find that oils leave you too greasy, stick to using them at night only. And given all the Vitamin E and Omegas it packs, it makes a great belly oil as well!
A nourishing multi-tasker, Josie Maran’s pure argan oil is great for hydrating skin and hair. A few drops all over your face will visibly hydrate and smooth, and if you’re dealing with particularly flaky patches, spot treating works wonders. Additionally, your wallet will appreciate the budget-friendly trial size which IMO more brands need to offer. After all, what’s more disappointing than dropping serious coin on something that doesn’t agree with you?
From the gorgeous packaging to the divine formulas, it’s not hard to fall in love with Versine. Launched by a mom who struggled to find clear guidance on what exactly was considered safe when it came to caring for her skin while pregnant, their multi-tasking Gentle Actives Clarity Crème-Serum addresses a host of common pregnancy and nursing-related skin issues without a drop of worry about the ingredients. The lightweight formula is really a hybrid between a traditional serum and a moisturizer and meant to be used AM and PM to refine and moisturize with pregnancy safe and efficient ingredients like vitamin c, kakadu plum, niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate and squalane. (If you’re battling oily or acne-prone skin, opt for the Gentle Actives Clarity Crème-Serum + Azelaic Acid formula instead!) Besides the fact it offers your skin exactly what it needs to stay balanced and happy, we LOVE that it’s truly scentless. An important but often over-looked detail when it comes to skincare! (Especially when just about anything can make you nauseous, right?)
Forget Florida oranges—Australia is where it’s at when it comes to natural Vitamin C sources. Australian skincare brand Sand & Sky leverages local heroes Kakadu Plum and Emu Apple to create their Dreamy Glow Drops—a bi-phase serum (which means it’s got both oil and water) that sinks in instantly to deliver hydration (thanks to the addition of five types of hyaluronic acids), plumpness and all-over glow. The consistency is more water than oil, so it works fabulously under makeup and doesn’t leave you feeling greasy or weighed down.
Skinceuticals best-selling serum is arguably the gold star of Vitamin C, recommended by countless dermatologists, beauty editors and skincare junkies like myself. The reason? Its efficacy is undeniable. The patented formula combines three powerhouse ingredients: 15% L-ascorbic acid, a super potent form of pure vitamin C that can help reverse sun damage and offers anti-aging benefits; 1% alpha-tocopherol, the pure form of vitamin E that works when paired with vitamin C to neutralize free radicals and replenish skin; and 0.5% ferulic acid, a plant-based antioxidant that protects the skin and enhances the benefits and stability of vitamins C and E. It’s a great choice for all kinds of skin but works particularly well for sensitive complexions due to its higher PH levels which allows it to penetrate without disrupting the protective barrier.
The all-in-one Mountain Glow Serum from Ursa Major is like superfood for your face. Launched this summer, it’s a true powerhouse that we’ve been hooked on since the first application. The expertly-crafted formula is packed with 44 clean active ingredients you’ve probably never even heard of including Star-Tipped Lichen, Honey Locust Seed and Golden Aspen Bark to smooth away those fine lines, gently exfoliate and nourish skin day or night. The cream to oil consistency is easily absorbed and can even help restore and repair your skin barrier. The result? A truly glowing complexion that is bound to get you more than a few compliments.
A sheer serum with a soft, citrusy rose scent, Ursa Major’s Brighten Up Vitamin C serum is a lifesaver for fatigued skin. (We can’t pick just one from Ursa Major, sorry, they’re that good.) It contains all-natural ingredients and none of the bad guys (sulfates, parabens, synthetic fragrance, etc), which is perfect if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. You’ll find Ascorbic Acid Polypeptides delivering your Vitamin C kick along with Rose hip, Aloe and Edelweiss to intensify the antioxidant and hydration factor.
Boost hydration and help reduce the dark spots and melasma that can pop up during pregnancy with the efficient and convenient pads from Element Mom. Formulated specifically for pregnancy with niacinimide and licorice root to help reduce hyperpigmentation as well as ginger root and baikal skullcap root to even skin tone and reduce inflammation, you can swipe or leave on for a few minutes as part of your daily routine.
Best of all because truly caring for mamas is at the heart of everything Element Mom, each purchase provides the same product to another mom in need. (They also make supremely nourishing belly masks!)
Pregnant or not, this is one of my favorite moisturizers ever. The lightweight gel formula calms and hydrates skin without feeling sticky or greasy and blesses you with a perfectly plumped fresh face courtesy of hyaluronic acid—one of the most effective ingredients available for moisturizing. Like a blast of green juice for your face, it also packs natural hydration from produce superstars like celery and cucumber.
Free from oils, dyes and fragrances, Neutrogena’s super popular gel moisturizer is a favorite among many people with oily skin (including moms-to-be) because its gel formula is lighter than most moisturizers. It’s formulated with the moisturizing powerhouse hyaluronic acid—a molecule our bodies produce naturally that acts like a magnet to draw moisture in. The result? Plump, gorgeous and healthy skin without breaking the bank.
