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Is it Safe for Pregnant Women to Wear Sunscreen?

By Kristeen Cherney ; Updated July 18, 2017

During pregnancy, you do everything you can to protect the health of your baby. This includes questioning the safety of topical products -- such as sunscreens -- over fear that they may cause birth defects. However, avoiding sunscreens can cause more harm than good. Sunscreen is a necessity for all women, and regular use can help prevent pregnancy-related dark spots. Still, avoid certain ingredients in your quest for a sun protection during pregnancy.

Benefits During Pregnancy

The American Pregnancy Association recommends that all pregnant women use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more to prevent sunburn. Sunscreen not only helps protect against premature aging and skin cancer, but it can even help pregnancy-related skin problems. Sun exposure worsens chiliasm, a condition that causes dark patches of skin. The UV ray protection provided with sunscreen can prevent these patches from darkening and becoming more noticeable.

Potential Risks

Much of the skepticism over the use of sunscreen during pregnancy stems from the potential risks associated with retinoids. Retinoids are forms of vitamin A used in numerous over-the-counter skin products, including wrinkle creams and sunblock. On sunscreen labels, retinoids are usually listed as retinyl palmitate. While these ingredients haven’t been scientifically proven to harm fetuses, the concern lies in the fact that taking too much vitamin A orally can potentially cause birth defects. The question is whether or not topical forms of retinol can have the same effect. Many women don’t want to take the risk.

Bottom Line

Overall, the benefits of sunscreen outweigh the potential risks. Your best bet may be to find a sunscreen that does not contain retinol. BabyCenter says many doctors recommend that pregnant women avoid retinol-containing sunscreens just to be safe. Ask a physician for help if you can’t determine whether or not a product contains retinol.

Considerations

Sunscreen is not your only line of defense against harmful sun rays, whether or not you are pregnant. Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your face, and put on light-colored clothing to help repel UV rays. Make that trip to the beach earlier or later in the day to avoid the sun at its strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Also, reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming and towel drying.

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