Beauty and skincare ingredients to avoid during your pregnancy

Dr Christine Catling
Dr Christine Catling
Dr Christine Catling, a midwife for over 25 years, is the Director of Midwifery Studies at UTS. She believes research, innovation and good quality midwifery are pivotal to the well-being of mothers and young families. Christine has extensive experience in antenatal education, policy development and research, and has published on workforce issues, homebirth, vaginal birth...
Updated on Jun 14, 2024 · 3 mins read

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These days more than ever we understand the need to know exactly what is in the products we are putting in and on our bodies. And this is never more important than when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Whether you were into natural skincare before you fell pregnant or not, when you do, you need to be aware of not only what you are putting into your body like food, alcohol and drugs, but also what you are putting on it.

Some chemicals found in common beauty products may be harmful to your baby and should best be avoided wherever possible. A lot of these chemicals can also often come under different names, or different variations (which can be very confusing!) so here is a list of some of the most common ones to watch out for but if you are unsure if a product is safe always speak with your doctor or contact the company directly.


Most commonly used in the treatment of acne and anti-ageing. Oral retinoids are known to cause birth defects and must be avoided, while topical versions are generally considered safer doctors still recommend avoiding them due to the lack of research on their effects.

Vitamin A

Studies have also shown that taking high doses of Vitamin A can have harmful effects on the baby and are also best avoided – they also recommend avoiding topical versions to be safe.


Commonly used in acne treatments or medications.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Commonly used in acne treatments and may be found in face wash, lotions and serums.


Often found in skin lightening treatments.


Commonly found in perfumes and nail polish (and also some plastics).



Commonly found in personal care products made for adults as well as hair straightening treatments, nail polish, eyelash glue, even some mascaras.

Salicylic Acid

Again this is generally considered less risky when applied topically during pregnancy (than taking orally which is unsafe) however it is best avoided where possible. It is commonly used in treating acne and is found in face cleansers, treatments and serums.


Often found in nail polish – also avoid any with methylbenzene, toluol or antisal 1a on its ingredient label.


Found in many hair dye formulas – always let your hairdresser know you are pregnant in case they need to change any of the products they are using on you.


Found in shampoo and conditioners as well as body wash.


An ingredient found in many spray self-tanners, and when applied topically this is generally considered safe, however, it should not be ingested which is why doctors recommend avoiding spray tans in favour of lotions or creams. This is often listed on ingredient labels as DHA.

Thioglycolic acid

Used in hair removal creams and is also listed on ingredient labels acetyl mercaptan, mercaptoacetate, mercaptoacetic acid and thiovanic acid.

Botulinim toxin

Yep, good old Botox is a definite no-no.


Found in chemical sunscreens (also look out for Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, oxtinoxate, menthyl anthranilate and oxtocrylene). Instead, opt for a physical sunscreen that uses zinc or titanium oxide as the active ingredient and acts as a physical barrier rather than getting absorbed into the skin.

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