Your pregnancy-safe skincare routine: What to avoid

By making a few simple changes to your existing routine and avoiding a few skincare ingredients, nailing your skincare for pregnancy is easy.

Written by
Kaitlyn Wilson
Medically reviewed by
min read
Table of contents

Pregnancy brings about many changes for the person who is carrying the baby and this includes the skincare you can use.

And, pregnancy can be a time when your skin begins to act up.

From hormonal acne to breakouts and clogged pores, stretch marks, dark spots, sensitive skin and eczema, pregnancy hormones can cause some serious skin concerns.

But, by making a few simple changes to your existing routine and avoiding a few skincare ingredients, nailing your skincare for pregnancy is easy.

So, to take the guesswork out of it, we've detailed everything you need to avoid putting on your skin while pregnant as well as the ingredients that are safe to use.

Let's dive in!

Why do you need to change skincare products when pregnant?

What you put on your body during pregnancy is equally as important as what you put in it, but why?

There are a number of reasons why pregnant people need to rethink their skincare choices.

While you might think these changes need to be made due to changes in your skin caused by pregnancy, the real reason is that some skincare ingredients - included in both over-the-counter and prescription products - aren't 100 per cent safe for your unborn baby.

Before you go emptying your bathroom cupboards of all your favourite skincare products, let's talk about the ingredients that are safe and which aren't when it comes to pregnancy skincare.

In short, harsh chemicals that can be absorbed into your skin and certain essential oils should be avoided, whereas ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin E, glycolic acid, and other natural vitamin products are all approved for your pregnancy-safe skincare routine.

Skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy

Before we talk about how to treat your pregnancy skin conditions, let's chat about what skincare ingredients pregnant people should avoid and why.

Retinols, retinoids and any vitamin A products

While it is hailed as a hero of the skincare world thanks to its ability to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin texture, it's best to avoid retinol, retinoids and any vitamin A products during pregnancy.

While vitamin A isn't inherently harmful to the foetus, high doses of it can cause birth defects and liver toxicity — even when applied topically to the skin.

The use of synthetic vitamin A can also cause premature delivery or miscarriages in some circumstances.

And, it has also been proven that retinol and retinoids can be passed onto the baby while breastfeeding, so it's best to avoid these products during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

It's recommended that you stop using retinol or retinoids while trying to conceive and wait until you've finished breastfeeding before recommencing use.

Thankfully, you can still use vitamin C products during pregnancy. Software's Vitamin C + Ferulic Serum provides skin-firming benefits while also reducing the appearance of fine lines.

Salicylic acid

Found in many topical acne treatments, the effects of salicylic acid on a developing baby aren't really known.

What is known is that oral salicylic acid is a no-go during pregnancy and, while some experts say over-the-counter topical salicylic products are fine, others aren't so sure.

In this case, it's best to err on the side of caution and you might want to consider shelving your salicylic acid products for the moment and chatting to your doctor about it.


You might not be as familiar with hydroquinone as you are with other common skincare ingredients, but it is definitely one to be aware of if you're growing a tiny human.

Hydroquinone is a skin lightening agent that is used to treat hyperpigmentation and, while it's super effective at doing this, the expert recommendation is to avoid it while pregnant.

Essential oils

The data on whether or not certain essential oils are safe during pregnancy is still pretty lacking, which is why many experts recommend avoiding essentials oil while pregnant.

The issue with oils is that they can be absorbed by the body and have the potential to reach your baby.

If you do want to use essential oils during pregnancy, be sure to check in with your doctor first and don't use any oils in the first trimester when your baby is in its early development stage.

How to treat hyperpigmentation during pregnancy

Hyperpigmentation, scientifically referred to as chloasma, is an extremely common skin concern among pregnant women.

This is because the cells that distribute pigmentation, such as estrogen, progesterone and melanocyte-stimulating hormones, get a serious boost during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

While this is completely normal, it can cause dark spots or hyperpigmentation to form on the skin and it's completely understandable if this is something you want to treat.

And, if you weren't pregnant, hydroquinone would be the recommended course of action to treat hyperpigmentation, so what's the pregnancy-safe alternative?

Thankfully, there is a hyperpigmentation-fighting ingredient called azelaic acid that is safe for pregnancy.

Azelaic acid helps fight hyperpigmentation that can occur in pregnancy or is caused by scarring or stretch marks by reducing inflammation and discolouration.

Software's personalised pigmentation treatment harnesses the magic of azelaic acid to help treat dark spots that pop up during pregnancy.

Simply complete our text-based quiz and upload a few selfies of your skin and our local Software doctors will create a formula just for you.

Be sure to inform the doctor that you're pregnant so your cream is customised for your individual needs and is 100 per cent pregnancy safe.

Treating dry skin during pregnancy

Dry skin is extremely common among pregnant women; it is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy skin.

Dehydrated skin can be quite distressing and uncomfortable, not to mention it can mess with your skin barrier, which, as we know, can cause acne and all sorts of other skin conditions.

So, it's best to get on top of it in the first trimester. Thankfully, treating dry skin in a way that is effective and safe is simple for a pregnant person.

A lightweight but deeply hydrating moisturiser will be your best friend when it comes to fighting pregnancy-related dehydration on your face.

Our Ceramide Repair Balm hydrates and moisturises skin while also helping to restore your skin barrier and soothes irritation and redness.

It's also non-comedogenic, so it won't clog your pores or lead to breakouts. It's the perfect product to quench dry skin.

If you're after a more comprehensive hydrating skincare routine, The Software System offers a three-step pregnancy-safe skincare routine that will leave your skin soft and supple.

The Cleanser removes makeup, dirt and oils from the skin, while also injecting hydrating. The Software Moisturiser is a non-comedogenic, lightweight formula that hydrates and nourishes the skin.

Rounding out the trio is the Solar Fluid — an SPF50 formula that is designed to hydrate and soothe angry skin, all while protecting you from harmful UV rays.

All of these products in The Software System can be easily slotted into your skincare routine and are pregnancy-safe.

How to treat acne during pregnancy?

While you might have thought that reaching adulthood meant no more acne, we know that isn't the case.

And, pregnancy can bring about its own set of breakouts thanks to fluctuating hormones that can cause an increase of oil produced in your skin.

But, it is possible to treat acne during pregnancy, even when you can't use acne-fighting ingredients like retinoids.

When you take into account how different everyone's skin is and how pregnancy can affect it in different ways, your best bet to treat pregnancy-related acne is with a customised formula.

Azelaic acid, which we know is a star for treating pigmentation, is also great for acne. In fact, azelaic acid helps reduce active acne while also clearing up redness and inflammation.

And, it also keeps acne bacteria at bay to prevent future breakouts.

While it doesn't reduce the production of oil, as retinoids do, azelaic acid actually kills the bacteria that reproduce within the oil on your skin, helping to reduce inflamed breakouts and work to prevent more acne from popping up.

Software's personalised acne treatment can include azelaic acid to target your breakouts in a way that is safe for your pregnancy.

Simply let the Software doctor know that you're pregnant and they'll be able to create a formula that targets acne-causing bacteria and is pregnancy safe.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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