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Meals on Heels: My Guide to Skincare While Breastfeeding

Parenthood is one of life's greatest joys, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful.

As a mom of two young boys, I get it.

But we should remember: To take care of our children to the best of our ability starts with taking care of ourselves first.

There's no reason why you should feel guilty!

So, let's discuss mommy skincare and how to avoid retinol breastfeeding.

As you can see, this is something that a lot of women are doing!

Many new moms (and moms-to-be) want to maintain a skincare regimen so they can love the way their skin looks and feels.

However, there's a lot of confusion and uncertainty surrounding the safety of ingredients and products.

Today, I'm going to explain which ones are good, and the ones that aren't so good, and how you can best take care of you and your baby's skin.

Let's get pumped! (Was that a bad joke?)

*Disclaimer*

If you or your baby are unable to breastfeed, or you're opting for formula, these tips will also be useful for pregnancy!

While I'm a licensed esthetician, I'm not a medical practitioner.

For the final say in using these ingredients, or for specific questions, please refer to your dermatologist, pediatrician, or OB-GYN.

Why Does It Matter?

If you're like me, you were thinking about taking that first sip of iced coffee (or wine) while you were still recovering from labor and delivery in the hospital.

It's tough to quit the things you love for 9 months!

But not so fast...

While you most certainly deserve a treat after bringing a new life into the world, you still need to watch what goes in and on your body if you plan on breastfeeding.

So, why can't you use retinol while breastfeeding?

I'm sure your doctor has told you this before, but anything you eat or put on your skin can be passed to your baby through your breastmilk.

This is why you should be consuming a diet rich in vitamins and minerals and not smoking, drinking, or using drugs.

And, while chemicals in skincare products aren't all toxic, they can seep into the bloodstream and enter your breastmilk that way.

In extreme cases, this can cause birth defects and allergies.

With skin-to-skin contact, a perfume or lotion you might be wearing, for example, can rub against your baby's skin and may cause irritation, sensitivity, or an allergic reaction.

To avoid potential problems, the first step is to always read the label.

If you're still uncertain about the ingredients, ask your doctor, or find an alternative product.

When you're in doubt, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Benefits of Nursing

  • Burns extra calories (you can lose pregnancy weight without stepping foot on a treadmill!)
  • Protects your baby against illness and lowers their risk of diarrhea and vomiting, ear infections, asthma, lower respiratory infections, type 2 diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and leukemia and obesity during childhood
  • Conveniently packaged - you can feed them on the go!
  • Releases oxytocin, a hormone that helps breastmilk flow and increases feelings of love, nurturing, and a strong emotional bond
  • Saves time (you don't have to mix formula, warm bottles, sterilize nipples, etc.)
  • Meets your baby's specific needs as they get older
  • Lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes, certain types of breast cancer, and ovarian cancer
  • It's always at the right temperature
  • It's good for the environment! It's a renewable resource and doesn't require you to throw anything away

Your Baby's Skin

We all strive to have skin as soft and smooth as a baby's.

But since it's brand-new, theirs is the most sensitive as well.

They're more prone to:

  • Rashes
  • "Baby acne"
  • Mild allergic reactions, which may look like small red bumps
  • Irritation
  • Eczema
  • Milia
  • Dryness

When it comes to caring for their skin, "less is more" is a good way to go!

Generally, you don't need to use cleanser, lotions, or creams.

Babies don't sweat, get dirty, or shed skin cells the way that we do.

Here are some recommendations for taking care of your angel's skin!

  • Limit baths. For the first month, a sponge bath 2-3 times a week is plenty. When you decide to do a tub bath, just use water (or a mild, scent-free cleanser if necessary) 2-3 times a week. Bathing too frequently removes natural oils, which can dry out skin and exacerbate eczema.

  • Wash clothes properly. Soft materials, preferably cotton, are best. After buying new clothes, wash them first. Use baby-friendly laundry detergent, which will be free of fragrances and dyes. Wash their clothes, bedding, and blankets separate from the rest of the family.