I came to this little miracle through a reddit suggestion after two consecutive months of eczema flare ups that seem spurred on by ovulation (how fun is that?!). After the swelling and wake-you-from a sound sleep itching subsides, it leaves a red, flaky mask in its wake. I swear after one application, this gel-like gift from the goddesses sunk right in and improved the situation almost completely. Made with barrier nourishing hyaluronic acid and ceramides and no fragrance, essential oils or anything to irritate, it’s super hydrating without being heavy or greasy. I then cut out literally every other step of my routine for two weeks. Simply used this morning and night and I have to say, my skin has never looked better.
If your skin (and spirits!) need a little pick-me-up, the refreshing Turmeric Mist from APTO Skincare is just the thing. As the hero ingredient, using turmeric postpartum has anti-inflammatory properties help calm and soothe dry, red or irritated skin while witch hazel works to shrink pores. The mist is fine enough to not upset makeup and can even work as a setting spray to make it last longer. And at just $6 bucks it’s a no-brainer!
A pioneer in its category, we were instantly smitten with Knours’ Double Duty face mist. This brilliant multitasker is formulated with two separate layers of aloe vera water and jojoba oil to be used two ways: Not shaken if your skin is feeling sensitive or oily to deliver calming hydration, shaken if your skin is flaky and drier than usual for a blend that offers a moisturized glow. I mean, have you ever?! The sorcery! It’s perfect for an afternoon complexion pick-me-up and the subtle peony scent is absolutely intoxicating. Consider yourself hooked.
Speaking of multitasking, few brands do it better than Momotaro Apotheca. Their pH balancing toning spray is formulated with aromatic botanicals to keep things fresh and happy below the belt and help address vaginal discomfort. It’s cool, refreshing and TBH, a total life saver. And yet, it’s more than just that! The fine mist is also great as a facial toner and mid-day spritz all over. Face, armpits, in your undies, even on your yoga mat, it’s an indispensable addition to your skincare and self care line up!
OSEA, the powered-by-seaweed clean beauty brand offers an entire collection of pregnancy-safe skincare we love but we have to give a special shoutout to the White Algae Mask. Packed with organic seaweed, white tea and resveratrol, it helps to calm redness and brighten skin while hyaluronic acid seals in moisture. It’s a great one to use weekly to give skin a plump, glowy look!
Two years in the making, Summer Fridays’ Overtime mask was made with pregnancy in mind—or rather, formulated by a pregnant mind. Co-founder Lauren Ireland was pregnant during the development of this gentle exfoliating mask which uses vitamin-packed pumpkin and apricot seed powder to polish away dead skin and reveal that mama-to-be glow. Like the rest of their clean beauty products, it’s free of sulfates, parabens, synthetic dyes and fragrances so you can feel good about making it a regular part of your routine.
What’s better than waking up with a fresh and glowy face? YTTP’s hydrating overnight mask is powered by a proprietary blend of super ingredients like maqui, acai, prickly pear, goji berry, sunflower, moringa, and squalane to bring out your inner dewiness while you catch some (much deserved) zzz’s. Even better? It smells like creamsicles.
If your under-eyes are reaching zombie status, the biocellulose under-eye patches from Peace Out are a great tool to keep in your skincare tool box. The triple-threat of caffeine, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid works to de-puff, brighten and hydrate tired under-eyes in just 15 minutes. The gel-like patches feel cool and refreshing and they’re not so big that they cover half your face.
Are they the most ‘grammable eye masks on the market? Yes. Are they some of the most effective? Also yes. Less slippy than most, these paper masks are drenched in hydrating and smoothing glycerin, panthenol, aloe leaf juice, and calendula extract to do battle against tired eyes. The gold foil fabric helps trap the serum so it sinks in thoroughly leaving you refreshed and ready for the day ahead.
At between 3-5 dollars on average per eye mask, plopping them on everyday isn’t exactly within the budget. An equally satisfying alternative? The brilliant Forever Eye Mask from Dieux. Made from a lightweight and reusable non-porous silicone, they work to enhance your favorite serums or eye creams that are already stocked on your shelves. Just apply a thin layer of product to your under-eye, let it get tacky and then apply the masks on top. A 10-15 minute wait allows the serum to do its hardest work. When you’re done, just wash them off and stick back in the tin for next time! Brilliant!
Forget cell phones—pimple patches are the thing I wish existed when I was in middle school. These brilliant little miracles (otherwise known as hydrocolloid patches) adhere to brewing blemishes to not only draw out the yucky stuff and reduce inflammation without chemicals but also prevent you from picking at it. (#Guilty) While there are tons on the market today, these are my favorite because they include three different sizes in one pack.