Exfoliating During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is one of the most magical times in a woman’s life, yet it also requires certain changes to one’s lifestyle, particularly one’s skin care routine. A common question that we get from viewers is: “Can I exfoliate while being pregnant?” The answer is a little complicated, so we wanted to dedicate today’s post to understanding how pregnant woman can exfoliate their skin without harming their child.

Some Chemical Exfoliants Are Off Limits

On the surface, it would make sense that our pre-pregnancy exfoliation routine can remain the same during and shortly after pregnancy. However, many common chemical exfoliants – such as retinoids and salicylic acid – may pose a danger to you and your child, in addition to benzoyl peroxide and certain essential oils. It is believed that these exfoliants may be so deeply absorbed into your skin that they enter your bloodstream and affect your child’s health (Dr. Sumayah Jamal for WedMD, MD Spa and Laser Clinic). It is important to note that there are currently conflicting opinions about which ingredients are safe to use during pregnancy. For example, a literature review published in the journal Canadian Family Physician was unable to find sufficient evidence that ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, and certain topical antibacterials posed a danger to pregnant women and fetuses. Therefore, it is suggested that you consult with your dermatologist immediately after learning that you are pregnant, so as to identify the best skin care routine for you and your baby.

Most AHA’s are Seen as Safe Chemical Exfoliants

According to Dr. Heidi Waldorf of the Mount Sinai Medical Center, alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid and lactic acid are generally safe for pregnant women to use (Dr. Heidi Waldorf for ShareCare.com). Although there are no known studies exploring the use of glycolic acid during pregnancy, it is believed that glycolic acid will not pose a danger to pregnant women since very little glycolic acid is absorbed systemically (Canadian Family Physician).

glycolic acid 2

However, if you are using a product containing a higher concentration of these ingredients (such as in a chemical peel), you may want to consult with your dermatologist to ensure that the concentration is not so powerful that it may seep into your bloodstream.

Physical Exfoliants are Generally Considered Safe to Use

Body brushes, loofahs, puffs, wash cloths and buffs are generally seen as being safe to use on pregnant women. When exfoliating, make sure to not exfoliate any wounded areas and be gentle when exfoliating your stomach and other sensitive areas (Livestrong, Mom.me). Additionally, you should make sure to regularly wash your exfoliating tools and store them in a cool, dry place so  as to limit the potential for bacterial colonization. We recommend using one of the ViaBuff Exfoliating Buffs, which last an average of 90 days and are dermatologist-tested and cruelty-free, although the decision ultimately lies between you and your dermatologist.


Bottom Line

Pregnancy is one of the most exciting periods in a woman’s life, yet also one of the most confusing and perilous when it comes to skin care. Although there is not sufficient clinical evidence indicating their danger, it is generally recommended that pregnant women avoid ingredients like retinoids, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide, as these may be absorbed so deeply into the skin that they enter the bloodstream and harm your child. Glycolic acid and lactic acid are generally seen as safe, as are physical exfoliants like buffs and body brushes. However, it is important that you consult with your dermatologist as soon as you become pregnant, so that you can determine the best skin care routine for both you and your baby.

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