  • Physical touch is very beneficial! Your touch is soothing, nurturing, and critical to their development. Newborns, in particular, cry less and sleep better. Who doesn't want that?!

  • Don't use baby powder. Despite what advertisements might say, your baby doesn't need baby powder. In fact, it does more harm than good. To prevent a diaper rash, change diapers frequently and let the area completely dry/air out for a minute or two between changes. If your baby has a diaper rash, ask your pediatrician for an ointment they recommend.

A-OK Ingredients

Lactic Acid

I first heard about lactic acid buildup in muscles in middle school gym class.

Yes, this is the same thing!

An alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), lactic acid is great for anti-aging and restoring a soft and smooth texture to sensitive skin types.

It's a mild exfoliant that gently encourages cellular turnover to smooth away fine lines and improve skin tone.

Derived from milk, fruit, vegetables, and other plants, lactic acid is used in cleansers, moisturizers, serums, and chemical peels.

Vitamin C

It's not just in orange juice!

Not only is this ingredient good at combating colds; it has a ton of benefits for your skin.

Vitamin C is an excellent anti-aging and damage-repairing ingredient as it boosts collagen production, brightens dark spots, and fights free radical damage.

You can find it in serums and moisturizers.

Personally, I loved it (and still do) to keep my complexion bright and glowing.

Vitamin C comes in different forms and derivatives, including:

  • Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate
  • Ascorbyl Glucosamine
  • Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate
  • L-Ascorbic Acid
  • Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate

Probiotics

I'm sure you've heard that probiotics are good for your gut, but what about your skin?

Many skincare products - cleansers, moisturizers, and even liquid foundation - are touting "probiotic technology."

But what is it?

Such formulas include bacteria fragments or metabolites, the "soup" surrounding grown bacteria cells, according to Dr. Whitney Bowe.

Their purpose is to balance "good" and "bad" bacteria and help with acne, dry skin, rosacea, and eczema.

Personally, when I was breastfeeding, I used a probiotic cream by Epicuren and loved it! (You can find it below.)

Probiotics used in skincare go by these names:

  • Acidophilus
  • Bifida Ferment Lysate
  • Lactobacillus Plantarum
  • Enterococcus Faecalis
  • S. thermophiles

Ingredients That Are a Big No-No

Retinoids

Derived from vitamin A, this skincare ingredient does it all!

It's particularly known for its anti-aging and anti-acne benefits.

I definitely recommend it...after pregnancy and nursing are over, as it can cause birth defects.

Retinoids can sneak up on you, so use caution.

It can be used with products that would otherwise be deemed as safe.

For example, a lot of glycolic exfoliants/scrubs have added retinoids.

Look for these names on the product packaging:

  • Retinol
  • Retinoic acid
  • Differin (adapalene)
  • Retin-A, Renova (tretinoin)
  • Retinyl linoleate
  • Retinyl palmitate
  • Tazorac and Avage (tazarotene)

Parabens

Parabens are a common preservative in many personal care products, including shampoos, conditioners, body washes, and lotions.

Whether you or your baby are using products with parabens, trace amounts can be absorbed into the skin.

Babies can be sensitive to parabens.

In extreme cases, it can affect their endocrine system.

While the effects of parabens have been widely debated and are still under investigation, I have chosen to make my skincare line paraben-free.

Parabens can be easy to find, as they usually appear in the ingredient's name.

Here are some examples:

  • Propylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Isopropyl
  • Isobutyl
  • Methylparaben

Chemical Sunscreens

The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens absorb the sun's UVA and UVB rays, then break down and release heat.

This protects you against sunburn and sun damage.

While you should be wearing sunscreen with SPF 30+ every day, grab a mineral sunscreen while you're nursing.

These sit on top of the skin and block those bad rays!

I would opt for a formula with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Chemical sunscreens may cause an allergic reaction and disrupt estrogen and hormone production.

They've also been found in breastmilk.

