Safe anti-aging products during pregnancy and breast feeding

Hi Dr. Irwin- I was wondering if you could post something about safe anti-aging products for pregnancy and/or breastfeeding years. It seems to me that I haven't been able to do anything beyond moisturize and apply daily sunscreen the past few years (when I've either been pregnant or breastfeeding). I think many women encounter the same thing. Hope you can address this at some point. Best, Nicole

I’m glad you asked this! All of us during pregnancy and breastfeeding years are trying to be careful about what we put in or on our bodies. That’s great. And, we want to feel confident that if a birth defect does occur that we didn’t contribute to it.

Birth defects, mostly minor, do occur and many of us have children with small or large defects. This is actually very common! I’m saying this only because I don’t want you to feel alone in your concerns, or to blame yourself if one does occur. These have been occurring as long as humans, and other animals, have been present on earth. We just want to do the best we can to prevent them.

Here are some things to think about!

Learn to read labels a little:

  • For skincare products and for food.  Why? Literally in 15 seconds you can look at a skincare label or a food label and tell if it had a long list of chemicals and artificial stuff in it.
  • Long labels are usually a sign of more chemicals but not always.
  • Don’t be fooled if the 1/4 of the ingredients look natural and the rest are chemical names you can’t pronounce.
  • If you can’t pronounce it, it probably isn’t good for you.
  • Ingredients have to be listed by law from the most to the least. This just means there is more of the ingredients at the top of the list. A preservative at the very bottom of the list is of less concern than one near the top.

Tried and true anti-aging products that are safe during pregnancy:

  • Vitamins in skincare products are safe, except for Vitamin A (see below).
  • It’s nice to use skincare products during this time that are organic, or at least labelled natural.  “Natural” does not mean organic, so it helps to read the labels. They can be quite misleading.
  • Glycolics are safe because they are made from sugar cane.
  • Plant based lightening creams are considered safe in recommended amounts. Just don’t slather these all over your whole body.
  • Sunscreens are safe in recommended amounts. You might want to ask your OB if they recommend one. Zinc is usually better than the chemical versions. Again, amount matters! A little on your face and neck. For the first 3-4 months of pregnancy, consider just using protective clothing on your body instead of sunscreen.
  • Remember that the first 3-4  months of pregnancy is when the organs are all forming, and the period of time you want to be especially careful!

Skincare products NOT safe during pregnancy:

  • Even though there are tiny amounts in skincare products, in general, your OB does NOT want you to supplement with Vitamin A. Talk to your OB about this issue. This includes Retin A, tretinoin, Differin, retinols, etc. These go under a lot of different names so ask your doctor, if not sure.
  • Avoid beta-hydroxy acid skincare products like those containing salicylic acid, which is related to aspirin.
  • Any hydroquinone product whether it’s 2% non prescription or 4% prescription.
  • Skincare products with long, unprounceable chemical names, especially if you are using them on a large area of your body.


The main to think about is that your baby is getting the most breast milk in the first 4 months or so.  Usually once solid food starts, babies are getting less breast milk, and your baby is  bigger. After 3-4 months, most women can relax a bit about the above.

Hope this helps, Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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