by maipham

August 5, 2020

safe skin care products during breastfeeding

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Having to take care of a little baby does not equal abandoning yourself.

In fact, in order to raise healthy kids while remaining sanity, you must take care of yourself. This is especially true when you are a new mom, to reduce the risk of postpartum depression.

When it comes to self-care, skin care is one of the most important steps, as your body went through many changes, leaving dark spots or acne all over your cheeks.

However, you cannot simply use the old skin care products if you are breastfeeding. Because you have a lot of contact with your little one, through kisses and touches, your little angel might get a little of those toxic ingredients too.

To find safe skin care products during breastfeeding, you must stay alert and look through the ingredients carefully.

In this article, we are doing just that: list down 12 toxic ingredients you must stay away from when choosing safe skin care products during breastfeeding.

12 toxic ingredients to avoid when choosing safe skin care products during breastfeeding

Aluminum Chloride

One thing about pregnant women and new moms is that they do sweat a lot. It is due to either hormone change or excessive blood during the pregnancy.

As a result, their underarms stink more than usual.

However, though, the usage of antiperspirants or deodorants for breastfeeding women is not recommended. Some research proved that aluminum based compounds may be absorbed by the skin, causing changes in the estrogen receptors of breast cells, and potentially increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

This topic is still being hotly debated, and we don’t know for sure if it passes to breast milk.

So the safest solution for this: avoid it.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs)

Exfoliation is an essential part of a good skincare routine. It helps to slough off dead skin and facilitate new cell turnover, keep pores clean (and skin clear), and promote blood flow and collagen production. It also makes your skin look younger, healthier, and helps produce the much-desired glow.

Probably the most popular exfoliation type is using acids, specifically AHA and BHA. These ingredients are often found in lotions, whitening moisturizer or acne cream.

However, they may disrupt the skin barrier, causing issues when other substances penetrate the skin. This could result in dark spots (melasma) or acne.

Verdict: Avoid

Benzoyl Peroxide

According to WebMD, when applied to the skin, benzoyl peroxide works by reducing the amount of acne-causing bacteria and by causing the skin to dry and peel.

While this is a very powerful acne fighter for your skin, it is a tough ingredient for pregnant and breastfeeding women. For pregnant women, studies have proven that it poses a risk to the fetus development and is a big no no during pregnancy.

For nursing moms, there is not a study to prove any side effect on nursing infants because only about 5% is absorbed following topical application. Therefore, it is considered a low risk to the nursing infant.

However, low risk doesn’t equal no risk.

Verdict: Avoid when possible

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA)

This ingredient is found in many self-tanners and spray tans, and you are a fan of these products, your skin might as well be familiar with it.

However, the possible side effects of DHA to an infant or a developing baby via skin absorption are unknown, so this chemical ingredient may cause some harm.

Verdict: best to avoid


According to Public Health Statement for formaldehyde of ATSDR, the most common health problems in people exposed to formaldehyde include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Formaldehyde may cause occupational asthma, but this seems to be rare. There are links between this ingredient with respiratory issues and even cancer. Animal studies have shown that inhalation of formaldehyde can result in irritation and damage to the lining of the nose and throat.

If it is so toxic, why do we still see it around us?

Because this chemical is often found in some hair straightening, soaps and body washes.

So before you jump into the shower, make sure you don’t wash yourself with formaldehyde.

Verdict: Not safe


According to Heathline, hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent. It bleaches the skin, which can be helpful when treating different forms of hyperpigmentation.

As I mentioned above, pregnant and moms often suffer from melasma, and hydroquinone is a great ingredient to treat it.

In this article, NCBI admitted that topical hydroquinone has not been studied during breastfeeding. Although hydroquinone is not contraindicated during breastfeeding, some experts feel that long-term use of hydroquinone is difficult to justify in a nursing mother.

However, they also emphasized that if a nursing mom uses it, she should try to avoid letting this ingredient touch the baby’s skin.

Verdict: Not dangerous but best to avoid if possible.


This harmful ingredient is often found in sunscreen, once being absorbed through the skin, it is suspected endocrine disruptors and possible carcinogens.

In fact, in 2019, the US FDA called for more research on it.

Until we know for sure that it is safe to use, stick with mineral sunscreen while choosing safe skin care products during breastfeeding.

