pregnancy skin care

How To Choose a Pregnancy Safe Facial Cleanser?

Finding out you are pregnant is a joy to many people. A whole range of emotions and hormonal changes can accompany pregnancy and with these changes comes skin outbreaks and changes. Most women will have to change facial cleansers in order to accommodate these changes. 

What are the things you, as a pregnant woman, should know? Do you know how to choose a facial cleanser that is not just good for your face but safe for your body too? 

This article will tell you all you need to know about pregnancy safe facial cleansers. 

What are some common skin changes during pregnancy?

Due to the changes in your hormones and blood flow during pregnancy, a number of changes to your skin are very common.

safe facial cleaser for pregnancy

Some of the changes to your skin include:-

Acne

Many women have acne during pregnancy. If you tend to have acne already, it may flare up even more.  This is caused by the extra hormones in your body which cause your oil glands to secrete more oil, which can cause breakouts. 

Pigmentation

The area around your nipples, inner thighs and neck may darken due to hormonal changes. You may also notice a dark line from your navel to your public bone. This line is called the linea nigra. Dark patches might also develop on your face (chlosma). 

Stretch marks

Stretch marks are indented streaks that may appear on your abdomen, breasts, hips, buttocks and thighs. These marks are caused by the stretching of the skin and although many products claim to be able to prevent or treat it, the products will not remove stretch marks completely. 

Varicose veins 

Varicose veins are enlarged veins in your legs. This is caused by your uterus exerting greater pressure on these veins. 

Usually, this condition improves three to twelve months after birth without any extra medical treatment.

Dry skin and itchiness 

Dry skin is common in expectant mothers. It is due to hormone changes that cause the skin to lose its elasticity and moisture. Symptoms of dry skin include itchiness and flaky skin. 

While most women experience dry and itchy skin around the stomach area, you may also feel it in other areas such as the face, neck, etc.

Face care during pregnancy

In order to avoid breakouts on your face and keep in glowing, you should stick to a strict cleansing routine. 

Clean your face every night and every morning. Take note that washing your face more than this may cause more problems as your skin becomes dry. 

Always use lukewarm water and a mild cleanser. Choosing your face cleanser carefully can make a lot of difference. 

Apply a toner, sunscreen (during the day) or a serum (during the night) and a moisturizer that fits your skin type. You can then apply an eye cream if needed. 

Yes, your whole world changes when you find out you’re pregnant and this includes your skincare routine. It’s all about finding the best products for your skin and for this time in life. 

Skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy

Most experts prefer to err on the side of caution. There is a list, although not all proven, of chemicals to avoid during pregnancy in order for you and your baby to grow healthily. This includes:-

1. Retinoids 

Some anti-ageing skincare products use a type of retinol called retinoids. This ingredient can help reverse acne and reduce fine lines by helping surface-level skin cells exfoliate faster and boost collagen production. 

Vitamin A is a crucial nutrient for optimal skin. Once consumed or absorbed via the skin, your body converts it to retinol. Although the amount of retinoids absorbed by topical products is likely quite low, birth defects have been linked to high doses of retinoids. 

Therefore, all retinoids are advised against during pregnancy. 

2. Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is commonly used to treat acne. However, products that have a high dose of salicylic acid should be avoided when pregnant. Do not go for facial peels during pregnancy because peels usually contain high doses of this ingredient. 

3. Tetracycline

Tetracycline is an antibiotic acne treatment. Avoid this ingredient as it has been shown to cross the placenta. It may stain a baby’s teeth and impair skeletal growth. 

It should also be avoided post-partum if you’re nursing as it can be excreted into breast milk. 

4. Hydroquinone

Our body can absorb a significant amount of hydroquinone compared to other ingredients. Although there is no proven link between severe congenital defects of your child and side effects of hydroquinone, it is best to limit exposure during pregnancy. 

Usually, hydroquinone is used as a prescription to lighten skin and reduce pigmentation. 

5. Phthalates

This ingredient is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that is found in many beauty products. The top source of exposure to phthalate exposure usually comes from cosmetics. Commonly, the phthalate, diethylphtalate (DEP), is present in facial products so please read the label on your products before application.

