6 Skincare Ingredients to Use and Avoid While Breastfeeding

Dermatologists break down the dos and don'ts of your breastfeeding skincare routine.

Choosing a skincare routine that meets all of your needs is no easy feat. Brightening, smoothing, hydrating, exfoliating—there are countless properties you look for when carefully selecting your skincare products. However, when you’re pregnant or nursing, you have to factor in another aspect: Which ingredients are safe for your developing baby?

Some ingredients found in moisturizers, cleansers, or serums can transfer to your baby, so you have to be extra cautious when selecting the skincare regimen you’ll use while breastfeeding. Here, we tapped dermatologists for their advice on which ingredients to use and avoid in skincare products while breastfeeding.

Skincare ingredients to avoid while breastfeeding:

  • Retinol
  • Hydroquinone

First thing’s first: Which ingredients are totally off-limits? According to board-certified dermatologist and Bio-Oil partner Anna Karp, M.D., anti-aging superhero retinol is the first no-no. “Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and the oral version is found to be teratogenic in pregnancy [an agent that can disturb the fetus], so women should avoid it while pregnant or breastfeeding,” she explains.

Next, beware of hydroquinone, which is a pro at lightening dark patches on the skin. “Hydroquinone is a powerful pigment reducer, but not enough studies have been done to deem it safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding,” Dr. Karp explains. So, be extra cautious and read the ingredient labels of products used for treating hyperpigmentation.

Ingredients to include in your breastfeeding safe skincare routine:

Now, which ingredients are beneficial to your skin when breastfeeding? Hydration is key. “When breastfeeding, you want to keep your skin moisturized and protected from the sun,” Dr. Karp says. “Look for products with ingredients like vitamin C and E. Vitamin C, especially, works to decrease hyperpigmentation, which is common in pregnancy due to hormones. I love Bio-Oil Skincare Oil Natural because it’s fragrance-free, full of antioxidants, and is effective for improving the appearance of stretch marks.”

Board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D., seconds the importance of keeping skin moisturized while you’re nursing. “Glycerin, shea butter, and squalane are all good, moisturizing ingredients to use while breastfeeding,” she says. “Also, stick to gentle, fragrance-free cleansers like the La Roche Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser.”

When it comes to protecting our skin from sun damage, both Dr. Karp and Dr. Jaliman recommend mineral-based sunscreens with zinc oxide with titanium dioxide as the main ingredients. Dr. Jaliman suggests the Cerave SPF 50 Sunscreen for all skin types. “The niacinamide in this will prevent more dark spots from forming and if there is inflammation or redness from acne it will help to fade it,” she explains.

Dr. Jaliman also recommends the EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46. “It’s lightweight, oil-free, fragrance-free, and suitable for those with acne-prone skin,” she explains. “It contains hyaluronic acid, which will moisturize your skin while the lactic acid helps to clear your pores and lessen shine.”

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