Pregnancy carries with it a plethora of changes. Aside from bringing forth a new life, it can cause some unwanted skin discolorations and skin problems. Unfortunately, these changes don’t magically disappear once the baby is born. In an effort to regain their beauty, many mothers begin to seek out numerous skincare products and procedures while nursing— but the question is, what skincare treatments are safe to use while breastfeeding?
Aside from the off-limit substances like illicit drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, you may be surprised by the fact that even seemingly safe, non-prescription medications and topical products can appear in breastmilk and be transferred to babies during breastfeeding.
As a quick guide, here are some ingredients and procedures which are considered safe for breastfeeding mothers and which should be avoided:
|Confirmed to be Safe||Potentially Unsafe/Confirmed to be Unsafe|
|Chemical and laser peels||Mercury|
|Collagen & hyaluronic acid||Parabens|
|Most oral medications*||Phthalates|
*Consult with your physician before taking any new medications.
Topical Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is a powerful addition to any beauty regimen, often touted to be the “Fountain of Youth” in a bottle. Because hyaluronic acid is naturally present in our bodies, it is safe to use as an ingredient in topical serums and supplements. When formulated as a topical product, hyaluronic acid stays within the top layer of the skin, limiting its hydrating and plumping effects to the areas it has been directly applied to.
Due to its natural occurrence and water-solubility, it carries little to no danger of building up in the body. (Bukhari, et al., 2018)
Vitamin C Serum & Vitamin A as Skin Treatments While Breastfeeding
Vitamin C and Vitamin A are two popular ingredients found in many skincare serums. The topical use of vitamin C and/or vitamin A-containing products are considered safe during lactation.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant and an essential cofactor in the synthesis of collagen. It also amplifies the effects and absorption of other substances such as iron. Vitamin C taken orally is deemed to be safe even at high doses as it is water-soluble. This makes toxicity after topical application practically impossible.
Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble vitamins and is a key player in immunity and eye health. Breast milk naturally has vitamin A derivatives such as retinol and carotene, which contributes to its nutrition and off-white coloration. During pregnancy, retinoid use should be avoided, but during lactation, the recommended daily intake of vitamin A is 1300 mcg. (Bethesda & National Library of Medicine, 2018)
Can you bleach your face while breastfeeding?
The quick answer here is no. Although it may seem safe to use skin bleaching products on your face since the breast area is not in contact with the products, there have been no studies conducted on the effects of skin bleaching products while breastfeeding.
Potent skin lightening ingredients, such as hydroquinone, reduce melanin production, which causes the dark pigmentation of the skin. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding hydroquinone. Its success rate of skin lightening is a bit erratic, often worsening hyperpigmentation for people with naturally darker skin tones. Worse yet, many foreign skin lightening products are not manufactured to U.S. FDA standards and may contain toxic contaminants such as lead and mercury. (Gardner, 2019)
If you have hyperpigmentation of your skin and find it troublesome or unbearable, it would be best to consult with your physician to discuss your options. He or she can prescribe other medications and procedures that can be done while you are still breastfeeding.
Can you get chemical peels while breastfeeding?
Good news! Chemical treatments are deemed to be okay for lactating women. Popular peel treatments include glycolic acid, lactic acid, or salicylic acid. These peels work to resurface the top layer of the skin, dissolving dead skin cells, and promoting the regeneration of new cells.
The Jessner peel is a well-known procedure that has withstood the test of time. It contains salicylic acid, lactic acid, and resorcinol and is ideal for reducing fine lines, acne scars, and dark spots. Salicylic acid is classified under pregnancy category C and should not be used while a woman is pregnant, but it is safe to use while breastfeeding. (Trivedi, Inouye, & Murase, 2017)
Unlike other depigmenting treatments, the Jessner peel is less likely to cause discoloration of the skin for people with a darker complexion.
Can you have laser skin treatments when nursing a baby?
Just like chemical peels, you can undergo laser skin lightening treatments while also nursing. As a mechanical or physical procedure, there are no active drugs or chemicals injected or applied to the skin that may be absorbed.
Lightening using lasers can treat stubborn or medicinally unresponsive hyperpigmented skin patches. Newly treated areas may commonly become inflamed, tender, and bruised for a week or two. (NHS, 2019) If you are planning on undergoing laser treatment, consult your physician to discuss the best plan of action regarding breastfeeding. He or she may suggest stopping nursing for a period of time while your skin heals, especially if the area treated involves the breast itself.
