Pregnancy Skincare Guide

Pregnancy Skincare

I have been treating people’s skin for over 17 years. Many of the women who’ve come into my spa space over those years have been pregnant. Now that I am 8 months pregnant, having experienced both sides of the treatment room, I feel confident about what I can recommend to my fellow mamas-to-be, with safety for mom and baby always in mind.
Pregnancy is a beautiful and transformative journey. While on this journey you’re bound to run into some unique challenges with things like diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle, but what you may not have realized is that you will most likely run into challenges with your skin as well. And of course we need to exercise caution here because in addition to the obvious things expecting mothers need to be mindful of (foods or medications to avoid, air quality, etc), pregnancy-safe skincare is definitely something to take seriously.
Your skin may go through a variety of changes during pregnancy due to fluctuating hormone levels.

Let's take a look at some common skin concerns that pop up during pregnancy.


Common pregnancy-related skin complaints: 

  • Melasma/pigmentation: Also known as the "mask of pregnancy," melasma is characterized by the development of dark patches on the face. It can become worse, or darker, when exposed to UV rays or heat sources.

  • Acne: Due to increased levels of hormones, many expectant mothers experience breakouts. From my experience, these breakouts normally pop up around the mouth, chin and jawline but it’s not uncommon to see breakouts on the forehead. In facial reflexology, the mouth, chin, and jaw are associated with hormones, stress, and digestion.

  • Dry Skin: it's not uncommon to experience dry, itchy skin during pregnancy. This is due to hormonal fluctuations as well as the water use in your body being adjusted to accommodate a growing baby!

  • Sensitivities: Pregnancy hormones can make your skin more sensitive and prone to irritation. I experienced this myself during month 7 when a product I had been using forever all of a sudden gave me a rash that lasted for 5 days. Be mindful that your skin is naturally going to be behave differently for a while. It is temporary and it will all be ok in time! If a product gives you trouble during pregnancy, it does not mean that it always will. You may just need to bench it until the end of the pregnancy journey.

  • Facial Puffiness: Your body produces around 50% more blood and body fluids to support your growing baby during pregnancy. Much of that extra fluid may get retained around the face, neck, legs and feet!


We'll cover how to address each of these concerns a little further down but first, let's get a few things straight. There are some products or devices you will simply want to stay away from completely, and others that you may want to start putting to use for the first time if you haven’t yet.


The DO NOT USE list:

  • Retinols: While vitamin A is crucial to the proper development of your baby, getting too much of it can cause serious birth defects. Although it’s safe to use retinol alternatives (like algae or bakuchiol), stay away from any prescription or over the counter retinal/retinol/retin-A/retinyl palmitate/etc. By the way, this doesn't mean you should avoid eating foods rich in vitamin A; vitamin A is crucial for the baby's vision, growth, immune function and gene expression. Just stay away from TOPICAL synthetic vitamin A, and definitely stay away from strong pharmaceutical drugs such as accutane (which contains a large dose of vitamin A).

  • Hydroquinone: Hydroquinone can absorb through the skin, and there is limited data showing that it can be safely used during pregnancy. In some studies, it has demonstrated carcinogenic effects, so it’s best to stay away from products that contain this skin bleaching ingredient until after pregnancy. 

  • Strong acid peels from a doctor or med spa; while light lactic or mandelic peels are considered safe, stay away from any peel that requires downtime or entails sheets of skin falling off your face. Everything you put on your skin is getting absorbed through the bloodstream so it's probably best to stay away from chemicals that can break down skin cells to the degree that strong acid peels do.

  • Microcurrent: Microcurrent facials are not recommended during pregnancy as there is insufficient research to determine their safety. Also consider the fact that microcurrent is a frequency that travels through the natural electrical system of the body. We know energy frequencies of any kind do have the potential to powerfully affect grown humans, so consider that you have a baby developing inside you with its own precious DNA. Why expose them to that unknown?

  • Radio Frequency: The above also goes for radio frequency. Direct exposure to RF exposes you and baby to energy waves that simply haven't been proven safe. 

  • Lasers: there is not sufficient data available to show that laser treatments are safe during pregnancy, however I have had some pregnant ladies come in with doctor's notes, asking to have their laser hair removal treatment. Check with your doctor/midwife first before signing up for any laser procedure, and avoid laser treatments near the abdomen or groin would seem wise.

  • CBD: High doses of CBD have been shown to affect the neurological development of babies. In my estimation, you'd probably need a consistent or high dose to produce a detrimental effect on a baby but why take the risk? Just bench it.

