Which beauty products are safe to use during pregnancy?

by Catriona Watson |
Updated on

During pregnancy, some mums-to-be are blessed with glowing skin while others, unfortunately, suffer from spots, rashes and pregnancy acne.

Whether your skin is beautifully clear or you are struggling with stretch marks and breakouts on the daily, we are sure you still rely on an army of trusty beauty products to make you feel good.

There are so many cosmetics on the market filled with endless lists of ingredients and chemicals that often resemble a GCSE science exam (don't remind us!).

Society's unrealistic beauty standards mean it can be easy to slap anything on your skin and trust the miracle-working benefits. But when you are pregnant and looking after not only you but your precious little one too, are there certain products to ditch? Specific ingredients to dodge? Or perhaps there are wonder-products to stock up on that can really enhance your pregnancy journey.

Related: Can I dye my hair while pregnant?

Medical aesthetic doctor Dr Aarti Denning and makeup and skincare expert Joyce Connor give us the scoop on all things beauty and cosmetics during pregnancy.

What beauty products are safe to use during pregnancy?

Joyce Connor believes it is best to look out for mild, delicate skin care products that are dermatologically tested. "Some of the safest brands are the French Pharmacy brands such as Vichy, La Roche-Posay and Avene. These brands are even safe for babies to use".

It also best to avoid fragranced body products which can irritate potentially sensitive skin.

During pregnancy, if you suffer from morning sickness or nausea you may also be hypersensitive to strong smells so avoiding anything too pongy is a win-win - you might have to tell your partner to ease off on the cologne too!

Although it is easy to panic about what we should and shouldn't use, there is no documented concern about most common cosmeceutical ingredients. Dr Aarti tells us that "Ongoing use of skin-care products loaded with antioxidants and skin-repairing ingredients is highly recommended, but again, be sure to check with your doctor or midwife and follow their advice."

pregnancy safe skincare: beauty products to use when pregnant

What beauty products or ingredients should you avoid during pregnancy?

Over this past year, we have noticed retinol products popping up all over the place. Retinol has even been heralded as an anti-ageing wonder treatment.

However, retinoids could have a dark side. They are potent substances and it is recommended you work your way up in strength using very minimal percentage retinol at the start until your skin gets used it. They can provoke strong reactions even on the most sturdy of skin types let alone sensitive pregnancy skin.

Related: Is CBD cream safe to use in pregnancy?

Retinoids contain Vitamin A which quickens skin renewal. When ingested orally in high doses, Vitamin A has been found to be harmful to unborn children. This is obviously not the same as using creams that contain retinoids on your skin. However, to be on the safe side skin-care experts and doctors have recommended pregnant woman avoid using them.

Both Joyce and Dr Aarti agree that Retinol is best avoided during pregnancy as well as Hydroquinone as they can penetrate the skin's barrier. Dr Aarti explains that although the absorption is minimal it is best not to take the risk at all.


Essential oils are also off the shopping list. We traditionally associate them with natural benefits but they have the ability to penetrate the bloodstream and be harmful to the developing foetus. Dr Aarti explains that "rosemary can increase blood pressure" and "high concentrations of clove, clary sage, cinnamon and rosemary could induce contractions".

Joyce recommends calming products especially if you're suffering from hormonal breakouts and avoid "benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid for breakouts as these ingredients are considered unsafe".

Is it safe to use fake tan while pregnant?

Everybody loves a sunkissed post-holiday glow. Not only is this impossible all year round, especially in the depths of the darkest winter, but sunbathing and tanning your skin can be dangerous and damaging.

Hormonal changes taking place during pregnancy can affect your skin and the NHS explain that "If you sunbathe while pregnant, you may find you burn more easily. Protect your skin with a high-factor sunscreen and don't stay in the sun for a long time". So, if natural tanning is out of the question, can we turn to the bottle (no, not that bottle) to achieve bronzed skin?

What is the science behind fake tan? "The active ingredient in fake tan in UK based products is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). This is not a dye, but derived from sugar. When it combines with the surface cells on the skin (these are dead cells) there is a chemical reaction that is visible as browning" according to Dr Aarti.


Joyce explains that it is "safe to apply fake tan during pregnancy but spray tans are best avoided. Spray tans create a mist in the atmosphere that can be inhaled and enter the bloodstream". Creams, lotions and mousse type tans are better as they sit on top of the skin adding a hint of colour.

Always do a patch test with any product you are concerned about. If you can't avoid the sun, wear suncream and re-apply regularly even if your fake tan has SPF to reduce the risk of hyperpigmentation. Joyce particularly recommends "Using sunscreen with zinc oxide will protect your skin from harmful UV rays and is safe to use during pregnancy."

Are there any beauty products or treatments that are particularly helpful during pregnancy?

There are lots of products out there designed specifically for mums-to-be. There are stretch mark oils and creams that promise to prevent or reduce tiger stripes, birthing essentials, gift sets and massage oils to soothe your aching muscles and calm your pre-labour nerves. We even had our brutally honest mum-testers trial many of these maternity/new mum skincare products for our 2019 awards.

But are there products, treatments or ingredients we are neglecting that might give us that pregnancy glow-up we so desire? Dr Aarti gives us the inside scoop on one her most popular treatments - micro needling. It sounds scary but it is a "‘minimally invasive treatment in which we create tiny punctures in the skin using micro-fine needles.

