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You probably watched labels like a hawk for those nine months of pregnancy, making sure everything that went in or on your body was safe for the little one growing inside of you. But if you are breastfeeding, you will also want to keep an eye out for ingredients that aren’t safe for your nursling too. Let’s take a look at skin care products for breastfeeding moms.

Just a quick note that even if you are not breastfeeding, you might consider cleaning up your skincare routine. The ingredients in your skin care products may not be ingested by your baby via your milk, but I bet you are still kissing and touching your baby with your face countless times a day. What is in your skincare rubs off on them. So sticking with some clean skin care products for a while wouldn’t be a bad idea.


First, let’s take a look at ingredients that are safe and not safe to use while breastfeeding. But note that in many cases there have been no or very limited studies on whether certain ingredients are safe while breastfeeding.

This means that doctors are usually basing their recommendations off of information like whether a particular ingredient crosses from the skin, and into the blood. Then they consider what similar medications do when they pass into the blood and are then consumed by babies through breastmilk.

In some cases doctors are able to say that an ingredient is very likely to be safe but they are not 100% sure, and in some they can conclude that it is probable not safe but check with your own doctor. This makes it a bit murky when determing the best skincare products for breastfeeding moms.

The bottom line is that you should always check back with your own doctor/midwife and pediatrician, plus do your own research if you are concerned. A great place to check the safety of any medication or treatment is usually called Lactmed. It’s a website database of how various drugs and chemicals interact with breastmilk and the effects on babies.

Most of the information in this article is sourced from Lactmed, which is considered the standard for such information by many breastfeeding advocates and lactation consultants.

 Retinoids, Retin-A (Tretinoin) and Retinol

There is a whole subset of skin care ingredients considered “retinoids.” These range from Retin-A and Retinol to Tazarotene, and the verdict on whether they are safe or not as a whole is still out for the most part.

Below we discuss some individual ingredients and what experts say, but overall the safest route seems to be to avoid retinoids if possible. While they may not enter the breastmilk when used topically, you probably don’t want them rubbing off on baby.

According to WebMD, Retin-A is mostly used as an anti-acne medication that is applied topically. It is recommended to never use it during pregnancy, and that it is unknown whether it actually crosses into breastmilk.

However, Dr. Jay Gordon answered this question on his website by stating that the oral version of Retin-A definitely crosses into your milk when ingested, but that the topical version is safe to use while breastfeeding.

Lactmed states that it is generally considered safe for topical use as it likely doesn’t cross into the blood in significant enough amounts to matter, but does note that “A review of adverse reaction reports on retinoids causing a breast reaction submitted to a French pharmacovigilance center found 1 case of gynecomastia was associated with topical tretinoin use.”

Retinol, which is used more for anti-aging, falls under the same family as Retin-A, though Retin-A is prescription and Retinol is OTC.

There is the same mixed advice when it comes to Retinol as Retin-A. While many consider it compatible with breastfeeding, many also say “why risk it?” Like this Miami Herald article.


Salicylic acid

This is another topical acne treatment, and it is generally considered to be safe while breastfeeding.

While there is not much info on topical use of salicylic acid and breastfeeding, there is probably not much being absorbed by the skin. It is likely not much of the chemical is actually able to enter the bloodstream through the skin, posing little risk to breastfeeding babies.

It is noted that you will want to take care with allowing babies/toddlers to touch or lick areas where you use salicylic acid.

Fragrances, Parabens, and Phthalates

The first on this part of the list, fragrances, refers to a wide range of ingredients that are used to basically make skin care products smell good. The problem with this is they are not required to individually list out many of the ingredients that are used as “fragrance.” At least in the US you really don’t know what is included under that one single word on the label.

Beyond any health concerns though, strong scents can be detrimental to breastfeeding because babies, especially newborns, use scent to help latch, nurse effectively and feel safe. So strong smells could inhibit those instincts. Plus who wants fragrance overpowering that newborn or baby scent?

Now to Phthalates and Parabens…

These chemicals are found all over the place in anything from shampoo and hand soap to your skin care. Studies have shown that they can also be found in your breastmilk.

Phthalates are dissovling agents and parabens are a preservative used to stave off mold and bacteria. Both have been linked to disrupting hormones, and it is theorized that they might effect the healthy development of babies who are exposed to them by disrupting hormone production.

While you might want to consider cutting these out of your regimen for your own good, the fact that they show up in breastmilk is just another reason to rethink using products that contain these chemicals.

It is easier than ever to access quality (and affordable) products that don’t include parabens or phthalates. Just be sure the label specifically does not include them and isn’t just called a “natural” product.


Examples of Clean Skin Care Products

Just a note that you should always check labels yourself to ensure they are safe because even if these products currently appear clean and safe, ingredients change all the time, and research on the safety of different products changes. But these are some of our fav skin care products for breastfeeding moms that are must-have’s for our self-care routine.


Clarisonic Mia Prima is awesome for getting your skin squeaky clean without any harsh chemicals. The sonic vibrations help stimulate the skin for clearer and younger more vibrant looking skin without resorting to any of the normal acne or anti-aging chemicals.

Pacifica Rose Kombucha doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals including parabens or phthalates, it smells awesome without being overpowering, and it’s a great cleanser at a decent price. We love using it with a Clarisonic for a deep clean.

Help those tired mama under-eyes with this chemical-free and natural Biossance Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel. An awesome splurge to smooth out any fine lines that are bugging you.

Want glowing skin that looks years younger after just a couple weeks of use? This is your jam then. If your skin is just… a little dull and needs a pick-me-up, try Herbivore Botanicals – Natural PRISM Exfoliating Glow Potion.

You know that dewy, hydrated and super youthful look you see on a lot of 20-something’s skin lately? Youth To The People Superberry Hydrate and Glow Oil has helped the writer of this article (who is in her 30’s) get that look. It’s magic and feels so good on the skin. It is oil and not cream, so it takes getting used to for those who are not accustomed to it but works great on combination skin.

As always, do your research and find skin care products for breastfeeding moms that you feel comfortable and safe with. Ingredients change, information and research changes, but this is a good start for what to look for and avoid in your skin care products while breastfeeding.

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