Pregnant Woman in a White Room

5 Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid While Pregnant

5 Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid While Pregnant

Pregnant Woman in a White Room

We’ve had babies on the brain at Follain HQ! I was lucky enough to share this pregnancy with two of my team members, Callie and Robin. We were all due within a week of each other in September, so there’s been a lot of prenatal skincare talk in the office. For many women, pregnancy is the big push that gets them thinking about clean beauty. We want to stay far away from anything that could harm our baby, but there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the safety of skincare for moms-to-be. There hasn’t been much medical research done in this area, because what scientist or doctor wants to run a study on pregnant women? The risk is just too high. However, many doctors and dermatologists advise expectant mothers to err on the safe side, and the best way to do that is by switching to healthier, non-toxic products.


There are a few ingredients doctors and dermatologists agree should be avoided during pregnancy.

  1. Retinol/retinoids, vitamin A derivatives commonly found in prescription (retinoid) or over-the-counter (retinol) anti-aging or anti-acne products
  2. Salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid often used in exfoliating and acne-fighting products
  3. Benzoyl peroxide, another common ingredient in many over-the-counter acne treatments
  4. Hydroquinone, a skin-lightening ingredient used in brightening products
  5. Botulinum toxin, a.k.a. Botox

All but one of these are already on our list of Restricted Ingredients, but we do carry products containing salicylic acid. We agree that it should be avoided during pregnancy. Search “salicylic acid” on our site to see which Follain-approved products you should steer clear of during those nine months. Whether you’re expecting or not, my philosophy remains the same: if there are safer alternatives, why risk it?


During pregnancy, sometimes people experience changes in their skin. “Everyone’s skin responds differently to pregnancy,” says dermatologist Papri Sarkar, MD. “Some people find their skin is radiant and glowing and others find their skin red, reactive, acne-prone or with newly formed dark spots or melasma.” Even if you’ve been pregnant before, your skin can react completely differently the next time around! During my first pregnancy, my face was all over the place; I had everything from acne to extreme dryness. Now, during my second pregnancy, my skin hasn’t change much at all, but my body grew much bigger, much faster, leaving me with itchy skin and the potential for stretch marks. But trust me, there’s a powerful clean beauty solve for every single skin concern you might face while expecting. Here are recommendations for ways to address skin concerns experienced during pregnancy.


Dermatologist Erika Klemperer, MD, a member of our Follain advisory board, is well-versed in which products best target every pregnancy skin condition. To prevent stretch marks, she says: “I encourage my patients to regularly massage susceptible areas with an organic oil high in essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamin E,  such as argan oil, marula oil, and barbary fig seed (prickly pear seed) oil.” She also loves rosehip and tamanu oil, two ingredients found in my most-reached-for product this pregnancy, Tata Harper Redefining Body Balm.



A common facial condition for expectant mothers is melasma, or brown splotches that appear on the forehead, upper lip, and cheeks. Melasma is so common that it’s earned the nickname “the mask of pregnancy.” To brighten up hyperpigmentation, both Dr. Klemperer and Dr. Sarkar recommend products rich in vitamin C. Klemperer also cites rosehip oil and barbary fig seed oil as ingredients that help with dark spots.  



Many of the physical and emotional responses of pregnancy are due to fluctuating hormones. This can trigger acne, even in women who haven’t had a breakout since their teen years. Since salicylic acid is off the table, Dr. Kemperer recommends niacinamide or rosehip oil in its place. Another great option for acne-prone skin is May Lindstrom’s The Problem Solver, a warming powder-to-mousse mask that doubles as a calming ritual (very much needed during pregnancy mood swings!). That’s one of the things I love most about clean products: the way they deliver an experience that elevates skincare to self care. Dr. Sarkar echoes the power of masks during and after pregnancy: “Masks help moms slow down and take a much needed break to focus on themselves.”


By now, it’s clear that switching to safer skincare doesn’t mean sacrificing results. Pregnancy won’t limit your options, it gives you the opportunity to discover amazing new products. Many expectant mothers switch to clean skincare for the sake of their pregnancy, only to find themselves so impressed by the efficacy and overall experience that they stick with it long term. Plus, by making the healthier choice for yourself, you’ll pass those values down to your children. It warms my heart to think that non-toxic will be non-negotiable for our little ones, too.


 In this video, Robin, Callie, and I share how our skin has changed and which products we’ve relied on most during this special time.



Argan Oil



Redefining Body Balm

Tata Harper

While we maintain high standards with our Restricted Ingredients List, if you are pregnant or nursing, we always recommend consulting your physician with any concerns.

Tara Foley | September 27, 2018

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