Photo: Krystal Hipwell/Instagram

Photo: Krystal Hipwell/Instagram


Growing a tiny human - and then going on to breastfeed that baby - naturally has a major impact on how our skin look and feels. Some of us are lucky enough to enjoy a pregnancy “glow”, while some of us can experience common pregnancy skin conditions like dryness and sensitivity, hormonal acne or melasma (the pregnancy mask), and even some unexplained but harmless “things” that just appear, hello skin tags?!

There are a huge range of products that promote being safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding but it’s important to be sure. The best place to start is to understand the ingredients that are considered harmful due to either not enough research on the impact on the foetus or breastfed baby or ingredients that are known to cross the placenta and have an affect on the baby.

We also need to consider that natural products are not necessarily safe either, there is evidence that some essential oils can cross the placenta and get to the baby. So you need to check “natural” products too.  

What ingredients are unsafe to use?

The following short list of ingredients can be powerful acne-fighters, skin lightning or anti ageing but are a bit too powerful for baby and should be avoided during pregnancy and while breastfeeding: 

Retinoids and Vitamin A (these may be listed on ingredient labels as retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde, adapalene, tretinoin, tazarotene and isotretinoin), Tetracycline, Salicylic Acid, Benzoyl Peroxide are all commonly used in acne fighting or anti-ageing skin care products and medication.

 Some skin care brands, particularly cosmeceutical ranges, are bringing out what they’re calling ‘pregnancy-safe’ vitamin As and retinols, but you need to do due diligence and check with your obstetrician and also decide for yourself what you’re comfortable with.

Hydroquinone This is used as a skin-lightening agent in brightening serums and creams used to treat conditions such as dark spots and melasma. Tempting to use if you’ve developed dark spots but not worth the risk. To prevent brown spots and discolouration during pregnancy—use sunscreen! However choose physical over chemical during this time. 

Look out for these chemicals in perfume and nail polishes: Phthalates, formaldehyde, toluene. Look to nail polish brands such as Sienna Byron Bay 

Botox and fillers need to be avoided until after pregnancy and breastfeeding.

You also need to consider essential oils in any natural products: Aniseed, Angelica, Basil, Black pepper, Camphor, Cinnamon, Chamomile, Clary Sage (often used during labor by midwives safely), clove, fennel, fir, ginger, horseradish (should not be used by anyone), Jasmine, Juniper, Marjoram, Mustard, Mugwart (should not be used by anyone), Myrrh, Nutmeg, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Wintergreen.

The final word however on using anything you’re not sure of is to always ask your obstetrician or if you’re going through the public healthcare system, call the MotherSafe hotline on 9382 6539 or 1800 647848 and they can answer your questions.  

So what is safe to use?

Look for some of these alternative ingredients:

•    Vitamin C, Azelaic acid, Kojic acid, Moth Bean extract instead of retinoids and Vitamin A

•    Glycolic, lactic, malic and mandelic acids (AHA) instead of Salicylic acid (BHA) and Benzoyl Peroxide

•    Vitamin C, Niacinamide, Willow bark extract and Papaya instead of hydroquinone

Here are a few suggestions for products covering core products for a healthy skin regime, as well as a list of recommendations for some of the more common skin conditions mentioned above.

To maintain your glow:

•   Audra James Cleansing Melt, $64


•   Roccoco Botanicals Vitaskin (can be purchased from Pippa James)

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•    Edible Beauty On the Fly Core 4, $78 - this travel kit is a lovely idea for your hospital bag.


Safe “corrective” products for melasma and acne, it is always advisable to seek a professional skin analysis before purchasing:

•   Cosmedix Purity Clean, $39



Pippa James is offering Not So Mumsy followers a free Roccoco Botanicals Vitaskin mini to try when you book an appointment with Pippa (you won’t be disappointed!). Simply mention NSM when you book.

(Offer is limited to 1 per person and expires June 26, 2019).


Pippa James is the Founder of Skin by Pippa James. She’s a facialist currently providing professional facials in the comfort of your home, servicing Sydney metro. She comes with a passion for caring for others, like new or busy mamas, and brings professional skin care skills with a holistic approach to her practice. For more information you can visit her website www.skinbypippajames.com or follow her on Instagram @skinbypippajames