Make-up and skincare in pregnancy - dos and don'ts

skincare pregnancy

Still waiting on that fabled pregnancy glow? Welcome to the club. Pregnancy hormones can affect every part of your body, and your face is no exception. Whether you obsess over the latest beauty trends or you're simply trying to cope with unpredictable skin changes, here's some advice on the products to use – and which ones to avoid – when you're pregnant.

How can pregnancy affect my skin?

The sudden influx of hormones that land on your metaphorical doorstep during pregnancy can affect you in a multitude of ways. How your body reacts will vary, but you're likely to start noticing changes to your skin during your first trimester. Hormones will potentially make your skin blotchy, spotty, oily or dried out and can alter your usual skin 'type'.

You might also experience a change in your skin's sensitivity or pigmentation, which can lead to dark patches – known as chloasma – as the body produces more melanin. The good news is these dark patches should fade after you give birth.

My skin responds completely differently to products now – I found that my usual moisturiser with a hint of tanning lotion suddenly turned me bright orange!

In addition, as your skin stretches to accommodate your growing bump throughout pregnancy, you might develop stretch marks and/or broken veins – both of which are unsightly and sometimes uncomfortable, but generally harmless.

However, if you develop a rash, very itchy skin or blisters, it's worth speaking to your doctor or midwife, as this can be a sign of a condition called cholestasis which needs checking out.

If you're used to following a specific skincare regime, you might find you need to reassess the products you use. While you'd be forgiven for being too knackered to bother with anything more than a splash of water, if you're a die-hard fan of fancy potions and lotions, this might be a hard pill to swallow.

Which skincare/make-up products should I avoid in pregnancy?

The good news is, a lot of make-up and skincare is completely safe to use in pregnancy. That said, it's important to check what's in your products and read the advice on the packaging. In particular, do avoid anything containing the following ingredients.


A form of Vitamin A, retinoids speed up cell production and are quite trendy at the moment. They're found in many anti-ageing creams and serums, so do check the packaging before using.

Ingesting high doses of Vitamin A has been found to cause birth defects – but if you've been slathering yourself with a retinol moisturiser without realising, try not to panic too much. Whilst no conclusive research has been done about the impact of Vitamin A-based skincare during pregnancy, it's a precaution worth taking from now on.

Hydroxy acids facial peel

Hydroxy acids such as beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) are often used to treat skin complaints and are found in various cleansers, toners, and exfoliants. Salicylic acid is the most come BHA, and the only one that's been studied during pregnancy, but you may also find glycolic acid and lactic acid (both AHAs) in your makeup bag.

As with retinoids, high doses of salicylic acid ingested orally during pregnancy have been linked to birth defects, but as the amount of BHA absorbed through topical application is much lower, it is not considered to be such a risk. Still, it's best to avoid products containing BHAs and AHAs where possible, or only use them in small amounts.

Facial/body peels

If you're a fan of a peel treatment, you should be sure to check the ingredients before having one during pregnancy, as many contain salicylic acid. If you are at all concerned, it's best to check with your doctor before going ahead.


How can I treat pregnancy skin problems?

Everyone's skin is different, so it's always best to speak to your doctor or dermatologist, or even a helpful assistant at your beauty counter of choice, for personalised advice. They will be able to assess your skin properly and suggest products that could work which are also safe to use during pregnancy.

If you need somewhere to start, here's what you should be looking for if you're dealing with any of the following skin complaints.

Dry skin

You'll want to find a good moisturiser to combat the dreaded pregnancy dry skin – it's one of the most common complaints women face when expecting.

Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and moisturise after you shower/bathe as this is when your pores are most open and able to absorb the moisturiser.

Avoid steam treatments, as they can strip your body of its natural oils and dry you out even further, but do feel free to indulge in a moisturising mask if you like.

You may also find that using a humidifier in the room where you sleep can help, and as a bonus, the white noise might soothe your pregnancy insomnia.

Oily skin

If you find you're suffering with oily skin, try to avoid oil-based make-up and moisturisers, which can make the problem worse. You'll find that the best thing you can do to combat oil is wash regularly, using a plain soap and cleanser that is free from beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) and salicylic acid.

I have found in both my pregnancies that I was both dryer and greasier, causing spots. A facial oil has really helped.

You should also keep hydrated, and eat a balanced diet that is low in saturated fats – and make sure you're getting enough Vitamin B2, as this can help control the amount of oil your body produces.

Blotchy skin

A tinted moisturiser, BB or CC cream can help even out your skin tone without the need for layers of concealer and foundation.


Many anti-acne products contain Salicylic acid and Benzoyl peroxide, which are best avoided during pregnancy, so speak to your doctor before you use anything. They will be able to recommend a product that is safe for pregnant women and still helpful in tackling any pesky hormonal spots.

On the non-medical front, ensure you're getting plenty of water and sleep (easier said than done) as tiredness and stress can lead to spots, as can an unhealthy diet.

Sensitive skin

The best thing you can do for sensitive skin is use unperfumed, plain products that are specifically designed to be kind to skin, and avoid using harsh chemicals, perfumes or heavy make-up, so your skin has room to breathe.

On the plus side, the quickest beauty routine is one that doesn't exist. But if you love your make-up and can't imagine going without it, you could try products designed for sensitive skin, or mineral-based makeup that is designed to sit on top of the skin rather than be absorbed into it.

Staying safe in the sun

Don't be fooled by the UK's cool climate – UV rays can penetrate cloud clover, and you might find yourself exposed to the sun without realising it. The increase in your body's melanin production during pregnancy helps combat the UV rays you're exposed to, but if you spend a lot of time outside you might notice dark patches developing and your skin can feel more sensitive.

It's best to protect yourself (and your bump) with a suncream that's at least SPF 15, particularly if you're somewhere a bit more tropical than the UK. Additionally, you might like to check out our tips for keeping cool when you're pregnant.