The best pregnancy-safe facial washes are gentle enough for Mom to use during pregnancy and through their 4th trimester (otherwise known as postpartum). While you might not think that face washes and other skin-care products can affect a baby, they actually may. And you, Mama, need to be using the best products for you both not only during your pregnancy, but also through the months when you’re breastfeeding.
Best Pregnancy-Safe Face Washes at a glance
- Best with antioxidants: Youth to the People Kale and Green Tea Spinach Vitamins Superfood Cleanser, $36
- Best no-rinse: BIOEFFECT Micellular Cleansing Water, $71
- Best calming: REN Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk, $37
- Best nourishing: Beautycounter Counterstart Cococream Cleanser, $22
- Best face wash/makeup remover combo: Jane Iredale BeautyPrep Face Cleanser, $30
- Best oil cleanser: Knours. Your Only Facial Cleanser, $28
- Best cleansing bar: Ethique Solid Cleanse Bars, $18
- Best mineral cleanser: Ahava Mineral Radiance Cleansing Gel, $26
- Best vitamin-enriched: Murad Essential-C Cleanser, $42
- Best exfoliating: Yina Bioadaptive Cleanser, $68
- Best soothing: Malaya Organics Cleansing Oil, $48
- Best for skin discoloration: January Labs Pure & Gentle Cleansing Gel, $32
- Best hydrating: Plenaire Rose Jelly Gentle Makeup Remover & Hydrating Cleanser, $24
- Best for sensitive skin: Tata Harper SUPERKIND Softening Cleanser, $88
- Best for acne: EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser, $31
- Best fragrance-free: Trilogy Very Gentle Cleansing Cream, $40
Lactation consultant, Jadah Parks Chatterjee, tells us that, “What you eat, drink and apply to your skin can become a part of your bloodstream and your milk. When possible, choose products that are made with ingredients that are least harmful for you.” Ask your dermatologist if the products you are using, topical or not, are safe for pregnancy, since many things affect you differently during this time. Just a simple switch to unscented or barely scented products can make a big difference with all of your hormones influx.
How pregnancy affects your skin
Pregnancy does a lot to our skin. Moms are suddenly dealing with melasma, stretch marks, dry skin and the dreaded hormonal acne. We spoke with mom and celebrity dermatologist, Dr. Whitney Bowe, who is an expert in all things pregnancy skin related. As mom to a "miracle baby" she realizes that we all start to re-examine the products we use during this critical time.
Dr. Bowe took the time to explain how important it is for us to pass along good skin health to our newborns. “A diverse skin microbiome is associated with skin health. Skin to skin contact with your newborn is critical not only for bonding, but that it also can influence your baby's microbiome. If you're using biome-friendly ingredients in your skin care (things like prebiotics, jojoba oil, and squalane) then you are likely transferring some of your healthy, diverse microflora to your little one."
Ingredients in face wash to avoid while pregnant
Pregnancy hormones can bring on unwelcome skin changes, but most of the common ingredients for treating breakouts, brightening hyperpigmentation, and exfoliating are not safe to use at this time, says Ildi Pekar, a celebrity esthetician and facialist.
Especially for anyone dealing with breakouts or pigmentation, Pekar advises to avoid salicylic acid, retinoids, and any high percentage AHA/BHA. Instead, look for products with zinc, azaleic acid, or niacinamide. "Zinc is a potent antioxidant and anti inflammatory with a proven record or clearing breakouts. Azaleic acid is another antioxidant with antibacterial effects in addition to brightening effects that can fade dark spots. Niacinamide helps clear, brighten, and smooth skin and can regulate oil production. To exfoliate, look for something gentle with rice powder or dried flowers/herbs to lightly buff the skin without stripping or penetrating too deep," she says.
Anna Chacon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, also recommends staying away from chemical sunscreens, hydroquinone, pure or high concentration essential oils. "When choosing skincare products, opt for natural or organic ones, or those labeled safe for pregnant women," she says.
What to do if you have acne while pregnant
Bowe has a serious list of Dos and Don'ts when it comes to ingredients that are safe to use during pregnancy. “Acne can either get better or it can get a lot worse during pregnancy, it’s hard to predict,” says Bowe. “I’ve seen patients whose acne is really great during their first pregnancy and then flairs up like crazy during their second pregnancy.” Here are some general "rules" to follow.
Don’t use retinoids (This includes prescription strength retinoids or over the counter retinoids/retinol.)
Don’t use growth factors
Don't use salicylic acid
Don’t use benzoyl peroxide
Do use alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic acid and lactic acid. These are really positive for acne prone skin during pregnancy.
Do use azelaic acid (prescription or over the counter)
Do use antioxidants like Vitamin C
Do use peptides
Bowe reminds us to avoid questionable products during pregnancy, stating that it’s better to be safe than sorry. “A good rule of thumb is that anything you are avoiding during pregnancy should also be avoided until you are done nursing.”
