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These powerful substances, found in some antiaging moisturizers, are lauded for helping reduce wrinkles and improve skin tone. Retinoids are a type of vitamin A that speeds up cell division (quickening your skin’s renewal) and prevent skin collagen from breaking down.
But retinoids are one of the skin-care ingredients that experts, including Baumann, recommend that expectant moms stay away from. Some studies have shown that high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy can be harmful to an unborn child. And oral retinoids, such as isotretinoin (Accutane, an acne treatment), are known to cause birth defects.
If you’ve been using a skin cream that contains a retinoid, don’t panic. Retinoids have not been shown to cause problems in their topical form in pregnant women.
“There is no data to show these retinoids ingredients are harmful when used on the skin — doctors are just being extra cautious,” explains Baumann.
On the label:
Retin-A, Renova (tretinoin)
Tazorac and avage (Tazarotene)
Best to avoid
This mild acid is used to treat certain skin disorders, including acne, and you can find it in a number of skin products, such as cleansers and toners. It can penetrate facial oils to get deep into pores and clean out dead skin cells. Salicylic acid is in the aspirin family, so it can also help reduce inflammation or redness. BHA, or beta hydroxy acid, is a form of salicylic acid and is used in some topical exfoliants to reverse signs of aging.
But salicylic acid is another no-no for pregnant women. High doses of the acid in its oral form have been shown in studies to cause birth defects and various pregnancy complications.
Again, doctors are being cautious by recommending that pregnant women avoid the topical use of salicylic acid. Small amounts applied to the skin — such as a salicylic acid-containing toner used once or twice a day — are considered safe, says Johnson.
But the concern is stronger about face and body peels containing salicylic acid. “This kind of ‘soaking’ in the ingredient is similar to taking one or more aspirin when pregnant,” she explains.
“More product used equals more absorption into the bloodstream,” adds Baumann. Always check with your doctor before having a peel treatment. Better yet, she advises, if you must have a peel, have it done professionally at your dermatologist’s office. A dermatologist will know how to do it safely during pregnancy.
On the label:
Beta hydroxy acid
Note: Alpha hydroxy acids, sometimes listed as AHAs, glycolic acid, or lactic acid, are safe.
Best to avoid