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Should you use Retinol while breastfeeding? Alternatives for New Moms

Retinol serums for skin are synthetically made vitamin A & as you may know, Vitamin A in any form is bad in pregnancy & in nursing.

So, the answer is No, Retinol can’t be used in breastfeeding or nursing.

A mother breastfeeding her little baby

What is Retinol?

It’s a fat-soluble derivative of Vitamin A & one of the 7 kinds of Retinoids.

What does Retinol do for our skin?

  • It Boosts Collagen & Elastin production by speeding skin cell turnover.
  • Treats acne & acne lesions.
  • Works wonders for aging signs like fine lines, wrinkles, sagging skin & hyperpigmentation.
  • Retinol goes deep into the layer of the skin & exfoliates the clogged pores from within cleaning all the dead skin cells, sebum & bacterial growth.

Retinol family tree

Retinoid- It is the boss & basically an umbrella name for all the vitamin A ingredients you can find in the market therefore, it’s the head of the family with 7 kids (with recommended %)

Diagram of the complete Retinol family tree

The diagram is for your maximum clarity & easiest understanding of all Retinoid products

  1. Retinol (the most popular child, available over the counter)-0.1% – 1.0%
  2. Retinyl palmitate (it’s almost pointless so don’t even bother)- 1%
  3. Retinal (not easy to find in products because of serious stability issues but an alternative to retinol if you’re looking for something with more efficacy)-0.1%-1.0%
  4. Retinoic Acid or Retin-A (Gold standard retinoid, very commonly given as Tretinoin by doctors for treating mature skin issues. 20 times more powerful than Retinol. Only available by prescription)-0.01-0.1%
  5. Adapalene (Can get over the Counter. Solid effective in treating acne)-0.1%
  6. Tazarotene (Used for Hyperpigmentation & acne scars. It’s one of the prescription retinoids)-0.1%
  7. Isotretinoin (Oral retinoid. It’s used to treat severe cystic acne).

Stay away from all of these kinds of Retinoids and Retinol if you are breastfeeding!

Why should you stay away from all Retinol products during pregnancy?

As amazing as the retinol transformative effects are on the skin. It is known to cause serious birth defects in pregnancy. Esp. Isotretinoin, an oral retinoid can cause congenital disabilities.  More research is needed to know how much retinol is absorbed in the bloodstream; we know it can even cause miscarriages & impact the development of the embryo.

The little baby is crying and does not approve of harmful retinol

Your little one is not happy with the chemicals

Applying Retinol while breastfeeding

Applying Retinol while breastfeeding/nursing is a serious mindless decision. It is unsure how much retinol is passed through the milk to your child but it’s simply not worth the risk.

When should you stop using Retinol?

In my opinion, stop using any kind of retinoid 1 month before you try to get pregnant.

When can you resume Retinol again?

As soon as you are 100% done with nursing the baby, you can start with all your retinol products again. It might actually help you with any hormonally induced acne or pigmentation.

Are there any safe alternatives to Retinol in pregnancy?

YES! There are some really effective & safe skincare products for your skin in pregnancy or in general. Starting off with

1. Bakuchiol- It is called ‘plant extract retinol’. Very safe for sensitive skin-type also. He’s a new kid on the block whose properties are almost the same as retinol. It gently incorporates all the anti-aging benefits to the skin & helps with the skin’s firmness without any kind of harm to you or the baby. How is it safe- Bakuchiol is an antioxidant derived from the seeds & leaves of the Corylifolia plant.

2. Azelaic acid- It is an antioxidant naturally found in grains such as wheat, barley & rye. It is basically known to kill bacteria on the skin hence great for acne-prone skin. It helps improve dark spots & brown skin discoloration. It’s Anti-inflammatory properties make it great for people with Rosacea. It is a safe ingredient suggested by Dermatologists as an alternative to use in pregnancy.

3. Vitamin C – When it comes to antioxidants fighting off free radicals, it must be Vitamin C. It is a very good ingredient in pregnancy, nursing, or in general to repair sun damage & brighten your skin. It accelerates collagen production making the skin look plump & young.

4. Niacinamide– It is a form of vitamin B3 which is another safe option in pregnancy for topical use. It builds a protein called Keratin which helps to smooth skin & gives a youthful glow to the skin. Niacinamide is also a very soothing ingredient, in general, to calm any sort of inflammation & takes good care of hyperpigmentation.  There has been no research proving any problems with this ingredient.

5. Glycolic Acid/Lactic Acid – Both AHAs are safe during pregnancy. Keep the concentration 7% & below. They are great exfoliators & they speed the turnover of skin cells, getting rid of that dull dry skin and making the skin very bright & fresh.

6. Hyaluronic Acid – The gentlest & calming ingredient of all. Doesn’t clash with any other ingredient & is very safe during pregnancy or nursing. It even calms dry & irritated skin. Gives your skin a plump dewy glow & keeps it hydrated. Layer it with a nice moisturizer & you’re set.

7.Peptides- Peptides are naturally occurring amino acids in our skin. They are the building blocks of certain proteins like collagen and elastin. Peptide serums or moisturizers help improve skin elasticity evidently & make the skin look firmer & youthful.

8. Kojic Acid – Kojic acid is a natural skin-lightening ingredient derived from a species of fungi. It reduces melanin production & treats melasma, photo-aging, acne lesions & pigmentation issues. It can make skin sensitive to UV rays so wear sunblock when stepping outside.

9. Mineral/Physical Sunscreen – They contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide which are completely safe for pregnant women. Mineral Sunscreens don’t absorb UV radiation but rather form a physical barrier against them with the mineral ingredients zinc oxide & titanium dioxide.

What other skincare products/ingredients to avoid in pregnancy or breastfeeding?

  1. All Retinoids
  2. Salicylic acid
  3. Vitamin A
  4. Benzoyl peroxide
  5. Hydroquinone
  6. Essential oils
  7. Parabens
  8. Chemical Sunscreens
  9. Aluminum Chloride
  10. Formaldehyde
  11. Phthalates
  12. Alpha Arbutin
  13. Tranexamic acid
  14. Diethanolamine
  15. Spironolactone
  16. Tetracycline
  17. Bisphenol
  18. Toluene
  19. Chemical peels
  20. Fragranced cosmetics
  21. Botox or fillers
  22. Dihydroxyacetone

Ladies, check the ingredient list of your cosmetic products carefully during pregnancy for the sake of your unborn child.

Have a healthy baby & great skin. Love~ Beauty Stroll


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By Aayushi S
By Aayushi S
Aayushi is a New York based freelance writer and a content strategist. She is a computer science graduate, a health and skincare fanatic and is also the founder of “Beauty Stroll “. She aims to make science-backed skincare easy to understand for her readers.

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