The best pregnancy-safe face wash is likely not the one you’re using right now. Even if you’re a conscious beauty user and you’ve nixed the most offensive, toxic ingredients, strange things are happening to your skin now that you’re pregnant (same with your hair, your vision — you get it). Since you first took that positive pregnancy test and estimated Baby’s arrival on the due date calculator, you’ve probably been in new mama preparedness mode and begun nesting, planning your baby shower registry, and shopping for maternity clothes. But taking a closer look (and possibly overhauling) the skincare and beauty products you use every day is one of the first items you should check off your to-do list.
But first, let’s talk face wash. During pregnancy, everything changes. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Your skin is bouncing back and forth between dry, super dry, oily, super oily, and some insane combo that can not be controlled. And all of the products you have been relying on for years may not be safe for baby or for you, Mama. Suddenly smells are offensive, essential oils are not safe, and anything with retinol is on the no-no list. It’s not just the basics like phthalates and parabens that need to go, but so many of those ingredients that you can’t pronounce affect not only your hormones but risks getting passed along to the baby.
Can you use acne face wash while pregnant?
Skincare expert Rosalia Fiske (Licensed Esthetician) shares, “Ingredients that pregnant women should be concerned with are acne-focused skincare, such as retinol, certain essential oils, and hydroquinone. That being said there are clean cleansers with the right essential oils that will do no harm to mother and baby. Those essential oils are considered hydro essential oils. Hydroessentials, which are water-soluble fractions of the essential oil, are safe as they do not penetrate the bloodstream.”
Kay Cola, CEO and Founder of TheOrganiBrands — which features organic, all-natural hair and body care lines — adds a few other ingredients to watch out for. “Added fragrances: While this may not seem like that big of a deal since it is commonly found in many beauty products, artificially added fragrances do not have to be broken down on the label, meaning that you don’t know what chemicals are potentially included in the formulation,” she explains. “They are actually the biggest endocrine disrupters and are called phthalates, but you will never see them listed on the packaging, just ‘fragrance.’ In addition, avoid parabens. Parabens are commonly found in beauty products to help extend their shelf life, but they have been linked to causing cancer, which is why putting them on a vulnerable area like your face is a no-go.”
Can I wash my face with salicylic acid while pregnant?
Fiske surprisingly points out that salicylic acid in a cleanser is actually okay for use. “This Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) is an excellent exfoliant and can be used to treat acne-prone symptomatic pregnant women. In high concentrations, it is considered a risk during pregnancy and should be avoided, especially in professional resurfacing situations. Small percentages used in cleansers like 2% are considered safe (always read your labels and check with your doctors). Hydration is the bottom line best goal before, during, and after pregnancy but of course with safe ingredients.”
Pregnancy-safe skincare brands
The good news is that brands and retailers are also demanding pregnancy safe skincare. Beautycounter, a leader in the clean beauty movement, was a founding member of the EWG Verified program which launched in 2015. This third-party certification provides a stamp of safety from ecotoxicity and/or contamination concerns and demands full product transparency. EWG’s “unacceptable” ingredient list is long, and they require that all ingredients are shared with consumers. If you haven’t tried their Healthy Living App yet, you scan your product and find out what is good (or not so good) about it. They make it so easy (and a little addictive) to know if your products are safe.
Lindsay Dahl, SVP of Social Mission at Beautycounter reminds us that, “Face washes can contain a variety of unregulated and sometimes harmful chemicals, such as phthalates (known to disrupt the hormone system and used in fragrances), questionable preservatives like parabens and harsh surfactants.” The good news? “Many safer ingredients exist that can be used for vulnerable times (like pregnancy!). Consumers should look for the EWG VERIFIED logo, which indicates that the company has fully vetted ingredients for safety.”
Ahead are our picks for the best pregnancy-safe face wash. And if they’re safe enough for pregnancy, they’re safe enough for you to keep using long after bb is born!
Best Pregnancy Safe Face Wash
Leave it to a great K-Beauty brand to bring us this super soothing, feels like water, facial cleanser. Backed by two decades of research into the power of antioxidants, the entire line harnesses these antioxidants to help defend the skin against signs of premature aging and protect it from free radicals. Customer Bethany raves, “I’ve tried a lot of cleansers from luxury to drugstore brands, and it’s probably my favorite cleanser among all of them!!”
This foaming face wash is chock full of naturally-derived ingredients such as soothing aloe, brightening sugarcane, moisturizing rice seed and cleansing coconut-derived surfactants. It has none of the bad stuff (including synthetic fragrance or color) but does have a natural, woodsy scent with notes of cedar, spearmint, lime, lemon, rosemary, black spruce, owyhee, vetiver and lavender. That’s plant-powered skincare (as they call it) at its best.
Of course the company that started with baby products can make skincare safe for pregnant mamas! This hypoallergenic, gentle gel cleanser contains a botanical blend of chamomile & calendula to help calm & soothe. It’s made without parabens, phthalates, SLS, dyes, SLES, PEGs, and synthetic fragrances. Since the Sweet Orange + Vanilla Body Wash is already a baby staple, we trust Jessica Alba with our own skin.