Be on the lookout for these ingredients used in chemical sunscreens:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Avobenzone
  • Octisalate
  • Homosalate

Other Tips and Tricks

Besides using certain skincare ingredients and products, there are other ways to care for your complexion while feeding your baby.

(These should be easy to remember - I'm sure you've heard of them before you had your baby!)

  • Use fragrance-free, non-comedogenic formulas. This will minimize the chances of your lil nugget developing an allergic reaction or rash. If you want to be extra careful, you can use skincare products specifically made for babies. This will decrease the likelihood of something irritating being transferred to their skin during contact.

  • Drink plenty of water. Water has a hydrating and plumping effect on the skin. If we're dehydrated, our skin can look dull, and fine lines and wrinkles will become more apparent. Dehydration can also contribute to fatigue. An easy way to remember to drink up is bringing a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go, or even downloading an app that will remind you to drink water.

  • Nourish your skin from the inside out. Eating a well-balanced diet maintains your energy level, keeps your hunger in check, and helps with the quality of your breast milk. Healthy doesn't have to equal boring or bland! Berries, for example, are a great way to get antioxidants, which keep free radicals from damaging your skin.

  • Don't abandon your skincare regimen. I get it! Babies require almost constant care and attention; the last thing you want to worry about at the end of the day is your skin. But keeping up a skincare regimen can stop problems before they start and maintain your skin's health and appearance. As I always say, prevention is better than treatment! You may spend more time correcting a problem than preventing it from happening in the first place.

  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you haven't already figured it out, having a baby is hard work. As the old saying goes, "It takes a village to raise a child." You don't have to do it alone! I'm here to tell you that it's OK to ask for help. It does NOT mean you're a "bad mom," and you shouldn't feel guilty. If relatives or friends offer to cook a meal or babysit, take them up on it! You can run errands, shower, or even just take a nap. Which leads me to the next tip...

  • Rest (when you can). I know it's not always possible to sleep when your baby sleeps, but try to sneak in a nap! In a study conducted by NASA, tired military pilots and astronauts who napped for 40 minutes had a performance increase of 34% and were 100% alert upon waking up. If you're worried that a nap might interfere with your nighttime sleep schedule, you could always meditate or lay down and listen to some soothing music.

You might be feeling a bit overwhelmed right now with all this info.

Don't worry, I've got you covered!

Keep on scrolling for safe and effective skincare products you can use while breastfeeding.

The best part?

You don't have to spend hours going from store to store or scouring the Internet; I've got it all right here for you!

If you don't want to give up your brick and mortar shopping spree, you can also print out this article and take it with you.

Alana Mitchell Clear Collagen Peel-Off Masque

Breastfeeding-Friendly Brands

I'm proud to offer these skincare lines that are safe to use while breastfeeding (and deliver results, too!).

I've italicized and bolded the brands that do carry vitamin A products - please make sure to avoid these by reading all of the ingredients!

Happy shopping!

Final Thoughts

When nursing, the last thing you want to have to worry about is whether your skincare products might affect your little one.

Hopefully, I've cleared up some common misconceptions so you can focus on what's really important - you and your baby!

I want you to be informed and confident about what's going in and on your body; I don't want you to be concerned.

Whether you're thinking about starting a family, currently expecting, or just welcomed a new bundle of joy into the world - you got this!

My hope is that breastfeeding will be an easy, comfortable, and enjoyable experience for you.

Beauties, do you have any breastfeeding tips or tricks? What were your go-to skincare products? Share with us in the comments!

68 comments

Hello! Hope you are doing well! And thanks for your efforts to research this topic.. I wanted to share that The Glo tinted sunscreen moisturizer recommended on this page has oxybenzone in it., which is listed as a chemical to avoid,

Amanda @ 2019-12-16 11:30am

Hi there! My baby is already 2 years old. She is now eating her complete meals a day. And she is also drinking formula milk everyday. Since I am a working mom, I can only give her breastfeed at night. My question is, is it safe to use rejuvanating product having retinol ingredients on it? please give me an advice.

