what skincare ingredients to avoid while breastfeeding

What Skincare Ingredients to Avoid While Breastfeeding For Your Baby’s Safety in 2024

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Anxious about what skincare ingredients to avoid while breastfeeding? You may need a fresh perspective on your personal care routine. Your skincare choices now impact your baby too. As a breastfeeding mother, you need to understand what’s in those products, as certain ingredients could potentially make their way to your baby through breast milk.

As a mom of two and breastfeeding counselor, I know the havoc that sleep deprivation and hormones can play on your skin! Everything changes when your baby is born – and self-care has never been so important as it is now.

Safety is the mantra, and ensuring your skincare routine is breastfeeding-friendly is essential.

Skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding is much more than nourishment; it’s about bonding, comfort, and building a deep emotional connection. Your skincare products can impact this intimate exchange. Not all natural ingredients are safe; some essential oils can even decrease milk supply.

Navigating skincare ingredients to avoid while breastfeeding can be daunting, with many products touting “natural” or “organic” labels. This guide is here to illuminate this area, helping you make informed choices to keep both you and your baby safe and content.


Please note that this article is not medical advice – more a jumping off point to talk through skin concerns with your healthcare provider or dermatologist.

What skincare ingredients to avoid while breastfeeding


Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that are commonly used in anti-aging and acne treatments. However, they can be harmful to your baby’s development, so it’s best to avoid them while breastfeeding. Retinoids can cause birth defects and other developmental issues.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that is often used to treat acne and exfoliate the skin. While it’s generally safe to use in low concentrations, it’s best to avoid it while breastfeeding. High concentrations of salicylic acid can be harmful to your baby’s skin, and it can also cause skin irritation and allergies.


Parabens are preservatives that are commonly used in skincare products. While they are generally considered safe, some studies have linked them to cancer and other health issues. It’s best to avoid products that contain parabens while breastfeeding.


Formaldehyde is a chemical that is used in many skincare products as a preservative. It’s also a known carcinogen and can cause allergic reactions. It’s best to avoid products that contain formaldehyde while breastfeeding.


Fragrances are often added to skincare products to make them more appealing. However, they can cause skin irritation and allergies. It’s best to use fragrance-free organic skincare products while breastfeeding.

Chemical sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and avobenzone. While they are effective at protecting your skin from the sun, they can be harmful to your baby. In 2019, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed its most recent updates to sunscreen regulations. It found that only two ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, could be classified as safe and effective so it’s best to use physical sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.


Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening ingredient that is often used to treat hyperpigmentation and melasma. While it’s generally safe to use, it’s best to avoid it while breastfeeding. There is limited research on the effects of hydroquinone on breastfeeding mothers and their babies so it is best to avoid this ingredient when breastfeeding.

Tretinoin, Tazarotene, Retin-A

Tretinoin, tazarotene, and Retin-A are all vitamin A derivatives that are commonly used in anti-aging and acne treatments. While they are effective, they can be harmful to your baby. It’s best to avoid these ingredients while breastfeeding.

Other ingredients to avoid

Some skincare items contain azelaic acid, which is often used to lighten dark spots and reduce inflammation in irritated skin. Though generally safe, it’s best to consult a board-certified dermatologist before using such products. Also, skincare products containing the potent antioxidant, citric acid, should be used with caution as they can cause skin sensitivity.

Avoid ingredients such as retinoids, BHAs, and parabens as they can potentially harm your baby. Instead, opt for gentler alternatives like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), vitamin C, and vitamin E. These ingredients can enhance your skin texture, diminish fine lines, and brighten your complexion.

Which skincare ingredients are safe when breastfeeding?

While breastfeeding, it’s essential to be mindful of the skincare products you use. Certain ingredients can be beneficial for your skin, while others can potentially affect your baby. Always consult with your doctor or dermatologist before integrating any new products into your skincare regimen to ensure their safety.

Certain active ingredients found in over-the-counter skincare products like alpha hydroxy acid (including glycolic acid and lactic acid), benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acids are usually considered safe for use during breastfeeding. However, it’s always wise to opt for products that offer gentle exfoliation and avoid those that penetrate deep into your skin barrier.

Sun protection

When it comes to sun protection, mineral sunscreen with active ingredients like zinc oxide is a powerful antioxidant and a safer bet than those containing the chemical oxybenzone for nursing mothers. Moreover, while vitamin C serum is a potent antioxidant that provides protection against free radical damage, it can cause sun sensitivity.

Zinc oxide sunscreen is a safe and effective option to provide protection from the sun. It provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays and is less likely to trigger allergic reactions. Opt for sunscreens labeled “broad-spectrum” with an SPF of at least 30.

So, remember to always apply sunscreen after using it, even on cloudy days.

Moisturizers and oils

Keeping your skin hydrated is important, especially if you have dry skin. Look for products containing hyaluronic acid, a powerful moisturizing agent. However, while coconut oil is a popular choice for moisturizing, it can clog pores, leading to skin issues. Therefore, non-comedogenic oils might be a better option.

Remember that one of the best ‘ingredients’ is water! Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

Why some skincare ingredients should be avoided while breastfeeding

When it comes to personal care products, including beauty products and cosmetics, safety should be your top priority. Products that promote wound healing and have natural anti inflammatory properties can be beneficial, especially if you’re dealing with skin sensitivity or irritation.

