Is It Safe to Wear Make-Up During Pregnancy?

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As you get a positive pregnancy test, you find yourself checking on the toxicity and safety aspects of all the elements surrounding you. One such thing that could add to your apprehensions is using make-up during pregnancy. If you are someone who loves applying cosmetic and other make-up products, you may have to rethink before continuing its use while pregnant. Reportedly, certain toxic chemicals can pose risks to the cognitive development of the fetus (1). Want to know more about the possible risks and safety aspects of using make-up while expecting? Keep reading as we discuss all this and more about wearing make-up when pregnant.

Skin Changes Due To Pregnancy

The hormonal, vascular, metabolical, and immunological changes during pregnancy can take a toll on your skin health. Here are the five most common skin complaints among pregnant women (2):

  1. Physiological skin changes in pregnancy
  2. Skin disorders unique to pregnancy
  3. Skin tumors of importance in pregnancy
  4. Skin infections of perinatal importance
  5. Dermatoses affected by pregnancy

Therefore, it is natural that women resort to cosmetics, to mask these skin changes in pregnancy to look beautiful and feel better. Even otherwise, wearing makeup during pregnancy is a usual routine for most women.

Cosmetics And Chemicals In Pregnancy

There are contradictory theories on the use of cosmetics and chemical exposure during pregnancy.

Theory 1:

Hydroquinone, a popular skin-lightening agent, does not cause any fetal malformation. However, as it has a relatively high systemic absorption rate into the blood, it is best to minimize the exposure of the chemical during pregnancy (3).

Theory 2:

Though the amount of absorption of Tretinoin is low, its topical use may lead to birth defects as per a few medical reports. (2) Phthalates, a chemical found in most makeup products like lipstick, hairspray, and nail polish, interfere with hormones during pregnancy. A study indicates, a prenatal exposure to the chemical can lower the IQ level of the child by more than six points. (3) Babies of mothers exposed to high levels of phthalates during pregnancy had up to 78 percent higher risk of developing asthma by the age of 11 in comparison to other children (4).

Theory 3:

Topical application of clindamycin and erythromycin for acne does not have any teratogenic effect on the fetus. The skin poorly absorbs salicylic acid, a key ingredient in anti-acne products, and Dihydroxyacetone, a color additive in self-tanning products. Therefore, these two chemicals do not pose any threat to the unborn baby. Sodium, calcium, and potassium hydroxide in depilatory creams too are harmless while expecting. In fact, sunscreens protect the skin from harmful UV rays and help prevent melasma. Hence, a majority of people feel that women can look their best by using cosmetics without compromising the health of the unborn child (5).

Risk Factor

Can pregnant women wear makeup? Well, most cosmetics in the markets are not subject to any regulation. So the toxicity of the chemicals in cosmetics or the safety of its use while expecting is still ambiguous.

Cosmetic Ingredients To Avoid During Pregnancy

For your safety in pregnancy, watch out for these ingredients in any of your cosmetic products and stay away from it. You can consult your dermatologist to suggest specific alternatives for each of them.

Vitamin A: An oral intake of sufficient amounts of vitamin A can work wonders for your skin. Creams and pills that contain retinoids, a synthetic form of vitamin A, help fight acne and psoriasis and treat skin disorders, premature aging, and warts. However, the use of retinoids during pregnancy can adversely affect fetal development.

Vitamin K: Vitamin K, is one of the major ingredients in any skin lightening cream. It also aids the clotting of blood. During pregnancy, you are prone to developing clots. Hence, it is advisable to not let the vitamin K in cosmetic products penetrate the skin and reach the bloodstream and cause fetal complications.

Centella Asiatica: It is an effective treatment for stretch marks. However, Centella Asiatica increases sensitivity to the sun rays and can cause a rash in pregnant women. Its oral intake has a narcotic-like effect and can even result in miscarriage.

A Word of Caution

If you love to look glamorous during pregnancy by using cosmetics, please remember the following points:

  • Protect your growing fetus by limiting your exposure to chemicals like lead and mercury, especially in the first trimester.
  • Nail polish, hair dyes, artificial nails and hair permanents all contain harmful chemicals. Though there are no conclusive evidences on the ill effects of these chemicals on the fetus, it is wise to either completely avoid the use of chemicals during pregnancy or use it in well-ventilated rooms.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What makeup should I avoid when pregnant?

Avoid mineral makeup during pregnancy as it contains traces of heavy metals. Apart from this, you should also avoid other makeup products containing chemicals, such as parabens, phthalates, or triclosan, which would adversely affect your baby’s development (6) (7).

2. What should I look for while buying makeup products during pregnancy?

If you are buying makeup products during pregnancy (6) (7)

  • Make sure you read the labels carefully
  • Do not believe in natural products as they may contain chemicals
  • Research well as some natural products also hinder the endocrine functions
  • Choose products that contain minimum chemicals
  • If you are not sure about the products, use apps to determine their safety

Pregnancy entails a lot of hormonal changes in the body throughout the nine months, and that eventually affects your skin as well. Therefore, use natural make-up products and follow a healthy, balanced diet to maintain your radiance during and even after your pregnancy. While using make-up during pregnancy, it is advised that you check the ingredients used in the products. Also, avoid using products that might contain potentially harmful ingredients such as vitamin A and Centella Asiatica as they contain harmful chemicals that might harm the baby or increase the risks of miscarriage.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Exposure to common household chemicals may cause IQ drop.
  2. Safety of skin care products during pregnancy.
  3. Is wearing make-up harmful during pregnancy? Exposure to beauty chemicals is linked with lower IQ in children study claims.
  4. Phthalates Heighten Risk for Childhood Asthma.
  5. Pina Bozzo et al; Safety of skin care products during pregnancy.
  7. Chemicals to Avoid When You’re Pregnant or Breastfeeding.
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Ria Saha

Ria is a techie-turned-writer and writes articles on health, with special emphasis on nutrition. She did her B.Tech from West Bengal University of Technology and was previously associated with IBM as SAP ABAP technical consultant. She moved into freelance content writing in 2013 and worked for various websites including MomJunction, Brainpulse Technologies, and Emarketz India.