Serious reproductive and hormone dysfunction has been linked to phthalate exposure. 

6. Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone is the most commonly used ultraviolet filter in sunscreens. It is proven effective for skin protection but it is also known as an endocrine-disruptor. 

This could disrupt hormones and cause permanent damage to you and your baby. A study in 2018 on animals concluded that oxybenzone exposure during pregnancy would permanently change to mammary glands and lactation.

Another study linked this chemical to permanent fetal damage and possible neurological conditions in adulthood such as Alzheimer’s. 

So avoid this chemical at all costs!

7. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a chemical that is found in some cosmetics, nail polish, facial wash and hair-straightening products. One of the reasons it is used is because it’s a great preservative. While many brands that once used this chemical have stopped doing so, there are manufacturers out there who have not. 

Although a small amount of formaldehyde is quickly broken down by the body, it’s best not to take the adverse side effect of it lightly. This chemical has been linked to spontaneous abortion, premature birth as well as congenital malformations. 

Ensure that your facial wash and cosmetics do not contain formaldehyde, or its liquid form – formalin. 

8. Strong and artificial scents

Artificial scents are made from chemicals that might be harmful to your or your baby’s health. They can cause changes to the hormones in your body, causing nausea and other unpleasant side effects. 

Additionally, some women have a heightened sense of smell during pregnancy and this can cause some discomfort. Chemicals used to make artificial scents can also cause a reaction especially if you have sensitive skin.

Skincare ingredients that are safe during pregnancy

So which chemicals are safe? You can substitute the above harmful chemicals with a safer option for any skin problem you have. 

You don’t have to worry about these chemicals:-

1. Glycolic acid 

Although glycolic acid is not recommended in large amounts, it is likely safe in small amounts that are found in cosmetics. 

It can help with reducing fine lines and wrinkles, brightening skin and reducing pigmentation. 

Similar acids such as azelaic acid are also safe to be used as a treatment for acne during pregnancy. 

2. Topical antioxidants 

Vitamin C, B3, E and K are safe to be used as a topical antioxidant. They boost the immune system and ward off free radicals in your body thus keeping your skin healthy. 

These vitamins are also antioxidants that protect your skin from damage and maintain collagen in your skin.

Look out for these in your skin care products. 

3. Moisturizing products

To prevent stretch marks, drinking water and staying hydrated is key to the prevention. Moisturizing products such as coconut oil, cocoa butter, peptides and hyaluronic acid (HA) can improve your skin’s hydration. 

These ingredients can be found in most beauty products and are safe to use.  

Frequently applying it on stretch marks prone zones can help the skin stretch naturally as your baby grows, thus reducing stretch marks. 

4. Grapeseed oil

This oil is often found in face serums and body oils. You can use it topically during pregnancy but should not take it in high doses. Therefore, do not take grapeseed oil supplements. 

5. Titanium dioxide

Titanium dioxide is a primary active ingredient in many mineral sunscreens. 

It sits on the surface of the skin and deflects damaging UV rays. This is a good choice for pregnant women as the skin does not absorb this ingredient, leaving no space for any harm to come to the baby. 

6. Zinc oxide

This is also another active ingredient in mineral sunscreens. It is also found in many mineral cosmetics. It works like titanium dioxide whereby it sits on the skin and is not absorbed.

7. Amino acid cleansing agents

Amino acids are needed to help in producing collagen. 45% of our skin’s natural moisturizing factors are made up of amino acids and thus, makes them a natural and compatible moisturizer for our skin. It also helps to maintain our skin’s natural pH. Amino acids are natural, mild and gentle ingredients that you need not worry about. 

8. Essential oils

Natural essential oils such as lavender essential oil and sweet orange essential oils can help to lift one’s mood and relieve stress and anxiety. These natural calming oils are not only soothing for your emotions but also have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and wound healing properties. 

9. Olive Oil Saponins

Olive oil saponins are good for your skin as they have fatty acid content that is very alike to those found in your skin’s natural oils. It is also an ingredient that nourishes and protects skin as well as optimizes skin cleansing efficacy.