This triggers the body's wound healing process, stimulating collagen and elastin production. Additionally, once punctures are made we can apply products like vitamin C serums topically which are then able to penetrate deeper into the skin in order to work more effectively". Sign us up!


During pregnancy, we know it is easy to get hot and flustered so Joyce recommends using "cooling thermal water which helps to soothe irritation on the skin and keep you cool during hot weather". What should we use to keep skin soft and moisturised? "Shea butter and Cocoa butter are great moisturisers and help to minimalise stretch marks if used at the start of pregnancy through to post-birth."

Now read: The top UK spas for pregnancy massage


Pregnancy spas

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ELEMIS Peaceful Pregnancy Massage at Ragdale Hall, from £97

Ragdale Hall is an exclusive spa retreat, where you can visit for just the day or stay overnight and only ever be surrounded by other guests in dressing gowns (it's positively encouraged that you wear it all day long, even for dinner!). There's few more relaxing places for a pregnancy massage, and one with stunning Elemis products will send you into a blissful state of relaxation before your baby arrives. You'll be made comfortable with their unique pregnancy cushions, and the treatment includes a light facial and gentle scalp massage. Thoroughly recommended is also the Candlelit Pool for the ultimate floating, relaxing, wonderful experience.

Location: Leicestershire

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Pre & Post Natal Treatment, £80, The Spa at Bedford Lodge Hotel

Unwind and enjoy The Spa at Bedford Lodge Hotel’s speciality pregnancy spa treatment for mums-to-be. This deeply nourishing body massage is designed to target areas prone to stress and tension during pregnancy. A gentle back exfoliation is followed by a soothing body massage specifically designed to suit your individual concerns, focusing on the areas needed to alleviate muscular aches, whilst helping to relax, restore and revitalise. 60 minutes.

Location: ​Newmarket

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New Beginnings Massage, £75, Armathwaite Hall

Armathwaite Hall’s New Beginnings Massage will leave mums-to-be feeling relaxed with a full body massage. The specially trained therapists know exactly how to work sore, tired and aching muscles, using gentle movements and avoiding the need for you to lie directly on your tummy. Post-massage the treatment continues with a face and scalp massage to leave skin feeling baby soft all over.

Location: Cumbria

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Relax & Restore Massage, £75, The Harrogate Spa

Nurture your changing body and calm the mind with this beautifully comforting treatment. A focused body massage ensures that you are feels completely zen while a scalp massage lulls you in to a deep and almost meditative state - 55 minutes.

Location: Harrogate

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Peaceful Pregnancy Massage, £80, Moddershall Oaks Country Spa Retreat

Performed on the spa’s therapy couch that has been expertly padded with cushions to optimise comfort for pregnant women, you'll be restored to optimum wellness with a full-body relaxing massage that will cleanse and hydrate the skin - 85 minutes long.

Location: Stoke

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Pregnancy Massage, £79, Titanic Spa

Performed on a pear-shaped beanbag that moulds to every bump, mothers-to-be are able to feel complete comfort as they indulge in a 55-minute massage. Designed to target every ache and pain, this massage will restore ultimate wellness and provide that pregnancy glow.

Location: Huddersfield

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Radiant Mum To Be 55 mins, £70, Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa

Pregnancy can take its toll on your body, so relax and let a highly trained therapist safely and gently treat you to a truly nurturing experience.
Suitable for guests in their 2nd and 3rd trimester of pregnancy, this blissful face and body treatment includes a comforting tummy mask that actively helps reduce the risk of stretch marks plus a draining massage to reduce water retention thus lightening ‘heavy’ legs.
A skin brightening facial ensures you look as glowing as you feel.

Location: Newbury

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LAVA Shells Massage, £125, Spa Verta in Crowne Plaza Battersea

The perfect pregnancy and post-pregnancy massage that will take care of all your aches and pains. Lava Mama uses gentle heat with the options of a cool Lava Shell, specifically adapted to each mum's needs. The massage is suitable for pregnant clients from 14 weeks onwards and while nursing post-pregnancy.

The treatment also aims to improve energy levels, assisting circulation and alleviating puffiness and fluid build-up. The clever combination of gentle but effective warmth and cold assists with pain relief and reduces muscle spasm in over-worked muscles.

Location: London

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New Beginnings Massage, £65, Wynyard Hall

Pamper yourself with an overnight stay at this beautiful country house hotel and spa. The pregnancy massage is all about deep relaxation, and carried out by therapists specially trained in the needs of exhausted or uncomfortable mums-to-be.

Location: Tees Valley

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Mother & Baby is dedicated to ensuring our information is always valuable and trustworthy, which is why we only use reputable resources such as the NHS, reviewed medical papers, or the advice of a credible doctor, GP, midwife, psychotherapist, gynaecologist or other medical professionals. Where possible, our articles are medically reviewed or contain expert advice. Our writers are all kept up to date on the latest safety advice for all the products we recommend and follow strict reporting guidelines to ensure our content comes from credible sources. Remember to always consult a medical professional if you have any worries. Our articles are not intended to replace professional advice from your GP or midwife.