Pregnant? Board-certified physician and skinfluencer Dr. Zion Ko Lamm says you need to rethink your skincare routine

September 16, 2021

Pregnancy should be a beautiful time, but I’ve often seen women spend those nine months stressed out about their complexions. From pigmentation to psoriasis, the toll pregnancy takes on skin can be taxing. Not to mention all the mixed messages about what skincare ingredients are considered safe for expecting moms. But I’m here to hopefully help clear it up for you as a board-certified internal medicine physician—and skincare obsessive! 

Who decides what’s safe or unsafe? 

The FDA has a grading system of what’s considered greenlit for use during pregnancy. The problem, however, is that these trials aren’t completely reliable because it’s impossible to properly test on pregnant women for fear of harming the baby. 

It’s also important to remember that even if you buy something over the counter, it could still be harmful during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so make sure to read skincare ingredient lists carefully, and if in doubt, double-check with your OB-GYN before using.

My official off-limits list. 

I always err on the side of caution, so while some of these aren’t deemed completely unsafe by the FDA, I recommend expectant mothers avoid the following:

  • Isotretinoin (found in Accutane) 
  • Hydroquinone 
  • Doxycycline 
  • Retinoids, including retinol and other forms of vitamin A like adapalene 
  • Benzoyl peroxide 
  • Chemical exfoliants/peels 
  • Chemical sunscreens 
  • Cosmetic procedures like fillers 
  • Laser treatments 

My prenatal skincare essentials list.   

While your skin might freak out while pregnant, remember that you don’t need to treat all the issues right this second. In fact, many of the complexion concerns associated with pregnancy dissipate once the baby is born. Focus on how your skin feels rather than looks, and stock up on these: 

  • Vitamin C serum: To help boost collagen and brighten your skin.
  • Azelaic acid: A great way to fight acne, reduce redness and combat pigmentation.
  • Lactic acid:  A fabulous exfoliant—but make sure to get the lowest percentage.
  • Hyaluronic acid: To infuse moisture while smoothing fine lines.  
  • Mineral SPF (aka your pregnancy BFF): Now more than ever, you want to prevent sun damage, so apply (and reapply) often. Also, try not to be in direct sun during peak hours and wear a hat/UPF clothing when possible.  
  • Moisturizer: Many women suffer from dry skin during pregnancy, so look for moisturizers full of ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol to help build up your skin barrier. 
  • Sheet masks/eye patches: In addition to being a self-care moment, they’re a perfect way to revive your skin.   

What about diet and supplements? Can they help skin during pregnancy?

You bet. Your best bet for optimal body and skin health pre-baby is an anti-inflammatory diet. Try avoiding high glycemic index foods like processed sugar, white bread and meats and instead opt for berries, leafy green vegetables, olive oil, nuts and fatty fish. I know cravings come at you hard when you’re pregnant, so strive for the 70/30 rule: Anti-inflammatory diet 70% of the time, everything else you love 30% of the time.  

Last but not least, don’t forget the supplements! You should be taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid, iron and vitamin D every day.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Murad, and are for informational purposes only, even if the advice of physicians and medical practitioners are included. This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not looked be considered specific medical advice.  

About the Author

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Zion Ko Lamm, MD, is a board-certified internal medicine specialist and social media skinfluencer, who has been featured in Vogue, Allure and Shape. She entered social as an outlet to the stressors and uncertainties of working in outpatient COVID clinics. Dr. Ko Lamm started sharing videos on Instagram and TikTok about all things skincare—from debunking trends to honest product reviews. An immigrant from South Korea, she also features frequent cameos of her Korean mom, who is living proof that sunscreen, facial massages and a good skincare routine work.