These are the serums, moisturisers and SPFs recommended by experts that are safe to use in pregnancy
People always say you have a glow about you when you’re pregnant but for many it can be a troublesome time for your skin.
“Pregnancy can be a time of skin sensitivity thanks to increased hormones, causing you to react to products you have previously been totally OK with,” says facialist Abigail James.
Increased blood circulation can cause what's delicately known as 'flushing' and the hormonal maelstrom can result in everything from sensitivity, to oiliness, brown spots and breakouts.
You may never have had an issue with pigmentation, however in pregnancy the body produces more melanin, “especially on the forehead and cheeks,” says Dr Shahzadi Harper, of the Harper Clinic in London women’s wellness doctor at ZoomClinic.
Pregnancy may also cause you to age quicker, as Dr Sophie Shotter points out: "Some women notice they age more rapidly during pregnancy and that's because when we're nourishing a baby we're feeding it instead of ourselves. Our skin and hair are the last bit of our own bodies we nourish, so when we're feeding a baby and all of our vital organs, our skin and hair are at the very bottom of the list so we can notice accelerated ageing compared to normal."
It’s not just your face than can feel the effects of growing a little one. As well as developing stretch marks on the body while skin grows rapidly, the skin on your bump can feel itchy. “An increase of oestrogen causes sensitivity and itching and changes the natural moisture balance and elasticity of the skin, especially across a rapidly expanding tummy,” says Lucy Mitchell, head of brand for pregnancy skincare Mama Mio.
Which skincare ingredients should I avoid in pregnancy?
As Abigail mentions, skincare that you’ve been using for years can suddenly cause adverse reactions – you'll probably find yourself gravitating towards skincare for sensitive skin – and some ingredients need to be swapped out altogether.
Retinol and rotinoids are something to be avoided in pregnancy and breast feeding. “Vitamin A (retinol) is essential for so many aspects of health, but it’s excessive vitamin A which can have a toxic effect,” says Abigail. “I have never come across any studies that showed shop-purchased vitamin A have caused any issues, it’s more related to prescription topicals and orals such as Roaccutane. But as a precaution the industry adheres to no retinol during pregnancy.”
If you want to err on the safe side but still want those rejuvenating and anti-acne effects, bakuchiol is known as a natural alternative to retinol and is safe for use in pregnancy.
Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are common acne and spot treating ingredients, which if you’re experiencing pregnancy-based breakouts you might want to reach for, but there’s some debate about whether these common acne-fighters are safe.
"Topical salicylic acid in concentrations of less than two per cent (such as those found in over the counter cosmetics) are unlikely to pose any risk but stronger doses such as those found in chemical peels should be avoided," advises GP Dr Johanna Ward . "Most doctors will assess each case individually and decide how to move forward during pregnancy. The safest thing to do if there is any doubt is to consult your doctor."
Which acids can you use on your skin during pregnancy?
Gentle acids such as polyhydroxy acids are safe to use when you're pregnant, Dr Sophie Shotter advises. "LED treatments are fine too because they don't put anything into the skin but they help keep your collagen stimulated.
Lastly, if you’ve picked up a CBD skincare habit, it might be time to put away the oils and tinctures while you’ve got a baby on the way. There’s no concrete research yet as it’s a relatively new ingredient, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy should not use marijuana or any of its byproducts, including CBD is it can cause smaller birthweight.
The best cleansers to use in pregnancy
Cerave Hydrating Cleanser, £7.10 236ml
“This is a good all-round, gentle, won’t irritate the skin cream cleanser that also won’t break the bank and is suitable for all skin types,” says Abigail.
La Roche Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser, £8.33 for 200ml
Dr Sam Bunting recommends using this cleanser during pregnancy. It provides relief for irritated and uncomfortable skin and is suitable for sensitive types too.
Best serums to use in pregnancy
Is Clinical Hydracool Serum, £50 for 15ml
“This hydrates and helps balance the skin,” Abigail says. “It contains lots of antioxidants but won’t make you flush. It’s great for all skin types morning and night, on its own or over the top of other serums. Kojic acid also gives a little support for pigmentation issues.”
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum, £175 for 30ml
Loved by Gwyneth Paltrow, using this serum feels like a self-care ritual; it’s full of natural skin-boosting actives that are great to use during pregnancy.
The best sun cream for pregnancy
Osmosis Protect SPF30, £38.50 for 50ml
If you want to help prevent pigmentation, SPF is a must. While sun cream it won't prevent hormonally related pigmentation, it can stop the sun making it worse. “This is a mineral sunscreen, so contains no controversial chemical sunscreen and has a matte finish so if you’re hot, sweaty or breaking out it’s a great option,” Abigail says.
Best acne treatment for pregnancy
Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight, £80 for 50ml
Dr Justine Kluk, a dermatologist who has suffered from acne since the age of 12, tells us she switched from retinol to this product in pregnancy, applying a pea-sized amount to her face, avoiding the area directly around the eyes, and another pea-sized amount to her neck and chest. "Glycolic acid brightens and smooths my skin and helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles," she says.
Best moisturisers for pregnancy
Kate Somerville DeliKate SOS Recovery Cream, £69 for 50ml
This purple pot of wonder especially designed for sensitive skin is relatively rich and unfragranced, contains soothing peptides and ceramides to rebuild the skin barrier and reduce visible redness, which many women experience during pregnancy. The DeliKate range includes a cleanser and serum too.
Therapi Rose Otto Honey moisturiser, £40 for 50ml
“This is lovely, really pure in the ingredients, nourishing and calming,” says Abigail
Philosophy Renewed Hope in a Jar Water Cream, £35.50 for 60ml
“This is amazing for extra hydration without heaviness, it’s got a really unique water texture,” Abigail says
Avene Thermal Spring Water, £13 for 300ml
If you’re suffering in the heat (summer pregnancies, we see you!) this is a great cool down product to keep on hand, recommends Abigail.
The best body moisturisers for pregnancy
Weleda Skin Food, £12.95 for 75ml
"Weleda has some lovely natural moisturisers, some with rich textures if you're dry, such as their skin food," says Abigail.
Science of Skin Stretch Mark Defence, £24.99 for 150ml
“When your bump is itchy it’s important to apply moisturising products and ointments to help soothe the skin, but to avoid those containing perfumes or fragrances as these could increase the itching,” warns Emma Blackman, CEO of Science of Skin. This hydrating oil-moisturiser comes with a spray applicator to negate the need to contort your body to access the hard to reach places. It contains nourishing ingredients such as green tea, vitamin E and plant extracts to help improve elasticity while easing the signs and symptoms of stretching skin such as dryness, tightness and itchiness.
Mama Mio Tummy Rub Butter, £35 for 240ml
Soothe itchy tummy with the medley of argan oil, avocado oil, vitamin E and shea butter. “Omega-rich products such as this should be used as soon as itching starts to occur to have the best possible chance at preventing or mitigating any developing stretch marks,” says Lucy.
Hatch Mama Belly Oil, £58 for 195ml
Celebrity trainer Simone De la Rue sings the praises of this stylish-looking oil and we're inclined to agree. It's a quick-dry botanical oil that hydrates the skin and reduces the appearance of scars and stretchmarks. It was created with mums-to-be in mind as it supports the skin as it stretches during pregnancy and is easily absorbed so you can get dressed right after you've applied.