How to check that your facial cleanser is safe?

With so many changes happening to your body during pregnancy, the safety of your face cleanser might be the last thing on your mind. 

Nevertheless, it is important to avoid chemicals that might cause harm to you and your baby. Here’s how you can make sure that your face cleanser and other cosmetic products are safe for you. 

  • Try to remember the top offenders that you should avoid.
  • Read up on why non-toxic products are important.
  • Ignore the marketing tactics.
  • Look at the list of ingredients.
  • If unsure of ingredients, look it up.

Following are the symptoms that your face cleanser might not be safe or suited for you:

  • You experience intense burning or stinging sensations when you use the product for the first time
  • You experience slight burning or stinging when you use a product you’ve used before
  • Your skin is dry, flaking and/or peeling.
  • You have a rash or blisters on areas you used the product on.
  • You experience sudden pigmentation changes.
  • Your skin is red and irritated.
  • Your skin is itchy.

Additionally, you can also look out for the following on the product description to ensure that what you are using is safe:

  • Colorant free
  • Paraben free
  • Sulfate free
  • Pregnancy safe
  • No harsh chemicals
  • No synthetic fragrances

What is an ideal face cleanser during pregnancy?

Always double-check the ingredients before buying a facial cleanser, especially when you are pregnant. Ensure that none of the ingredients listed poses a threat to the developing fetus. 

Ideally, a facial cleanser during pregnancy should protect and moisturize your skin as well as be gentle on it. 

Wherever possible, find a cleanser that does not need you to use a separate makeup remover as exposure to a makeup remover may cause more exposure to unwanted or harmful chemicals. Yet it has to clean your face thoroughly of the dirt and pollutants in the air. 

As you await the birth of your child, try using a fragrance free cleanser. This is because unwanted fragrances can dry out the skin. 

Of course, you would want an ideal facial cleanser to improve your skin’s radiance and brightness due to the potential pigmentation of your skin. 

Acid Amino Cleansing Mousse

We find one such cleanser that has all these benefits in the Recherche’s Amino Acid Cleansing Mousse. A plus point for this cleanser is that it does away with harsh chemicals and are replaced with skin-friendly cleansing agents derived from amino acids. 

Amino acids are natural building blocks found in the skin that help promote cellular repair and rejuvenation. You can read more about the benefits of amino acid based cleansers for skincare here. 

Conclusion

Pregnancy is a wild ride sometimes. There will be many changes in the months and years to come. During the duration of pregnancy, do your best to avoid chemicals that are not safe for you or the baby. 

There are many other options that are safe to use during pregnancy so making slight changes in your skincare routine is just one of the ways things will change. Follow a proper skincare routine and your skin will not just be not affected negatively by hormonal changes but you will soon have glowing skin.

WRITTEN BY

Coreenna Ong

Head of Research

Coreenna Ong has more than 20 years of extensive experiences in research and development, conceptualization, formulation, production process development and bring to market skincare products in the beauty industry. Ms Ong is currently the Director, Research and Development at Recherché skincare.

Recherché is a Singapore cosmeceutical skincare brand, with its products clean, green, plant-based and specially catered for Asian skin. It is also the pioneer in developing edible skincare actives to specifically address skin concerns.

Within just 2 years, Ms Ong’s research has led Recherché to win several awards and accolades for its products.

Ms Ong’s research focuses on harnessing the latest formulation technologies, knowledge and techniques to distil and extract nature's essence, and then apply them synergistically for maximum results.

She has authored 2 best-selling Beauty and Wellness books with Marshall Cavendish. The books had multiple runs and remained popular and in print circulation for several years. They are currently available in the Singapore National Library collection.

Ms Ong was also a Beauty columnist for Lianhe Zaobao, Singapore's largest Chinese-language newspaper publication, with huge regional presence. As its weekly expert contributor, she shared the latest research and technologies from the Beauty industry, and addressed the many skincare issues and concerns of the newspaper's readers regionally, including offering beauty tips, quick fixes and insider knowledge.

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