Which skincare products are essential to use in pregnancy?

Dear Dr. Irwin, Your site has some great information on product safety during pregnancy. I'm wondering if you could write about what products you SHOULD use, (as opposed to what products you *can* use). You've previously emphasized a high zinc sunscreen. Would you recommend also using alpha hydroxy acids, non-hydroquinone lightening products, cream to prevent stretch marks...? Thank you!

Good point!! Pregnancy skin care is not just about don’ts. There are some good dos to consider. Here’s my vote on the skin care products you mention, with the reasoning behind them.

  1. The Best Sunscreen. A high zinc sunscreen like the Dermaquest  (18% zinc) tinted or untinted on face, neck, chest, etc daily. WHY? Because pregnancy hormones predispose everyone, especially those with summer pregnancies or high sun climates, to melasma. Melasma is that dark irregular blotchy pigment that occurs on the face of pregnant women and sometimes other areas. IT IS A PAIN TO GET RID OF THIS! And sometimes is permanent. Prevention is a much better option.  High zinc sunscreens daily and a hat really help.
  2. A Good AntioxidantPick one with high Vitamin C – like 10-20% or Vitamin C with other antioxidants.  WHY?  These help keep skin clear, protect skin cell DNA, and help prevent melasma also.
  3. A Glycolic acidWHY? Because glycolic is  made from sugar cane and very safe in pregnancy. It helps to unclog pores, keep skin smooth and skin looking glowy. Don’t overuse because you can thin the dead layer (stratum corneum) too much which can cause irritation and make you more sun sensitive. 10% or lower is good for most. Consider going higher if you have super oily skin or acne.  Body – you can use this on dry or rough body skin too!
  4. Plant Based Skin Lightners.  These usually have 3-6 plant derived compounds in them. WHY?    They are better than nothing for sure but not as effective as the hydroquinones which are NOT  safe in pregnancy. They may help prevent pigment problems.
  5. Stretch MarksThe truth is that stretch marks are mostly hereditary and then related to the amount and speed of weight gain. There is no cream that I know of that reliably prevents stretch marks. The option is to keep your weight gain in the healthy range that your doctor advises for you and keep your skin lubed well with lotion. These two organic ones are great – one a lotion and one an oil – but look at your local coop also for organic options.

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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