Health Remedies

5 Skincare Ingredients to Avoid When You’re Pregnant

Pregnancy is a fragile state for most women where your body does everything in its power to protect your baby.
Therefore, it is important for you to pick your skincare products carefully and to consult your gynecologists as well. This is because even topical creams, ointments, and lotions can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. If these substances get through the placenta, they can cause harm to the embryo/fetus and produce severe and permanent developmental abnormalities (teratogenic effect). Here are some examples of ingredients you should avoid in skincare when pregnant:


Retinoids, such as isotretinoin are derivatives of vitamin A. They are a core ingredient for effective acne treatment; however, the teratogenic effect of retinoids has been confirmed which makes it dangerous for pregnant women. If you happen to be using retinoid-containing products before pregnancy, you need to undergo an extensive series of genetic and imaging tests to confirm and detect any possible malformations of the fetus.


Tetracyclines are a group of broad spectrum antibiotics used for various kinds of bacterial infections. If used excessively during pregnancy, tetracycline antibiotics can cause liver failure and teeth development problems of your fetus. Generally, antibiotics during pregnancy are not recommended, but if you have to, try penicillin-based antibiotics for a safer option if you are not allergic to penicillin.


Hydroquinone is an ingredient in skin-lightening topical creams for treating hyperpigmentation. Although there isn’t a direct link to fetal abnormalities, it is found that 50% of the dose applied is absorbed into the bloodstream. This means teratogenic effect may exist and you should not experiment with this during pregnancy.


Spray tanners often contain dihydroxyacetone as one of the main ingredients. Even though it does not penetrate the skin, this ingredient can be inhaled while using the spray. Inhalation of dihydroxyacetone forwards it directly into the bloodstream.

Thioglycolic acid

Thioglycolic acid (TGA) is used in shaving gels. Although there are no proof of its direct harm to the growing fetus, the high chemical activity is enough to steer clear from during pregnancy.

Further reading
Panchaud, A., Csajka, C., Merlob, P., Schaefer, C., Berlin, M., De Santis, M., Vial, T., Ieri, A., Malm, H., Eleftheriou, G., Stahl, B., Rousso, P., Winterfeld, U., Rothuizen, L. E. and Buclin, T. (2012), Pregnancy Outcome Following Exposure to Topical Retinoids: A Multicenter Prospective Study. Journal of Clinical Pharma, 52: 1844–1851. doi: 10.1177/0091270011429566
Bozzo P, Chua-Gocheco A, Einarson A. Safety of skin care products during pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician. 2011;57(6):665-667.
Xia L, Hou S, Ren X, Wang Z. Effects of Thioglycolic Acid on in vivo Oocytes Maturation in Mice. Bridger JM, ed. PLoS ONE. 2011;6(9):e23996. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023996.