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Many common skincare ingredients, including retinol and salicylic acid, aren't safe for use during pregnancy. Here, dermatologists weigh in on which products to avoid, plus safer anti-aging alternatives.

By Madeleine Burry
July 30, 2018
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All sorts of routines shift during pregnancy, from what you eat to what you wear. This is true for your skincare regimen, too, particularly if it involves anti-aging products.

"Skincare in pregnancy can be tricky," says Deanne Robinson, MD, a dermatologist and the president and co-founder of Modern Dermatology of Connecticut.

Tricky, but not impossible! Rest assured: There's no need to abandon your anti-aging efforts entirely. While some of your go-to, miracle-working products (ahem, retinols) are problematic during pregnancy, there are many safe and effective alternatives. To keep yourself and baby free from harm, read through the ingredient list on all products carefully.

Skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy

Topping the list of ingredients to avoid when you're expecting: retinol, retin-A, retinoic acid, and tazaratene. All are derived from vitamin A, and while the vitamin work can wonders on your skin, excessive amounts can interfere with fetal development and lead to birth defects, says Dr. Robinson.

She also advises against using anti-aging products that contain the chemical bleaching agent hydroquinone, since animal studies have raised concerns over its carcinogenicity, as well as benzoyl peroxide.

Also on the "stay away" list: salicylic acid and willow bark. "These are related to aspirin, which studies show is contraindicated in pregnancy,” says Anna Guanche, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at the Bella Skin Institute in Calabasas, California. (A counterpoint: “We use low-dose aspirin in certain high risk patients and the amount in a skin cream is very low. I feel comfortable having most of my patients use daily,” says John Thoppil, MD, an Austin, Texas-based ob-gyn.)

Overwhelmed? Your best option is always to check with your dermatologist or ob-gyn to see if an ingredient is safe or a no-go.

Pregnancy-safe anti-aging skincare ingredients

Don't despair if the ingredients listed above form the backbone of your anti-aging regimen. There are lots of alternative ingredients to try out—and they're highly effective as well.

"During my four pregnancies, I relied on topical antioxidants in the morning," Dr. Robinson says. "They help protect against UV rays, free radicals, and environmental toxin damages." Antioxidents and acids (such as lactic acid, glycolic acid, vitamin C, and azelaic acid) are a great option for pregnant women, she says. Apply vitamin C, for instance, to repair environmental damage and increase collagen synthesis, says Dr. Robinson. (Here, some of our all-time favorite vitamin C serums.) Or try azelaic acid to “help battle acne and hyperpigmentation, both of which are issues in pregnancy,” she adds.

Below, a few anti-aging products dermatologists recommend for use while you're expecting—or anytime at all.

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