Remember, your skin starts absorbing active ingredients in these products, so it’s crucial to ensure they’re breastfeeding-safe. Always read the labels and avoid products with potentially harmful ingredients.

  • They can enter your bloodstream: Chemicals in skincare products can seep into your bloodstream and enter your breast milk that way. This means that any toxic ingredients in your skincare products can be passed on to your baby through breastfeeding. To avoid this, it’s best to stick to natural, non-toxic skincare products.

  • They can be harmful to your baby: Certain skincare ingredients can be harmful to your baby if they are ingested through breast milk. For example, lead is a toxic ingredient that can cause developmental delays and other health problems in babies. Avoid skincare products that contain lead or other toxic ingredients.

  • They can irritate your skin: Postpartum hormones can make your skin more sensitive and irritated, so it’s important to avoid skincare ingredients that can exacerbate these issues. Dermatologists recommend avoiding harsh chemicals and fragrances in skincare products, as these can be irritating to the skin.

  • They can interact with prescription medications: If you are taking prescription medications while breastfeeding, it’s important to be mindful of the skincare products you use. Some skincare ingredients can interact with prescription medications, which can be harmful to both you and your baby. Be sure to consult with your doctor before using any new skincare products while breastfeeding.

Allergic reactions

It’s crucial to be aware of any potential allergic reactions to skincare products. Always do a patch test before using a new skin care product, and be cautious of any redness, itching, or swelling. If you experience any adverse reactions, immediately discontinue use and consult with your doctor.

Skincare challenges in pregnancy

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, hormonal fluctuations can lead to a range of skin conditions. For instance, you might find your skin becoming acne-prone or notice the appearance of stretch marks. Both are completely normal and a part of many women’s journeys.

Acne-prone skin

If you’re dealing with acne, it’s essential to choose safe skincare products. Over-the-counter products may be a convenient solution, but not all are safe for breastfeeding women. Always look for non-comedogenic products that won’t clog your pores and exacerbate acne.

Stretch marks

Stretch marks are another common concern for pregnant women and new mothers. While they’re a natural part of the process, you might want to minimize their appearance. Products that boost collagen production can help improve skin elasticity and reduce stretch marks.

Chemical peels and dead skin cells

To address the accumulation of dead skin cells, many women consider chemical peels. While some ingredients in chemical peels are safe, always consult a healthcare professional before introducing such treatments into your skincare routine. As a breastfeeding mum, your skin might be more sensitive, making gentle exfoliation a safer option.

How to read skincare labels while breastfeeding

Tips for Reading Skincare Labels While Breastfeeding
Look for Ingredients to Avoid
– Retinoids
– Hydroquinone
– Salicylic acid
Check for Natural Ingredients
– Shea butter
– Jojoba oil
– Glycerin
Read the Label Carefully
– Look for warnings or precautions listed
– Research uncertain ingredients or ask your doctor
Avoid Fragrances
– Fragrance-free products recommended – fragrances can be irritating to your baby’s sensitive skin
Choose Gentle Products
– Avoid products with alcohol
Look for Hypoallergenic Products
– Select products labeled as hypoallergenic
Mindfulness about Preservatives
– Be cautious, especially oral or ingestible
– Read labels carefully
– Consult with your doctor before using new products
Tips for Reading Skincare Labels While Breastfeeding


In essence, taking care of your skin while breastfeeding doesn’t have to be daunting. Remain conscious of the ingredients in your skincare products and regularly consult with healthcare professionals to maintain radiant skin while prioritizing your baby’s safety and your skin’s health.

Cosmetic products can be a tricky territory for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Always look for products labeled as ‘safe for nursing mothers.’ These are typically free from harmful chemicals and substances that could potentially affect your baby, Nipple creams especially are developed with the welfare of both mom and baby as a priority.

Remember, while breastfeeding, your skincare routine deserves extra attention. In times of doubt, always seek advice from healthcare professionals about the safety of specific ingredients or products. Enjoy this unique time with your baby, confident that you’re doing everything to keep both of you healthy and safe.

Skincare breastfeeding FAQ’s

Some skincare products not safe while breastfeeding include those containing retinoids, salicylic acid in high concentration, certain essential oils like peppermint and sage, and hydroquinone.

Low concentrations of salicylic acid (2% or less) in topical applications are generally considered safe while breastfeeding. However, high concentrations or oral salicylic acid are best avoided.

Yes, niacinamide, also known as Vitamin B3, is generally considered safe while breastfeeding.

AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) are generally considered safe to use as long as they are not applied to the breast area. However, high concentrations or peels with these ingredients should be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

Sources used and further reading:

  1. Safety of skin care products during pregnancy

  2. Dermatological treatment during pregnancy and lactation

  3. Safety of drugs used in dermatological practice during pregnancy and lactation

  4. Breastfeeding, pregnancy, medicines, neurodevelopment, and population databases: the information desert

  5. The trouble with ingredients in sunscreens

  6. Treatment of acne vulgaris during pregnancy and lactation

  7. See How Your Life Affects Your Skin

  8. Drug Interactions in Dermatology: What the Dermatologist Should Know

  9. Breastfeeding Safe Skincare—What to Use and Avoid When Nursing Your Baby

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