Verdict: Avoid, if possible

Parabens and Phthalates

These chemicals are all over the place in your house. From shampoo, soup and many chemical items in your house, most of the time these ingredients exist.

Phthalates are dissolving agents and parabens are a preservative used to stave off mold and bacteria. They can endocrine disruptors so that they can affect the reproductive system.

Studies have shown that they can be found in breastmilk, affecting the healthy development of babies by disrupting hormone production.

Limit your use of these toxic chemicals as much as possible. Make sure you look through the ingredient list on the label, don’t just pick a product with the word “natural” or “organic” on it.

Verdict: avoid at all costs.


Fragrances are used to make skin care products smell good. The problem with this when choosing safe skin care products during breastfeeding is that the manufacturers do not list out all the ingredients they use as fragrances.

Some nice-smelling-ingredients are safe, but some are not. But you cannot really tell just by looking at the label.

Verdict: best to avoid


We love vitamin A, it is good for our eyes and skin. Doctors always recommend us to eat vitamin A-rich veggies, like pumpkins, carrots, etc.

However, when it comes to skin care, vitamin A cannot be absorbed directly to the skin. To do so, vitamin A is used in the form of vitamin A derivatives. Vitamin A derivatives can be listed under many names, including retinoic acid, tretinoin, palmitate and retinaldehyde.

Vitamin A or Retinol is an ingredient that speeds up cell division, changes cell function and repairs cell damage. It is the ingredient of choice, when not pregnant, if you wish to change your skin. They are commonly found in acne treatments and anti-aging serums. You might be familiar with these ingredients before.

However, products containing retinols have been linked to severe birth defects and should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

According to WebMD, Retin-A is mostly used as an anti-acne medication that is applied topically. It is recommended to never use it during pregnancy, and that it is unknown whether it actually crosses into breastmilk.

So my risk-adverse advice is, “why risk it?”. We don’t want to have any whatif around our little ones.

Verdict: Avoid

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a type of BHA. You often find this ingredient in many acne creams. However, studies have shown that in concentrations of more than 2%, there could be a risk for baby. Therefore, you should avoid it during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Verdict: Safe if concentrations is less than 2%

Thioglycolic acid

This chemical is found in hair removal creams. So far there is no solid research on the side effects of this chemical on breastfeeding women as well as in breastmilk, but it is not worth the risk.

Hair removal creams often contain this chemical (sometimes listed as mercaptoacetate or mercaptan). While there’s no solid research on the side effects, I think it’s not worth the risk.

Verdict: Best to stay away

My top picks for safe skin care products while breastfeeding


EltaMD UV Pure Kids Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 47

Glo Skin Beauty Moisturizing Tint SPF 30+

Treat acne

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Acnomel Adult Acne Medication Cream

Brightening skin

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum for Face

Drunk Elephant C-Firma™ Day Serum

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%


Neutrogena Hydro Boost


What skincare can I use while breastfeeding?

I suggested some safe products above. However, other than that, don’t forget you have a natural option. For example, coffee ground to remove dead cells, egg white for acne peeling masks and cucumbers for relaxing face masks.

Can I use Vitamin C serum while breastfeeding?

Yes, I also picked some vitamin C serums that are listed as safe skin care products during breastfeeding.

How can I lighten my skin after pregnancy?

While you can go for some brightening products to treat melasma, such as some products I picked above, you can also opt for natural options. Check out my 11 remedies to relieve dark spots.

Choosing safe skin care products during breastfeeding is a big deal

As they will affect not only on your skin, but also your baby and your sanity.

Just make sure you read everything on the label before you buy and double check with this list. What’s more, when you are in doubt, ask your doctor or dermatologist for advice.

Having a glowing skin with a gorgeous baby is not impossible. As long as you willing to make the move.

About the author 

Mai Pham

Mai Pham discovered her passion for writing a few years ago and she never stop thinking about it ever since. She finally took the leap and created Live a Worthy Life to brag about her smart ass (mainly just for fun). Enjoyed the fun writing brings, now with her new interest in everything-baby-related, she created Mommy Instinct, to tell mamas that it's ok that they mess up, that they don't know what the hell they are doing, and that it's okay to sit back and relax for a while.

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