Can you use AMBI® Fade Cream while breastfeeding?
AMBI® Fade Cream is another skin lightening product that is used to fade unsightly dark spots safely. The product is advertised to lighten dark areas in just two weeks. It also claims to not alter your natural skin tone. However, it’s important to note that the product’s principal active ingredient is hydroquinone, 2%.
As mentioned previously, hydroquinone is commonly used to bleach skin. Still, its effects are not always consistent. It may even worsen hyperpigmentation in darker skin tones or cause hypopigmentation in lighter skin tones. There haven’t been studies published that can definitively state whether or not hydroquinone is safe to use while nursing, but it would be prudent to avoid applying any preparations directly on the breast and to consult your physician before using any skin lightening products.
Rosehip oil and breastfeeding
Rosehip oil is one of the more popular natural remedies offered to treat various skin conditions. It promises to restore the vitality of the skin by moisturizing, reducing wrinkles, and eliminating dark spots. It also is said to boost collagen formation and reduce inflammation. Many women swear by its effects, and rosehip oil can be found in the ingredients list of numerous beauty products. (Mármol, Sánchez-De-Diego, Jiménez-Moreno, Ancín-Azpilicueta, & Rodríguez-Yoldi, 2017)
Rosehip oil is considered safe for you to use at any time; however, like most natural preparations, there are no formal studies that can prove its safety in pregnant and lactating women. As a precaution, avoid applying rosehip oil directly to the breast and nipple area immediately before breastfeeding.
Using Hexinol® while breastfeeding
Hexinol® is a multi-functioning, naturally occurring lipid used in several Johnson & Johnson products. It contains antioxidant properties that reduce inflammation, visibly even out skin tone, reduce age spots, and prevent wrinkles.
There have been no studies published that determine the absorption and effect of Hexinol® on breastmilk and lactation. As a topical product, its effects are limited to the skin where it has been directly applied. This makes it generally safe to use at any time. As with other topical products, avoid applying this to the breast and areola prior to nursing.
Can you do platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment while breastfeeding?
PRP is an innovative treatment that utilizes a person’s blood. Plasma and platelets are the two blood components that are separated via centrifugation, which are then later injected into injured sites. This treatment procedure is done mainly for speeding up recovery to damaged bone and soft tissues.
PRP contains growth and cell signaling factors that improve the rate of healing and reduces inflammation. Because it is derived from a patient’s own blood, there is almost no chance of triggering an allergic or immune response once PRP is reinjected into the body. (Le, Enweze, Debaun, & Dragoo, 2018)
There are no published reports on the use of PRP while lactating and breastfeeding, but it is likely safe to do at any time. PRP should only be extracted and administered by a trained professional after you have had prior consultation with a physician.
Vintner’s Daughter serum and essence
Vintner’s Daughter is a brand that produces beauty products such as the Active Treatment Essence and Active Botanical Serum. The Active Treatment Essence is formulated with vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, pre and probiotics, plant stem cells, and micro-exfoliators. It is said to work on all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin.
On the official website, Vitner’s Daughter products are safe to use even during pregnancy, although there is no mention of its safety while nursing. Based on the formulation, Vitner’s Daughter serum and essence contain safe ingredients that you can use while breastfeeding. It is still highly recommended that you consult with a physician before using any new product. (Vitner’s Daughter, 2019)
Proactiv® and breastfeeding
Postpartum acne is one of the problems that many women face. The resurgence of acne is due to the fluctuation of hormones. This is similar to acne that occurs at the onset of puberty and menstrual cycles. Despite being a common occurrence, acne can damage one’s self-esteem and contribute to postpartum depression.
Proactiv® is a system of products that control existing acne and prevent future breakouts. There is a range of different products available, but the core of the Proactiv® Solution’s ingredients list are benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, and skin-brightening complex. The more advanced line, ProactivMD®, contains Adapalene gel 0.1%, which is a topical retinoid. (The Proactiv Company, 2020)
According to the official Proactiv® website, the acne treatment system can be used by people of any age, gender, ethnicity, or skin type. It promises to clear up acne but cannot eliminate acne scars or dark marks. You can use Proactiv® face washes during pregnancy and while nursing. However, Adapalene should only be used after consulting a doctor.
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