Mother and Baby

Which beauty products are safe to use during pregnancy?

Section: Beauty

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.

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.

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

Expand Image

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. 
The top 10 UK spas for pregnancy massage Expand Image The top 10 UK spas for pregnancy massage

Ragdale Hall, Leicestershire, £64,

Suitable from 12 weeks, this is a gorgeous treat if you’ve been feeling tired, grumpy and out of sorts. It takes an holistic approach, mixing deep breathing and rhythmic massage with special attention to hands, feet, head and pressure points. There’s even aura cleansing at the end. This treatment is a great way to recharge your batteries.
GOOD TO KNOW: You’ll find Ragdale Hall’s famous robes-and-tracksuits-only policy liberating. It’s comfy slippers and soft terry-towelling all the way - even in the restaurant… You can also buy gift vouchers for Ragdale, the perfect present for mums-to-be or mummy friends who need a bit of pampering - vouchers start from just £25. 
Expand Image

Wynyard Hall, Tees Valley, £65, 

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.
GOOD TO KNOW: Blow the budget with the £165 Yummy Mummy-to-Be two-and-a-half-hour treatment which adds full body massage to a facial, legs and feet treatment.

Book a stay at Wynyard Hall now on
Expand Image

Champneys, all over the UK, from £65, 

It’s the award-winning omega-rich oils that really make this massage something special: they leave you feeling super-soft and comfortable, a perfect remedy for itchy, dry, stretched skin. There’s a focus on lower back, neck and scalp, so don’t be surprised if you drift off before the hour’s up…
GOOD TO KNOW: The bump benefits from a Yummy Mummy elasticising mask during the massage to help win the war against stretch marks!
Expand Image

Stobo Castle, Scotland, £39, 

This gentle massage loosens pent-up tension and lets go of stress. Suitable for all stages of pregnancy (mention which trimester you’re in when booking), this is the kind of unhurried, soothing massage that leads to an amazing night’s sleep. 

GOOD TO KNOW: There’s a hair studio at Stobo: book in for a cut and blowdry to banish ‘massage hair’ and you’ll go home looking and feeling like a whole new woman.
Expand Image

The Mill Wheel Spa, Staffordshire, £55, 

Cleverly, this whole body massage evolves and adapts as your pregnancy advances, so it’s worth signing up for a course to get the full benefit. In the first trimester, the therapist uses peppermint oils to help morning sickness, in the second a double back massage for aches, and as due date nears, the feet, hands and ankles get extra care.
GOOD TO KNOW: The Heaven Massage is the brainchild of beauty guru Deborah Mitchell, creator of the Bee Venom Mask, a firm fave of celebs including the Duchess of Cambridge.

Book a stay at The Three Horseshoes Inn on
Expand Image

Christchurch Harbour Spa, Dorset, £70, 

Starting with a gentle exfoliation to slough away dry skin, this 55-minute massage targets areas that are feeling the strain, whether that’s tense shoulders, tender back or puffy feet. ESPA oils are 100 percent natural so there’s no nasty chemicals to worry about.
GOOD TO KNOW: If time allows, try the Pregnancy Pamper treatment (90 minutes, £100), if only for its glorious foot soak and leisurely leg massage. 

Book a stay at Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa on
Expand Image

The Titanic Spa, West Yorkshire, £75, 

This combination of massage, mini facial and ‘tummy mask’ can be tailored to address anything that may be causing you concern, from pigmentation to water retention or pesky stretch marks. You can book in any time from three months right up to due date.
GOOD TO KNOW: Decléor’s oils are all botanic and smell wonderfully uplifting - think neroli, ylang, ylang, mandarin, iris and rose. A natural way to boost your spirits.
Expand Image

Weavers’ House Spa, Suffolk, £70, 

Comfort’s the key thing here: this whole massage is performed while you lie on your back on a floating Hydrotherm mattress, which is filled with water heated to your exact body temperature. It’s like being hugged…
GOOD TO KNOW: Set in a picture-postcard medieval village, this spa hotel is a lovely option for a sneaky night away or a spa day with lavish afternoon tea.

Book a stay at The Swan at Lavenham on
Expand Image

Ramside Hall Hotel, County Durham, £110, 

Unusually, Ramside Hall has a whole host of treatments for pregnancy and this package includes both a back and scalp massage, plus a radiance facial. Over an hour and half, the masseuse eases away tension and nagging aches. Blissful.
GOOD TO KNOW: The 45-minute Lighter Legs treatment is well worth a go too if you’re suffering from tired feet or painful joints.

Book a stay at Ramside Hall Hotel on
Expand Image

The Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, from £76, 

Though famous for its championship golf courses, The Celtic Manor boasts a sanctuary-like spa that’s really world-class. This prenatal massage has won awards and takes place on an Elemis beanbag for extra safety and comfort. Goodbye back pain and swollen hands!  It’s suitable from the first trimester onwards.
GOOD TO KNOW: The Forum Spa has a dreamy swimming pool lit with stars like the night sky if you fancy a dip after your treatment.

Book a stay at The Celtic Manor Resort on
Expand Image

Cowshed, various London locations, £80, 

The ‘Udderly gorgeous’ treatments for expectant mothers are the perfect ways to pamper yourself before your new arrival. All mummy-to-be treatments contain sea buckthorn oil to give your growing skin a much needed MOT, maintaining skin tone and elasticity, whilst being deeply relaxing.

GOOD TO KNOW: Inspired by the original Cowshed Spa at Babington House in Somerset, these London havens are the perfect place to unwind in the city. Whether you’re fitting this in on your lunchbreak, or have time to sit and relax afterwards, you won’t regret. 


What beauty products do you swear by during pregnancy? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Make sure you're following Mother & Baby on Instagram for relatable memes, inspiring stories and parenting hacks!

Join the club! Introducing our brand, spankin’ new Facebook group called #mumtribe. Simply search ‘#mumtribe’ into the search bar and meet like-minded mums, win gorgeous goodies and have some fun!

Have approx 60 seconds to spare? Why not join thousands of mums-to-be and start your very own Amazon baby wish list! They're absolutely free to create and perfect to send to the friends, aunties and your mum to make sure you're getting the baby products you really need...Click here!


Catriona originally joined the team as an Editorial Assistant to work on the 2019 M&B Awards. As a Digital Writer, she has written and updated hundreds of articles on the site from medical explainers to celebs news and shopping galleries.

Catch her running along the Thames or eating her way around London's restaurants.


You may also like
Related content: