What Face Creams Are Unsafe When You Are Pregnant?

Many pregnant women don't realize the facial creams they use could cause birth defects or damage the development of their unborn baby. Unfortunately, this is a possibility. While topical skin care products are generally considered safer than oral skin care medications, the ingredients can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream and affect the unborn baby. Because of this, some skin care products should be avoided entirely during pregnancy 2.


Retinoids are used to reduce wrinkles and improve skin tone. They are found in several antiaging moisturizers. Oral retinoids are known to cause birth defects, explains the parenting website BabyCenter.com. While topical retinoid creams haven't proven to be unsafe like their oral counterparts, they haven't been deemed safe either. Due to this fact, the March of Dimes recommends that pregnant women avoid the use of all retinoids, topical and otherwise, until more conclusive evidence is gathered about their safety 1. All pregnant women should check the labels of their facial creams and avoid brands and ingredients including Differin (adapelene), Retin-A, Renova (tretinoin), retinoic acid, retinol, retinyl linoleate, retinyle palmitate, tazorac and avage (Tazarotene).

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid treats certain skin disorders including acne. It is a common ingredient of many facial creams, cleansers and toners. According to the parenting website BabyCenter.com, products with salicylic acid are not recommended for pregnant women. Oral forms of salicylic acid have been shown in studies to cause birth defects and pregnancy complications. While no study has confirmed that using salicylic acids in topical facial creams will cause harm to an unborn baby, there is also no data to confirm the safety of topical salicylic acid products either. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid products with the words salicylic acid listed on the label unless given permission to use them by a doctor, explains the American Pregnancy Association.

Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)

Beta hydroxy acid (BHA) is a form of salicylic acid and is used in some topical cream exfoliants. It is not known whether beta hydroxy acid may harm an unborn baby, so it is generally not considered safe for use during pregnancy 2. Pregnant women should avoid products with beta hydroxy acid or BHA listed in the ingredients unless a doctor has given permission to use them.