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Is It Safe to Use Glycolic Acid During Pregnancy?

Is It Safe to Use Glycolic Acid During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is such a special time — and we love caring for mamas-to-be at Skin Pharm!

Because especially when you’re pregnant, your skin deserves a little TLC, too.

But is glycolic acid safe to use during your pregnancy? Are there other products that you should or shouldn’t be using? We’ve come up with an essential primer for how to take care of your skin during pregnancy, and we’ll answer all of those questions and more you might not have even thought to ask!

Here’s how the skin changes during pregnancy

Many phases of life come with changes to the skin. Pregnancy is no different. Most of those changes are due to the fluctuation of both hormones and the blood flow to the skin. Those fluctuations are as likely to be the cause of the “pregnancy glow” as they are other pregnancy-related skin changes. 

Here are just a few of the most common and why they may occur.


One of the most common skin issues that pregnant people experience is known as “linea nigra,” or that dark line that can extend down from your belly button. While not everyone develops one, the likelihood of pigmentation changes is higher during pregnancy. Often, this includes a darkening of the skin on your neck and inner thighs, too. 

However, some women experience a condition known as chloasma (also known as melasma). These look very similar to sunspots and are sometimes referred to as the “mask of pregnancy.” 

And, just like sunspots, chloasma can worsen with increased sun exposure. It usually goes away a few months after delivery, but it can also be persistent. Those changes can be traced back to an increase in the amount of pigment, or melanin, in the skin. 


A lot of the focus on skin changes in pregnancy revolves around the development of stretch marks. Known medically as striae gravidarum, stretch marks impact up to 90% of pregnant people. Although common and not medically significant, they can significantly impact how you feel about yourself.

Stretch marks are most likely to develop on the abdomen, thighs, chest and hips during the second and third trimesters. They occur in the middle layer of the skin, known as the dermis, and result from the skin stretching too quickly. This leads to a rupture of collagen and elastin, which then causes scar tissue to fill in the gaps. 


And finally, the focus of a lot of skin care products during pregnancy — blemishes. 

If you notice that you’re breaking out more during pregnancy, it’s likely because the hormones that come along with being pregnant can increase the skin’s oil production. 

This is most common during the first trimester, but it can happen at any time. It can happen to anyone, too, but is more likely in people with a history of frequent breakouts. 

How to treat your skin during pregnancy

If you’re experiencing issues with your skin, you’re probably wondering what you can and can’t safely use. To help clarify, here are a few tips recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (also known as ACOG).


The best way to minimize the risk of blemishes and other skin concerns is to make sure to wash your face twice daily.

When washing your face, always use lukewarm water. Water that is too hot can strip the skin of its natural oils, which it needs to protect itself and maintain its moisture barrier. 

Water that is too cold can close the pores, which can trap bacteria and debris inside. Lukewarm water is the best of both worlds and can help to increase the absorption of your skin care products. 

In addition, after cleansing your skin and applying your skin care serums, make sure that you’re using a gentle moisturizer. You may need to switch products during pregnancy to help deal with the increase in oil production.


If you do develop blemishes, try as hard as you can to avoid picking at them or even touching your face at all. It can be tempting to want to pop them, but that can make the issue worse. 

Plus, you’re introducing more bacteria to your skin, increasing the likelihood of developing even more blemishes. In addition, picking at your pimples can also make it more likely that they’ll turn into scars or develop hyperpigmentation.


The skin isn’t the only part of your body with increased oil production during pregnancy. The scalp can also produce more oil than usual, which also impacts the skin differently. If your hair is oilier than usual, that oil doesn’t just stay on your hair. 

Take a moment to think about how often your hair touches your face, especially if you have bangs. That makes it especially important to wash your hair on a daily basis and do what you can to keep it off your face as much as you can.


Finally, make sure that you’re keeping an eye on the ingredient list if you use makeup. Oil-free cosmetics are the best way to go because they are much less likely to compound the excess oil production that your skin is already doing. 

Stick with cosmetics that are considered to be non-comedogenic, meaning that they won’t clog your pores. Always make sure that you’re not just washing your face in the evening, but also taking the time to make sure that all makeup and debris is gone. 

So is glycolic acid pregnancy-safe?

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (also known as an AHA). It is found naturally in sugar cane and functions as an exfoliant for the skin. 

That means it helps to rid the surface of the skin of dead skin cells. It does that by breaking up the connections between them so that they can be more easily removed. That also encourages a quicker turnover of skin cells, which can help create more youthful, radiant and clear skin.

The result of consistent glycolic acid use can include a decrease in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, a reduction in the number of breakouts and a reduction in the formation of hyperpigmentation. 

But is glycolic acid pregnancy safe?

While it is always important to talk to your OB-GYN about any medications you use during pregnancy, over the counter or otherwise, research has shown that glycolic acid can be used safely.

This is also confirmed by ACOG, including salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and azelaic acid on their list. 

But wait — here’s a caveat

While the information on the safety of certain skin care ingredients in pregnancy comes from dermatological and OB professionals, it’s important to note that all of the research is limited. That is because research done on pregnant people exists in an ethical grey area. 

Most of the information that is known exists either based on animal studies or anecdotal evidence. That’s what makes it so important to discuss things with your healthcare provider.

Choosing glycolic acid skin care products

When choosing glycolic acid skin care products to use during pregnancy, don’t stop at just checking for that ingredient. You’ll also want to evaluate the other components on the list for safety, as well. 

All in all, try to find products that target your specific concerns. If you’re having an increase in the number of blemishes on your face, check out our Crystal Clear clarifying pads.

Ease slowly into any new ingredient or routine, and make sure to check with your provider if you’re unsure. If you start to develop any issues, like irritation, dryness or peeling, stop immediately. 

You’ll also want to make sure that the percentage of glycolic acid in your skin care products is no more than 10%. Anything higher than that may have systemic effects on your system and is less likely to be safe during pregnancy. 

To wrap things up...

Is glycolic acid pregnancy safe? The answer is that, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (or ACOG), it is. 

However, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using it in smaller concentrations. We have plenty of options available at Skin Pharm that include glycolic acid so that you can keep your skin looking as good as possible throughout pregnancy. 

After all, you’re working hard creating life, so your skin care products should work just as hard for you.


Mayo Clinic | Skin changes during pregnancy: What can you expect?

British Journal of Dermatology ( | Stretch marks during pregnancy: a review of topical prevention

ACOG | Skin Conditions During Pregnancy


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