Beauty treatments during pregnancy: What's safe and what should you avoid.


From pregnancy acne, to itchy sensitive pregnancy skin, your hormones can cause a number of changes in your face, hair and body during pregnancy.

While you’re more restricted to what products and beauty treatments are safe to use when you’re pregnant, this doesn’t mean you have to completely cull your pampering and skincare routine, you just need to know what you can and can’t do.

Feeling and looking good is important during pregnancy, but even the most serene mother-to-be can get stressed trying to evaluate the risk factor of every peel, product and treatment on the market.

We’ve put together a beginner’s guide to beauty treatments for expectant mothers that takes the guesswork out of grooming (you’re welcome)!

Things pregnant women never say. Post continues below.

Video by MMC

Pregnancy skincare

Sharing her struggles on the You Beauty podcast, Mamamia’s executive editor, Leigh Campbell shared the rules she followed during her pregnancy.

“I’m discovering the opinions around pregnancy are wild… but the short answer is, there’s no certification for what’s pregnancy-safe and there aren’t any clear guidelines so it’s tricky. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal choice, and you should always check with your obstetrician,” she said.


“The hardest part about pregnancy is, no one is going to put 200 pregnant women in a study and try stuff on them, so many things might be safe but we need to err on the side of caution because it hasn’t been tested.”

However, there are some ingredients you should be aware of.

Vitamin A, retinol and retinoids

You’re going to want to avoid all of the above.

The more powerful and targeted a products is, the higher the chances it contains an ingredient considered potentially harmful to a growing baby. The main one to look out for is retinoid – a type of vitamin A that speeds up cell division and prevents skin collagen from breaking downStudies have shown that high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy can be harmful to an unborn child and oral retinoids (such as Accutane, an acne medication) are a known cause of birth defects.

“It’s advised not to use retinols and vitamin As during pregnancy, which is great advice because they haven’t done studies into how it might affect the baby,” said Leigh.

“Confusingly, some brands are bringing out what they’re calling ‘pregnancy-safe’ vitamin As and retinols. They’ll say ‘our version is safe in pregnancy’, that’s when you’d ask you obstetrician – those types of ingredients are getting a lot more sophisticated and safer to use, but just because a beauty brand says it’s OK, I would still check with your doctor.”


Instead, she recommends Vitamin C as an anti-ageing and skin-brightening alternative.

TRY: The Inkey List, Vitamin C Serum, $18 OR Elizabeth Arden, Vitamin C Ceramide Capsules 60 capsules, $150.

Looking for skincare ingredients with Vitamin C, will boost your pregnancy glow.

Salicylic and glycolic acid

According to a 2011 study on the 'Safety of Skin Care Products During Pregnancy' published in the Can Fam Physician journal, the topical use of salicylic and glycolic acid "should not be of concern" due to the minimal absorbency of the acid into the skin. Despite this, the article specifies that no studies have looked at the aesthetic use of these acids in human pregnancy, referring instead to tests conducted on animals.

Soy-based products

While soy-based lotions and skincare products are safe to use in pregnancy, Medical News Today reports they should be avoided by women with dark skin patches or melisma. This is because soy has estrogenic effects which can make the ‘mask of pregnancy’ worse.

However, the ‘active soy’ referenced by some product lines is okay, as it means the estrogenic components have been taken out.

Melasma presents as the discolouration, or darkening of skin, and is a very common symptom in pregnant women. Image: Getty.


Botox won’t hurt your baby, but you probably won’t need it! Pregnancy and its associated weight gain tend to make the face swell and wrinkles become less apparent without any cosmetic therapy.


Facials can generally be enjoyed, but pregnant women should bear in mind that the presence of pregnancy hormones alters the normal structure of the skin and hair. This can mean a greater level of sensitivity and allergy risk, so be sure to inform your beauty therapist that you’re pregnant and ask them to use products that are designed for sensitive skin (and retinoid free).

Pregnancy hair treatments

Steer clear of perms, colouring or chemical straightening treatments before the second trimester, and skip any treatments that involve keratin as they contain harmful formaldehyde.

Opt for alternative colour processes wherever possible and check with your GP before using prescription dandruff shampoos (and medical shampoos in general).


Hair removal when pregnant

Depilatory creams / waxing / shaving

While the hair on your head is likely to be looking its best thanks to the extra hormones coursing through your body, many pregnant women also experience increased hair growth on their bodies. This usually calms down after delivery, but if it bothers you, waxing is A-OK right up to your due date.

The majority of depilatory creams, gels and mousses are also considered risk-free.

Laser removal

When it comes to laser laser hair removal for women, the consensus is to avoid the treatment all together. Although there are a lack of studies indicating a definite adverse affect, most laser hair removal clinics advise against pregnant women from getting the treatment.

Fake tanning when pregnant

Provided it comes in the form of a mousse, cream or wipe, fake tan is fine for pregnant women to use. If you prefer to use a spray tan product, make sure the room is well-aired and take extra care not to inhale.

Tanning beds and solariums are 100 per cent off-limits as they may cause your body to overheat and also reduce folic acid, which is important for healthy foetal development, not to mention the fact that they're a known skin cancer risk, and should be avoided even among non-pregnant women, but you knew that already... right?

Beauty shopping gets a bit more complicated when you're shopping for two. Image: Getty.

Teeth whitening when pregnant

There aren’t many current studies about the safety of tooth whitening while pregnant or breastfeeding so it’s probably best to hold off this one.

Manicures and pedicures while pregnant

Acrylic nails, and LED gel manicures and pedicures are problem-free during pregnancy – but there’s a higher risk of developing a fungal or bacterial infection in or around your nails. Make sure to take care by maintaining them, and ensuring the salon you visit is up to scratch with its sterilisation and cleaning practices.

Which treatments did you miss during your pregnancy?

Sign up for our weekly "You Beauty" newsletter, where our beauty gurus impart all their wisdom and share their go-to products.