Skin Care Products and Pregnancy

Congratulations on your pregnancy! What an exciting time!

As you take extra care of yourself over these nine months, don’t forget to check the safety of your skin care products. There are some special considerations when choosing acne medications, moisturizers, and more. If you have been prescribed a medication for a skin condition, let your dermatologist or your OB/Gyn know about your pregnancy ASAP in case that mediation needs to be discontinued or changed.

Retinoids are Dangerous

If you are taking oral retinoids, discontinue them immediately. Oral retinoids (pills) like isotretinoin (brand names Accutane®, Absorica®, Amnesteem®, Claravis®, Myorisan® and Zenatane®) are extremely dangerous to a developing fetus and are associated with miscarriage, premature birth, birth defects and intellectual and developmental disabilities. The risk is so great, women taking these medications are required to be on birth control. If you are taking isotretinoin and think you might be pregnant, contact your doctor right away.


Retinoid creams are not as dangerous as oral retinoids; however, exposure to high levels has been associated with birth defects. Avoid creams containing the following Vitamin A derivatives while pregnant:

It is a good idea to check labels carefully on any skin care products you use because retinoids are not only found in acne medications, but may also be an ingredient in psoriasis treatments, anti-aging moisturizers, over-the-counter acne lotions and do-it-yourself skin peels.

Other Acne Medications

If you are already being treated for acne with something other than a retinoid, talk to your doctor about the medications you are on. Other acne medications to be avoided during pregnancy are oral tetracycline (an antibiotic pill), which interferes with the baby’s bone development, and certain hormone treatments.

If you have developed acne during pregnancy, there are safe treatment options. Wash your face regularly with a gentle cleanser. Topical salicylic acid is considered to be safe if used once or twice a day. Avoid concentrations stronger than 2% and stay away from at-home chemical peels and leave-on products which often contain higher concentrations. Benzoyl peroxide is generally considered safe. For the safest option, use a product with lactic acid or glycolic acid as the active ingredient.

Self-Tanning Products and Professional Spray Tans

Currently, there is no evidence linking dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the active ingredient in tanning products, to birth defects or other harmful effects on a developing fetus. The chemical, however, has been shown to penetrate the skin.

Since these products are used over such a large area of the body and since their effects on health are still unknown, we recommend that pregnant patients avoid using self-tanning products or getting professional spray tans, especially during the first trimester.

Steroid Creams

Topical over-the-counter steroid creams are considered safe to use during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before using prescription-strength steroid creams. The following ingredients commonly found in steroid creams are considered safe for use during pregnancy:

Skin Changes in Pregnancy

Many women find that the hormonal changes in pregnancy affect their skin. Your skin may be more sensitive than it used to be. If you find your skin is getting irritated, try switching to dye-free and fragrance-free cleansers and moisturizers designed for sensitive skin.

Melasma is a darkening of the skin, usually on the face, that can occur during pregnancy. This should resolve on its own after the birth. You may also develop a dark line running from your navel to your pubic area– this is a normal skin change that will also go away after the birth.

Stretch marks, or striae, are caused by tearing of the dermis due to rapid growth during pregnancy. Stretch marks often fade over time, but if you are unhappy with lingering stretch marks after the birth of your baby, give us a call. Our dermatologists may recommend retinoid creams, laser or light therapies or microdermabrasion to help minimize the look of stretch marks.