Our Editorial Director’s Ultimate Guide to Her Pregnancy Beauty Routine

Lauren Levinson

“Pregnancy beauty” is a polarizing topic. I’ve been on mom-centric Facebook® group pages and watched as wars erupted over whether expecting mamas should switch to completely non-toxic, organic beauty routines. The alternative option: stick to a “business as usual” regimen (minus a handful of doctor-banned ingredients, like salicylic acid and retinol).

Editor's Note

Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.

After a pregnancy test gave me the green light that, yes, there was a blueberry-sized human growing in my belly, I had to decide where I’d fall on that spectrum. What would I toss, try, and buy? I’m a pretty holistic, ingredient-conscious person by nature, which is why I shocked myself when I ended up not changing my routine too much at all. My expectations had always been that when I got pregnant, my maternal hormones would kick in and ignite me to throw out every product I own without an organic certification on it. But that simply wasn’t the case, and that was OK.

“We don’t think developing fetuses are affected by [many] beauty products used during pregnancy. Sticking to a routine that’s tried and true makes sense,” my dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD told me (she happens to be a mom herself). “Too many other things are changing, and skin doesn’t often change too much other than sometimes breaking out and sometimes being more sensitive than usual.”

I had also heard fragrance (like the Chanel® N°5 L'eau® I mist myself with daily) could be potentially harmful to the fetus. Dr. Wechsler weighed in, “Fragrances are interesting, but I think it’s more about how the pregnant woman feels and about her underlying stress level that could potentially affect a fetus. Some fragrances are calming to the woman and others are irritating. Also, some fragrances can cause skin to become sensitive, rashy, and itchy.”

When it came to my own testing lab, I genuinely tried to cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize with a “cleaner” roster. And, in some cases, I was quite successful. But two factors got in the way. The first: I experienced intense morning sickness (let’s reword that to all-day sickness) for about 19 weeks. It seemed as if I had the discerning nose of a dog. Whether it was dryer sheets on my husband’s shirts, roasted chicken wafting through our windows from the restaurant below my apartment, or the essential oil-packed, natural serum I slathered on my face, I could not tolerate sensorial experiences. Out went some of the botanical-saturated products and in came the fragrance-free or “scent-tolerable” picks. 

My second issue was how crazy my hormonal skin acted. Envision that strange time between seasons, when one day it’s hot, then it’s freezing, followed by extreme humidity, and finally, it’s perfectly cool (maybe this is just in New York). Well, that’s what the temperature of my skin seemed like. In my first trimester, I was plagued by hormonal acne in unexpected places, like my temples. In trimesters two and three, my skin became dehydrated and flaky, no matter how much water I guzzled. Even my hair needed less washing (not a bad side effect), because my scalp was drier. To address all these concerns, I sought after highly-effective products with noticeable benefits in lieu of picking the jar with the fewest ingredients on the label.

That said, I always read what was in my products. And, of course, I did my research on what the “hard nos” are. In the end, I relied on old staples (think of it like “comfort foods”), picks that would not aggravate my sense of smell or sensitive skin, and formulas that deliver results. Some choices are from the cleanest brands on the market, while others are somewhere in the middle. And, maybe, this will reflect my “new mom” attitude: a focus on being balanced. 

Still, I felt a bit guilty about my choices (mom guilt!) until I spoke to Dr. Wechsler. “There is zero regulation of ‘all-natural’ or ‘organic’ skincare,” she explained. “Those terms really don’t mean anything, which is way different than food labels! I often say, ‘poison ivy is all-natural and organic, yet it’s [one of] the most irritating [substances] known!’”

Dr. Wechsler went on to explain that the skin is a barrier — keeping the “good things” in and the bad ones out. “Therefore, [all] products applied to the skin do not simply seep into [blood] circulation,” she adds. “[However], I have seen a lot of rashes from products.”

Editor's Note

If you take blood thinners, talk to your doctor before using a gua sha or rolling tool.

Editor's Note

As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.