fbpx Skip to main content

Skin care during Pregnancy – A closer look into Retinoids

Pregnant and nursing mothers should avoid Retinoid

Skin care formulations containing Vitamin A is one of the core ingredients to maintain healthy youthful skin as well as manage many imbalanced skin conditions.  Retinol and retinal are forms of  topical Vitamin A like retinoid. and they are used mostly in over the counter topical skin care. Generally speaking they are simply weaker forms of retinoids. Retinoids are a class of compounds that have the basic core structure of Vitamin A. We hear of Retinoic Acid, Retinoid, Tretinoin, Retinol, Retinal, Retinaldehyde, Retin-A and the list goes on.  It can be very confusing to understand and choose the right product because of its many available forms, it is therefore essential to discuss the percentage of your retinoid even in its lowest concentration.  The difference between Retinol or Retinal, and Retin-A are the percentages and conversion pathway into the skin before being used by our skin cells. This is where your home care should be carefully put together by an expert therapist with a proper understanding of  ingredients and cosmetic chemistry. It is one of the key ingredients that has revolutionised the skin care industry and  offers huge benefits for a variety of skin concerns. There is however, a lot we need to know about this mighty ingredient, and its effects on a fetus.

Retinoid has been studied in the practice of dermatology since the 1960’s.  The initial clinical trials were conducted in relation to Acne and other skin disorders but subsequent studies showed significant improvement in sun damaged and photo aged skin.  The beneficial effects of Retinoids include:

  • Increased cell turnover including undifferentiated basal cells
  • Reduced Melanin Production resulting in more even dispersion of melanin with less melanin clumping in the basal cells
  • Repairs Abnormal Cells thus assisting in the treatment  and prevention of some skin cancers
  • Stimulates Collagen Production and fibroblast activity, therefore inhibiting the production of MMPs (Metalloproteinases) which are enzymes responsible for breaking down collagen and causing  deep wrinkling of the skin
  • Increases protein expression of P53, a tumor suppressing gene
  • Reduces oil production by reducing sebaceous gland activity
  • Smoother skin texture and reduction in surface irregularities

The increased cell turnover and reduction of ceramide production often  result in TEWL (Trans Epidermal Water Loss), especially during initial stages of Retinoid use.   This explains why products in skin care  need to work in synergy to regulate the processes and balance the free water levels in the skin. Retinol is one of the core ingredients (for night use) and should be used alongside core daytime formulations. These include Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), Vitamin B (Niacinamide) and Hyaluronic Acid. To combat the TWEL we highly recommend daily intake of  the DMK EFA Ultra , a superior Essential Fatty Acid Supplement which increases the skin’s ability to retain moisture and prevent skin dryness and dehydration, improve  other skin imbalances, pigmentary disorders and Acne.



Consult your doctor or medical professional before taking any supplements


Oral Retinoids such as Isotretinoin (Roaccutane), which is classified as a 1st Generation Retinoid are a known teratogen. A teratogen is a product or a process that can cause malformation of an embryo. They affect cellular differentiation therefore affecting fetal growth and birth defects. Therefore if a pregnancy occurs while taking Roaccutane there is a high risk of having a baby that is deformed. You must use effective contraception for one month before, during and for a few months after treatment. Breastfeeding should also be stopped. Being an oral form of Retinoid Roaccutane affects the whole body. Effects may include mood disorders and depression, dry skin, hair and nails, cracked heels, and in rare cases damage to internal organs.  Waxing should be avoided as thinning of the skin is an inevitable side effect. In Australia only a Dermatologist can prescribe Isotretinoin.

Topical Retinoids can still cause dry and flaky skin but only in the area of use and surrounding skin.  Common areas of Retinoic Acid Sensitivity on the face include periocular  (around the eyes), corners of the mouth and lips, creases of the nose and nasolabial folds, and in some cases the neck. Therefore caution must be exercised when first starting on any form of topical Vitamin A no matter how mild.  More information is found on our skincare ingredient tips.

At the time of writing this article there is no published clinical studies or other articles that I am aware of that has shown an increase in blood levels of retinoids when applied topically in normal doses. While some may argue that there is no evidence of negative effects on pregnant women, there are no studies that have been published either, using a pregnant experimental group, therefore I choose not to prescribe any products containing retinol, nor perform treatment containing the ingredient during pregnancy. In our practice, we stock effective alternatives to topical Vitamin A, which is the Bakuchiol Peptides from Medik8, the ultimate plant-based, anti-ageing alternative for vitamin A. If you have any concerns, we always recommend you discuss those with your doctor before use.


Consult with your expert skin therapist for products prescriptions