Sunscreens in pregnancy


Pregnancy is a time in a woman’s life where everything that goes onto the skin and into the body is reconsidered. One of the biggest challenges of giving advice to pregnant women on skincare is that there is very little research into the effects of ingredients on an unborn baby. I certainly wouldn't want to do a clinical trial on that population!

So we have to go with the first principles, and extrapolate from the knowledge we do have in other areas.

Pregnancy induces lots of skin problems, one of the most debilitating - pigmentation. Therefore it is vital to wear a sunscreen during all stages of pregnancy.

The question is, which sunscreen is best to use when pregnant?

The answer is unknown. However, if you can stick to a predominantly physical blocking sunscreen (ie make sure the main ingredient is titanium or zinc oxide) that is ideal.

Chemicals in sunscreen during pregnancy

Why do chemicals found in sunscreens matter when pregnant?

Well, there is some small evidence that chemicals from sunscreens are then found in the breast milk. The most potent ones were ethylhexyl methoxy cinnamate, octocrylene and, homosalate.

Do the chemicals in sunscreen affect breastfeeding?

Whether this has an effect on the breastfeeding child is not known.

Do chemicals affect hormones in pregnancy?

Regarding pregnancy, oxybenzone is one of many chemical sunscreens that affect hormones and may act as a weak estrogen, a moderate anti-androgen and may be associated with altered birth weight in human studies. We call these endocrine disrupters and are best avoided if possible during pregnancy.

Homosalate, another chemical filter, is also a derivative of salicylic acid which should probably be avoided in pregnancy.

Physical barrier sunscreens do not penetrate the skin so unlikely to be absorbed in quantities required for hormone or endocrine disruption.

The caveat on all this is that there are very few human studies, and the studies that exist are small. The risk of not wearing sunscreen is far greater so there is insufficient evidence to support totally avoiding chemical sunscreens in pregnancy.

What sunscreen ingredients should I avoid while pregnant?

When it comes to protecting yourself from the sun, it's important to know what the ingredients in your sunscreen are. Pregnancy is the most sensitive time for your skin and can have unwanted effects on it. 

Certain ingredients in sunscreen protect you from UV rays and should be used. Avoid ingredients such as:

  • Ethylhexyl methoxy cinnamate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate

These three ingredients are proven to be harmful to unborn babies and have been associated with health risks.

Is salicylic acid safe to use during pregnancy?

You can use products with salicylic acid in them while you are pregnant, but it is always better to check with your doctor first. 

Sunscreen is one type of product that commonly contains this ingredient. The general rule of thumb is to only use products that have a 2% or lower concentration of salicylic acid. 

Keep in mind that sunscreen has a few other ingredients that are not recommended, so be sure to do your research!

What is Homosalate? Should I avoid it whilst pregnant?

Homosalate is an organic sun filter. It's found in some sunscreens as an oil-soluble ingredient that absorbs UVB rays (the rays which produce sunburns in the upper layer of skin). Homosalate is also a derivative of salicylic acid, which pregnant women should avoid. Physical barrier sunscreens, on the other hand, do not penetrate the skin and are therefore unlikely to be absorbed in quantities that would disrupt hormone levels.

Chemicals that can potentially disrupt your body's regulation of hormone levels, such as homosalate, should be avoided while pregnant so that you're able to successfully produce the hormones you need for a healthy pregnancy.

What sunscreens are not safe for pregnancy?

When you're pregnant, it's best to avoid chemical sunscreens and go for physical (mineral) sunscreens instead. You might want to look for a sunscreen that has titanium dioxide or zinc oxide in it. And when you're breastfeeding, it's also recommended that you use mineral sunscreens. 

The chemicals that are often found in chemical sunscreens - like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and avobenzone - shouldn't be used during pregnancy. 

Pregnant women should always use sunscreen that doesn't have any parabens or fragrances in it because those are the most gentle and non-irritating on the skin.

Is Banana Boat sunscreen safe for pregnancy?

Pregnant women should avoid sunscreens which contain dangerous chemicals such as Homosalate. These sunscreens include: Banana Boat Sport Performance SPF 30, Banana Boat Ultra Sport Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 50+.

Is Nivea sunscreen safe for pregnancy?

Many nivea sunscreens contain homosalate and should be avoided during pregnancy. These include Nivea sensitive protect SPF 50 sunscreen lotion, Nivea Ultra sport cooling sunscreen trigger spray SPF50 and Nivea protect & moisture lock SPF 50+.

Is La Roche-Posay pregnancy safe sunscreen?

To protect your skin during pregnancy, use a sunscreen with at least SPF50 and broad-spectrum (UVA-UVB) coverage. Look for sunscreens that are specifically labeled as safe for use during pregnancy, like the La Roche-Posay Ultra-Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50. This lightweight liquid sunscreen is made with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and antioxidants for broad spectrum, skin-friendly coverage. Many people love the fast-absorbing formula that makes it ideal for wearing under your regular makeup. This sunscreen is a must-have for anyone who wants to protect their skin.

What face ingredients to avoid while pregnant?

Pregnancy is a time when many women become more concerned about the ingredients in their skincare products. Here are some ingredients that you may want to avoid during pregnancy: Hydroquinone, Isotretinoin, retinol and other retinoids, Salicylic acid (in high doses). Some other ingredients that have been linked to possible risks include: Benzoyl peroxide, Botox and fillers. However, more research is needed to determine whether or not these ingredients are definitely harmful.

Remember - The risk of not wearing sunscreen is far greater so there is insufficient evidence to support totally avoiding chemical sunscreens in pregnancy. 

Consult a doctor if you need some advice on what sunscreen is best for you during and after your pregnancy.

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