A Simple and Safe Pregnancy Skin Routine

A Simple and Safe Pregnancy Skin Routine

Skincare in pregnancy is a topic that is rife with many misconceptions. Many women worry about the safety of their skincare products once they find out they are pregnant. In this post, we’ll try to outline a simple, safe, yet effective skincare routine that can help keep your skin glowing and healthy, while hopefully giving you a few extra minutes to rest! 

How Pregnancy Can Affect Skin

During pregnancy, the amount of blood in the body increases causing the skin to develop that famous, rosy, pregnancy glow. Unfortunately, some women also develop skin sensitivity, rashes, or itching. A gentle skincare routine can help with these symptoms. The sky-high levels of hormones in your body help support your growing baby and changing body, but can also cause acne or dark spots and hyperpigmentation. If this is you, take a look at our post regarding ingredients safe for use during pregnancy. Another great resource that doctors often refer to is the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ patient education website. As always, when in doubt, always ask your doctor—your obstetrician is there to guide you during your pregnancy, and your dermatologist can help as well.

Stick to the Basics 

In general, during pregnancy, you should be using simple, gentle products that won’t overwhelm your extra-sensitive skin. 

Sticking to the basics may mean setting aside products with heavy fragrances and essential oils to reduce the risk of unwanted reactions. We recommend carefully reading the labels of all your cosmetic and skincare products to check for ingredients such as retinol or hydroquinone. It is recommended that women avoid these during pregnancy. Additionally, it’s a good idea to avoid products that contain certain preservatives like parabens or formaldehyde releasers during pregnancy. 

A basic, minimalist routine might look something like this: start your day by gently washing your face with plain water, or a gentle, hydrating cleanser. Follow with a gentle antioxidant serum to protect your skin from environmental stressors and top with a mineral-based sunscreen moisturizer (at least SPF 30+). In the evening, a gentle cleanser containing hyaluronic acid will help wash away the day while keeping your skin feeling hydrated and supple. Follow that with a moisturizer - a cream formulation may work better if you have extra dry skin; those who notice more oiliness or are acne-prone may prefer a lotion.  

For the body, we recommend using a gentle fragrance-free cleanser in the shower, and following with a simple moisturizing cream or lotion immediately afterwards to lock in the moisture. This is especially important if you have a tendency to develop extra dry skin or itching during pregnancy. 

If you find yourself looking in the mirror and noticing more breakouts than normal, consider layering a product with anti-acne properties such as azelaic acid underneath your sunscreen moisturizer in the morning, and if needed, using a low-strength salicylic acid treatment or cleanser at night.

Your skincare routine should first and foremost help your skin stay healthy. Carefully reading ingredient lists and choosing gentle products that prioritize skin health will help avoid irritation, especially during this special time. 

The Importance of Sun Protection in Pregnancy 

Sunscreen is the foundation of a good skincare routine and that doesn’t change during pregnancy. This is especially the case if you are developing any pigmentary changes like melasma, or if you are dealing with acne due to pregnancy hormones. Fortunately for most, these changes are usually temporary and will improve after giving birth, but sunscreen will help prevent worsening of these changes. Sunscreen will also increase the efficacy of any treatments that you may start postpartum. We recommend a mineral-based product, as some studies show systemic absorption of chemical-based sunscreens with regular use on large areas. Even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends reducing use of oxybenzone, a chemical sunscreen, during pregnancy. You’ll want to use a product with at least SPF30 for adequate protection. Additionally, a tinted sunblock containing iron oxide can help block visible light, which can also help when dealing with unwanted hyperpigmentation. For more details, check out our comprehensive post on sunscreens. In addition to SPF, don’t forget that wearing sun protective clothing is a very effective way to protect your sensitive skin during this time.

In general, taking a conservative approach and setting aside products with unnecessary ingredients can reduce risk of irritation. If you have questions about a skincare product, we recommend reaching out to your doctor to clarify. 

What about Itching? 

Again, simple, gentle skincare can go a long way for sensitive skin during pregnancy. We especially like non-fragranced products since the ingredients in fragranced products can be irritating. Essential oils can also be irritating so proceed with caution with any products that contain them. Dry skin can be a common annoyance, and a good, fragrance-free moisturizer can be a lifesaver for itching in pregnancy.  If moisturizer just isn’t cutting it and you are still experiencing itchiness, talk to your doctor about prescription options. If you are itching to the point you cannot sleep, or are developing odd rashes, please also visit your doctor - there are some uncommon pregnancy rashes that deserve a professional evaluation. 

Stretch Marks

Stretch marks occur when the skin is stretched quickly and the underlying collagen fibers, the support structure of the skin, are overstretched. Unfortunately, family history and genetics plays a large role in determining whether you are likely to get them. If you gain pregnancy weight quickly, are carrying a larger baby, or have an underlying medical condition, you may also be at slightly higher risk. Unfortunately, topical medications or ingredients on the market that claim to prevent stretch marks generally lack strong evidence from well-run trials. Most doctors instead recommend regular use of a thick, fragrance-free moisturizer. However, if you do develop these badges of honor and find them bothersome, your dermatologist can help you come up with a plan to treat and minimize the appearance of these scars postpartum. 

We hope these tips help you feel better about your skincare routine in pregnancy. We recommend simple, gentle products that are effective and safe for all life stages. Emdash Clear Reveal, Vivid Protect, and Bright-CE Eye serums are gentle, non-irritating, fragrance-free, clean formulas appropriate for pregnant and breastfeeding mamas. Again, if you have questions, please always check with your OB.


Disclaimer: As with all our posts, this blog is meant to be for informational and educational purposes, and is not medical advice. When in doubt, please ask your physician.  





Murase et al, JAAD 2014 


Photo: Mali Desha

Teresa Fu, M.D.

Dr. Teresa Fu is a board certified dermatologist and mother of two. She graduated from Stanford Medical School and practices in the San Francisco Bay Area.