This hydrating foaming cleanser removes makeup and impurities without disrupting the skin’s moisture barrier. That means that it will seriously absorb your skincare product, so follow with serum and cream. EWG Verified— it includes unique ingredients like plum oil, squalane (derived from olives), and coconut acid without anything from the no-no list. Safe to use morning and night, work the cleanser into a velvety foam and then massage onto damp skin. Users attest to softer, more radiant and hydrated skin after just one use.
You had us at “Burt’s Bees.” This gentle foaming cleanser has cucumber and mint to nourish and hydrate, plus vitamins A, B2 and E. It’s allergy and dermatologist tested, hypoallergenic and formulated without parabens, phthalates, petrolatum and SLS. Male and female customers love this product (and full product line) as it can be used on the reg, day and night.
Perfect for sensitized skin (hello pregnancy), this formula is 100% naturally derived, right down to the surfactants that turn the product from a rich oil into a rinse-clean milk. It not only thoroughly cleanses your skin of makeup, but also of SPF and pollution. Pro-tip: leave it on for 10 minutes without water, and it doubles as a nourishing mask. REN has been a leader in clean skincare (all the way down to its packaging, which is fully recyclable where facilities exist) and has been a staple in our beauty regimen since before clean became cool.
Before you think this price is just too much, know the reviews are glowing. Jessica says, “This is the best exfoliating face wash I have ever found!! Don’t question yourself, just buy it!” Well then, enough said. Also, Fiske loves it for oily/combo skin mamas (all of us during pregnancy) noting the willow bark extract can penetrate deep into the pores, cleansing the skin from deep inside as salicylic acid normally would. Harper’s ingredients read like a list of mother nature’s best (olives, sunflower, apricot, pomegranate) and her products are made fresh in Vermont on her own farm.
Meet your new basic (in a good way) face wash— the one you will use every morning and every night (kind of like that Cetaphil you used growing up). Credo, who only does clean beauty, created this Peet Rivko Gentle Cleanser to make it simple for all of us. It’s great for all skin types, especially sensitive, and features ingredients like aloe vera, comfrey and green tea. This non-foaming cream cleanser is free of fragrance, essential oils and floral extracts. If you are ultra-sensitive to smells and everything else during pregnancy, heavy scents like lavender or rose will do you in.
Romer products are specifically formulated with clean ingredients — and without hormone disrupters — making them safe and nourishing for expecting moms’ skin (as well as for everyone else, regardless of gender). This gel-oil cleanser gently cleans while locking in moisture, helping to retain and restore your skin’s natural balance without drying it out. Follow with Romer’s lightweight moisturizer for an extra dose of hydration. While you’ll be tempted to try the brand’s treatment mask, it’s infused with CBD, so it’s best left for soothing skin after pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Formulated with probiotics, BIOMILK’s Probiotics + Bionutrients Face Scrub is designed with nourishing ingredients — and without hormone disruptors– to feed the delicate biome of the face. We like that this wash contains fine exfoliants that give you a deep, detoxifying clean that’s safe to use even if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. It’s made with 98% natural ingredients, and as a bonus, it’s also cruelty-free.
Best Face Wash For Pregnancy Acne
Tula’s Cult Classic Facial Cleanser is loved. Seriously. Created by an MD using probiotics (she’s a gastroenterologist, after all), this cleanser is gentle and effective— never overdrying— but tough enough to remove your makeup including eye makeup. The probiotics calm and soothe, on the inside and out. The smell is light and clean and the gel formula turns into a light foam when you use it. With none of the bad ingredients, it’s now a star in the Conscious Beauty division at Ulta Beauty.
Sea Kelp and French Green Clay are the ingredients behind this softening, detoxifying cleanser. It’s paraben free, sulfate free, mineral oil free, petrolatum free, formaldehyde free and cruelty free— but full of plant extracts and antioxidants. With more than 10,000 reviews on Amazon, Eileen raves, “I have been using the ACURE Brilliantly Brightening Facial Scrub for over 3 years. It is fantastically luxurious at a very affordable price.” Use the scrub 2-3x per week to keep skin-tones even (pregnant and new mamas, you know what we mean!).
We were once told to exfoliate only 1-2 times per week, and that’s because exfoliants can be harsh. But not this one. Countercontrol is meant for daily use thanks to the jojoba beads that slough away dead skin combined with soothing aloe vera and light oils from orange, grapefruit and eucalyptus. Taylor C loves it for her combo skin, “The Countercontrol Cleanser has the perfect blend of exfoliating and cleansing properties for my combination skin. It brings balance to my face, ridding the makeup/impurities, and I love the fresh but subtle and clean scent!”
Yep – old trusty. This is one of those situations where sometimes, less is more. Cetaphil is known for its to-the-point formula that’s pretty much as simple as it gets: It’s clear, fragrance-free, gentle, and suitable for just about everyone, including those with sensitive skin. It’s also a top-seller, with over 13,000 (overwhelmingly positive) reviews to prove it. Oh, and did we mention it’s super affordable? Done and done.