  • Certain essential oils: You should consult with your doctor/midwife about all essential oils, but some common ones to avoid are sage, anise, cinnamon, birch, wintergreen, myrrh, oregano, cypress, feverfew, and yarrow. Many common essential oils, like lavender, orange and lemon, are considered safe when used in moderation.

  • Botox and fillers: Botox is a botulin toxin that paralyzes muscles. Remember that you share blood with your developing baby, which means they will get a small dose of this neuromodulating toxin every time you get jabbed. In my opinion, it’s best to just wait until after pregnancy and breastfeeding to get your injections. Most places won't even touch you with this medication if you're pregnant anyway. The reason why fillers are on this list is because they always come with the risk of vessel occlusion, which cuts off blood supply to the surrounding areas of the body and skin. This can become a medical emergency which puts you and baby at risk for unwanted complications and medical interventions that simply are just not worth it. 


The Yes list:

  • vitamin C for sun protection; this is yes! When you're pregnant, you're even more prone to pigmentation because your MSH, or melanin stimulating hormone, gets triggered by sunlight, heat, hormones, or even stress. Vitamin C is not only useful for building collagen, it actually provides the skin with a dose of extra antioxidant protection from UV damage (and pigmentation).

  • Topical vitamin C worn under your SPF can provide that extra layer of protection for the skin. Your vitamin C serum can be in the form of a water based serum or an oil, here are my top picks:

  • And don't forget to get adequate amounts of internal vitamin C as well, as that can help the body fight oxidative stress that causes melanin stimulation!

  • organic botanical oils to help deal with dry skin or sensitive skin: during pregnancy the skin may get dry and very itchy. One of the best ways to deal with that is by keeping the skin cool and well moisturized. I apply a body and face oil after every shower to replenish any lost moisture. Your body and face lotions should ideally contain zero fragrances, perfumes, silicones, PEGs, synthetic preservatives or dyes because these ingredients can cause more itching and sensitivities. Keep your skin cool, and try not to let yourself overheat. Your body temperature is going to be a little higher at certain times during your pregnancy and if you over heat, you may start feeling extremely itchy all over your body (I experienced this)! Wear loose clothing, and I find it best to wear layers instead of super chunky sweaters or heavy boots when you'll be out for an extended period of time.

  • non toxic products that do not contain fragrances, dyes, synthetic emulsifiers, synthetic fragrances, synthetic preservatives. Again, remember that you are sharing a blood supply with your baby and that anything you put on your skin will eventually make it's way to your blood stream! Try to look for organic, non-toxic, natural skincare products whenever you cant. The Beauty Shamans skincare line is 100% pregnancy safe and actually helps to heal many of the common skin ailments that arise during pregnancy.

  • salicylic acid (lower than 2% on skin is safe) to deal with acne: salicyclic acid is essentially made up of the same ingredients in aspirin – willow bark. In low doses it can safely be used during pregnancy to combat acne. Salicylic acid is one of the only acids that actually dissolves oil and has the ability to penetrate pores to clean them out. The battle with salicylic acid is that it can dry your skin out (and you're already prone to dryness when you're pregnant). I wouldn't recommend using a salicylic acid facial cleanser unless your skin can possibly tolerate it a few times a week for stubborn breakouts. When you use it every day, you risk breaking out more because over-drying the skin disrupts the barrier and exacerbates oil or sebum production. Look for this ingredient in some of your other products like your toner (usually contains small amounts) or in your serums. You could also just reserve it for use as a spot treatment for stubborn blemishes here and there (see below for my recommendation).

  • glycolic acid for exfoliation and wrinkles: Although you may notice your regular glycolic acid products are drying you out a little more during pregnancy, that doesn't mean they are bad for you or your skin. You may need to reduce the frequency of use, but overall glycolic acid is a great way to keep the skin refreshed, smooth and wrinkle free. Must like with salicylic acid, try to find this ingredient in your toners or serums rather than your cleansers.

  • lactic acid for exfoliation, hydrating and pigmentation: lactic acid has gentle power. It's typically the “mildest” in terms of exfoliation but because it also has hydrating qualities, it does the absolute best job of creating better balance within the skin. Lactic is also great for lifting and sloughing off dead pigment cells, making it great for sun damage and post inflammation hyperpigmentation (like from recent acne scars).


Linked here is what many of my pregnant ladies like to use.