In addition, texture is also something to factor in when choosing a cleanser. "Foaming gels are better for oily or acne prone skin, while moussey foams and lotions are typically more gentle for sensitive skin," says Pekar.
Keep scrolling for the best, and safest face wash for you during (and after) pregnancy.
Best pregnancy-safe facial washes
The directions include “lather and massage to activate the cold-pressed ingredients.” Packed with antioxidants, the kale, green tea and spinach blend has a healthful, lightweight scent. Seal it in with the kale and spinach Superfood Moisture Cream. Both are vegan and made without phthalates, parabens and sulfates.
This fragrance-free, barely-there face wash is actually lava filtered water from Iceland. Icelandic water is known for its therapeutic properties which pull in healthy skin minerals and skin-replenishing elements. With the perfect level of calcium and magnesium, this naturally soft water keeps skin from drying out when you need to retain moisture the most.
This creamy, emulsion cleanser helps to calm redness, itchiness, dryness, and irritation, leaving sensitive and stressed skin feeling clean and comfortable. Blackcurrant seed oil, rich in moisturizing Omega 3, 6 and vitamin E, helps nourish skin and defend it from the constant dehydration we get during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
This light, creamy face wash nourishes and soothes our sensitive skin during pregnancy. Ingredients include coconut oil, aloe vera and Vitamin E (an antioxidant). Plus—it’s certified vegan and cruelty-free and is an EWG Verified skin care product.
BeautyPrep is a micellar cleansing water that is both a makeup remover and a moisturizing face wash in one. Cucumber seed extract and cucumber fruit extract hydrate, soothes and protects while algae extract soothes, nourishes and hydrates the skin.
This oil-to-foam cleanser starts off as an oil to dissolve dirt & make-up, then transforms into a foam cleanser with water for a non-stripping, easy double cleanse. Key ingredients include jojoba oil, chamomile and olive oil for the ultimate in soothing and moisture.
It’s been a while since using bar soap to wash your face, right? This face cleansing bar is vegan, plant-based and comes in three formulations depending on your state of oily vs. dry skin during pregnancy. The Deep Green is made with French clay, sea salt, and castor and sweet orange oils giving your skin that fresh-out-of-the-ocean feeling.
This clear, lightweight, vegan gel cleanser is full of signature ingredients sourced from the what is thought to be nourishing Dead Sea. Short on ingredients you want to avoid while pregnant (parabens, alcohol, GMO and SLS/SLES) they’ve added in aloe vera (moisturizer and anti-inflammatory) as well as Allantoin as an anti-irritant for sudden blemishes.
Vitamins A, C, and E. Yes, yes and yes! Dr. Murad knows that during pregnancy (and all times) we love an energizing, brightening cleanser that doesn’t dry out our fragile, hormonal skin. It has a light citrus scent, moisturizes, and has no parabens or phthalates. It’s suitable for combination, balanced, dry, and oily skin types.
Allow a few minutes to massage this cream cleanser into your skin so that the Pearl and Poria powder can gently exfoliate and cleanse. Active and purifying Chinese Medicinal plant extracts such as white tea, poria, and pearl dissolve daily impurities, residual makeup, and pollutants.
Malaya’s cleansing oil is a makeup remover and cleansing oil combined. Organic apricot kernel, sweet almond, safflower, jojoba and olive oils leave skin feeling hydrated, glowing and balanced. Vegan-, cruelty- and gluten-free, this product is handcrafted in small batches.
As if this were created just for pregnant women and their ever-changing skin needs, this product’s soothing botanicals work to restore and nourish all skin types. White Willow Bark, a naturally occurring form of salicylic acid, soothes skin and helps prevent pore congestion, while vitamin C helps reduce inflammation and provide antioxidant protection. Licorice Root Extract works with vitamin C to improve skin tone and hyperpigmentation—something expectant moms learn all too much about!
The jelly-like texture of this cleanser rapidly dissolves makeup while soothing and cooling the skin. Formulated with mild, sugar-based actives and pure distilled rosewater, this gentle jelly cleanser even dissolves stubborn eye makeup without any harsh scrubbing.
Created for sensitive skin, this gentle face wash is hypoallergenic, totally fragrance-free and dermatologist tested. Gluten- and alcohol-free, soy-free and vegan, you can trust in Tata’s products to be luxurious, nourishing and rich in all-natural ingredients.
This gentle, pH balanced cleanser is strong enough to lift all debris, oils, and other impurities, yet gentle enough not to cause irritation, says Dr. Chacon. It also works well with acne-prone skin, as the extra-fine foaming bubbles deep clean, and the gentle enzymes helps remove dead skin cells and reduce inflammation.
Trilogy’s fragrance-free cream cleanser refreshes skin with essential fatty acid rich camelia, nourishing antioxidant maqui berry and soothing breakthrough botanical complex Syricalm. Made in New Zealand, Trilogy’s products are Natrue Certified- Cruelty free and made without toxins, parabens and GMO ingredients.
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