Its a combo of glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids but it's formulated with seaweed and green tea, so it actually hydrates the skin, helps calm redness, reduces breakouts, and even helps with pigmentation and wrinkles! Read more about how to use it 





How To Address Specific Concerns 

For Pigmentation:

Certain topicals and treatment procedures should definitely be shelved until after you give birth. However, there still are some options for lightening and preventing hyperpigmentation. Here are a few:

  • Internal and external vitamin C: eat lots of fruits and veggies and apply your vitamin C daily. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radical damage from oxidative stress. Without an adequate supply of antioxidants, free radicals start to cause damage to organs and skin cells (which can cause inflammation or pigmentation). Eat your vitamins by consuming lots of phytonutrients from plant based foods and incorporate topical vitamin C into your daily regemin.

  • Receive light peels from your esthetician (lactic or mandelic is a good choice): this is a great time to receive feedback from a professional about your home care regimen at the same time.

  • Use at home exfoliation and light actives: light scrubs, lactic acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, etc. Sloughing off dead surface skin cells helps the damaged skin cells to come to the surface where they can also be sloughed off.

  • Keep skin hydrated to prevent inflammation. Water is crucial for many skin functions but it's especially great for keeping inflammatory conditions under control such as acne or hyperpigmentation. When you have an acne breakout, adequate hydration under the skin can help to detoxify and prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. After a long day in the sun, adequate hydration can help your lymphatic system pump immune boosting cells throughout skin tissues to prevent a reactive pigmentation response.

  • Reduce sun exposure. This is a no brainer, right?!

  • Use mineral sun screen (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide)


Product recommendations

TRIPLE ACID SEAWEED SERUM (chemical exfoliant with soothing seaweed and green tea extracts


Herbal Face Food (super antioxidant serum)  code BEAUTYSHAMANS for 20% off


Shell Scrub (mechanical exfoliant to help slough off dead skin cells) 


Sol Veil SPF25 (mineral sunscreen that blocks UVA/UVB rays and moisturizes the skin) 


Clear Glow Omega Oil (helps repair sun damage after a day in the sun and kills surface bacteria) 


Vitamin Sea Serum (potent, moisturizing serum to protect the skin and balance the skin barrier on a daily basis)


For Acne:

Some pregnant ladies never get acne while others feel like they are back in the 8th grade. You may feel embarrassed by raging breakouts but please keep in mind, it is temporary! In the meantime, here are some things you can still do: 


  • Use at home exfoliation and light actives: light scrubs, lactic acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, etc to keep cell turnover active. This will help clear blemishes and keep the pores cleaner. 

  • Drink lots of water; you can add a pinch of salt and lemon juice to your water which will help your cells expand, keeping you more hydrated. When your skin is more hydrated, you'll breakout less because there is less of an opportunity for toxins to get under the skin and cause inflammation.

  • Improve digestion (poop more/detox): along with water intake, try adding flax seed or chia seeds to any smoothie, salad, yogurt, or snack dish. The more that comes out via digestion, the less your body will need to process out of the skin.

  • Get your lymphatic system moving. This could mean either through exercise and daily movement, or starting a facial Gua Sha practice. The more you move your lymph, the more effective your immune cells will be at fighting off acute infections like acne lesions and the more your body will detoxify waste.

  • Ice the skin to reduce inflammation: you can literally use an ice cube! Another alternative is to take your Gua Sha stone or a roller and put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes before use. When you ice the skin, it temporarily reduces blood and lymph flow. When the flow is restored, it's like a surge of fresh oxygenated blood that cleans everything out.

  • Blue LED light: this kind of wavelength is known for killing acne bacteria on the skin by releasing oxygen into the blemish.

  • Oil cleansing to regulate sebum production: oil cleansing will not only tell your oil glands to stop producing oil, but it will also lift any dirt, debris, air particles, makeup or spf that has been sitting in the pores. Here is a quick guide:

  • Get proper rest and sleep: when you sleep your body goes through its repair process. Sleep literally helps our bodies calm inflammation so getting enough zzz's can truly make a difference in your breakouts (pregnant or not!)


Product Recommendations

Here's my favorite oil cleanser
Here is my favorite blue LED light for home use
Here is the best cleansing system
Liquid exfoliant with a combo of salicylic acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid 
The Clear Skin Bundle!
Exfoliation System
Take a look at Gua Sha tools to help with 

For Facial Puffiness: 

The fluid retention is REAL when you are pregnant. The good news is that all of the lymphatic drainage practices we know and love are 100% pregnancy safe. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here are some ideas:

  • Gua Sha – a modern day form of lymphatic drainage using an ancient inspired tool.
  • Face yoga – stretching or contracting muscles mobilizes our lymph to start cleaning out waste and toxic accumulation under the skin.
  • Facial Massage – massage can release tension in the muscles and fascia which may be creating stagnation of fluids within our skin.
  • Daily movement – full body movement will get your lymphatic system revved up to start detoxing, especially if followed by a warm shower.
  • Drinking water - water is one of the most effective ways to reduce bloating in the face and neck. The more you can flush your system, the more alert, awake and clear you will appear.


My Skin Within Studio has amazing 5-20 tutorial step by step classes where we incorporate all of these modalities into relaxing skincare rituals.

You can try it free for 7 days


Product Recommendations

Check out all of my Gua Sha tools to get started! 

For Dry and Sensitive Skin:


Even when not pregnant, I always advise my clients to switch to non-fragranced, oil based products whenever they experience a hypersensitivity or dryness (when I say “non-fragranced” I mean no synthetic perfumes, essential oils are different and may actually help sensitivities or dryness and they smell amazing).

Often times dry skin is the result of a compromised lipid barrier that is making the skin irritated, flaky, and dry. This is usually a sign that the skin needs some kind of moisture, from a rich lotion or a facial oil, to help the barrier become more balanced and protective. Here are some things you can incorporate into your skincare routine to help:

  • Oil cleansing: this is probably the biggest and simplest thing that will help. Massaging oil into the skin calms inflammation, nourishes cell membranes, softens skin texture, and helps to balance the pH of the skin (aka the lipid barrier).
  • Use a combination of water based and oil based products to provide hydration and moisture (skin needs both water and oil to stay balanced). If you're having an acute episode of sensitivity I recommend removing all water based products from your routine until your barrier has been replenished. This can take a few days or a week, then you can slowly start adding your water based products back in. The reason why you would want to do that is because water based products need some kind of preservative system to prevent bacterial growth – it is normally the preservatives or additives in a product that are preventing a compromised barrier from healing properly. An example routine when you're experiencing acute sensitivity (open skin, rash, burning when products are applied, etc), is to start with an oil cleanse, you can follow up with a regular cleanser afterward but make sure it does not contain the following ingredients; sodium lauryth sulfate, salicylic acid, benzyl peroxide. Skip your toner and just apply a soothing, organic facial oil after. Do only that for a few days or until you see improvements. You can slowly start adding your toners, serums and moisturizers back in after a few days.

  • Use lactic acid and/or glycolic at home: but only about once a week or as guided by an esthetician. As long as your barrier is not compromised (but you're still experiencing dryness), using gentle acids is a great way to increase hydration and suppleness in the skin because they help remove dead surface cells that are prohibiting your moisturizing products from reaching the skin. Start slow and low until you figure out the appropriate frequency your unique skin can tolerate.

  • Ensure you are getting enough minerals in your diet to combat skin dryness and dullness. When you're pregnant, your body is using up a lot of nutrients to make a baby! That's why pregnant women need an extra doses of certain nutrients, like iron, folate, protein, vitamin C, choline, etc. In general, mineral deficiency and electrolyte imbalances can contribute to dry skin during pregnancy (or any time really). 

  • Make sure you eat a variety of foods so that you get a diverse blend of minerals in your daily diet. Your cells need a certain amount of minerals to carry out their metabolic functions and enzymatic processes – such as building strong collagen and healthy skin cells. For example a common symptom of B vitamin deficiency is dry skin. You also need a certain amount of minerals and electrolytes in your diet for your body to be able to absorb nutrients from your food. A good tip for increasing cellular hydrating is to add a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon to your water.


Product Recommendations

Check out some of my cleansers
Look at the Triple Acid Seaweed Serum for exfoliation,
the Nori Gel Serum for hydration
and the Vitamin Sea Serum for super dry/cracked skin



At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is to be patient with your skin during pregnancy. Your hormones are literally changing every day, so give yourself a break. Eat clean, drink water, get sleep, use nontoxic products when you can, and try to incorporate activities that help you reduce stress and inflammation on a daily basis. I know it can be frustrating dealing with some of the pregnancy related skin issues we discussed here today, but always remember that it's all going to be worth it when you're holding your little nugget of love after this journey is over. I hope this guide helps you in some way during your prenatal days, no matter how small. Good luck, and I'll see you on the other side of pregnancy....postpartum!!!

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