Shiela Venus @ 2019-12-07 3:03am

Thank you for providing all the information, can you pl let me know which powder is good for 6-month baby neck rashes. I am very worried about my baby.

Shruti @ 2019-11-06 7:49am

Hi Alana! I’m a little bit confused about safety of Use of actual vitamin A (not the synthetic retinoids). Eminence Organics has Vitamin A listed in their body lotions and some face skin care products. As I’m about to deliver and start breastfeeding I really want to know if the Vitamin A is ok or it is the same no-no as the retinoids to use during breastfeeding. Eminence also states on their bottles “natural retinol alternative” – would these plant ingredients cause any harm?
Thank you in advance.

Anna @ 2019-10-16 10:08pm

I feel like a horrible mom now :( I always thought I was so great for nursing my baby as long as I have been (currently 13 months) however I went to a esthetician yesterday and she told me not to use Retinol. Well I’ve been using (about 2-3x’s a week) Sunday Riley Luna Retinol Sleeping Night Oil. So now I’m not using that. But now I’m like oh no! What else shouldn’t I be using. I saw that you said AHA is ok. I used The ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% peeling solution (only 2x’s) I don’t have an issue with not using that anymore. The other product I use (2-3x’s a week) Alpha-H Liquid Gold which has Water, Alcohol Denat, Glycolic Acid, Glycerin, Hydrolyzed Silk, Potassium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract. For my eyes Drunk Elephant C-Tango eye cream which has peptides. Then I like Tart’s hydrolonic acid Water, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Hyaluronate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Nitrate, Algae Extract, Calcium Pantothenate, Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol. :( sooo…what should I be using now? I don’t mind doing a skincare rehaul because my baby is worth it!

Darlene @ 2019-08-30 10:33am

Hi i am nursing my 2 month old boy.
I want to use cetaphil uva /uvb defence spf 50
Is it safe for my boy?

Khin thandar tun @ 2019-08-25 3:42am

Hi Alana
Very useful article .
I am breastfeeding my 10months old baby and about to start using a product we has vegeclairine. Do you have any advise on the safety on this ingredient? Also I am think of not breastfeeding a few hours after using this skin product, would that help if it’s a product I’m not sure about ?

Shirley @ 2019-07-15 1:57pm

HI there I was just wondering if you could let me know if using “Avon Anew Vitamin C” brightening serum is okay? Ingredients are:
PROPANEDIOL
SD ALCOHOL 40-B
WATER/EAU
GLYCERIN
ASCORBIC ACID
PROPYLENE CARBONATE
FRAGRANCE/PARFUM
HYDROXYPROPYLCELLULOSE
BHT

sarah @ 2019-07-09 6:45am

I just purchased the C.E.O 15% vitamin C brightening serum from Sunday Riley, and I am exclusively breastfeeding. I wasn’t sure what you meant by it’s “ok” to use while nursing. Please let me know ASAP if I can use this while breastfeeding!! I dont want to harm my baby in any Way

Emily @ 2019-06-27 9:30pm

Hi! I am overwhelmed. I would really like a skin care line that I could use with breastfeeding. – I would like a cleanser, a serum or moisturizer and an eye cream. A night time regimen for wrinkles. I need wrinkle help and I am paranoid because I’m breastfeeding. There are too many choices and I’m getting lost adding them to my cart! I would want paraben free, chemical sunscreen free, and retinol free.

I really want products that work to moisturize and prevent aging. My “11” and crows feet are showing my age!
34 and dry skin. Hormonal breakouts in chin area. (I think they are hormonal) – I plan to breastfeed for at least another year and not have any more children.
You have the most comprehensive list I have seen. Thank you for putting this together and not being afraid to say what is and isn’t safe in breastfeeding, while also maintaining that you are not a doctor.

Rachel @ 2019-06-06 9:04am

Thank you for this. For 35 weeks I was stretch mark free until of course I reached my 36th week. Rodan and Fields have this skin care line where it improves stretch marks but unfortunately, it has retinoids ?. I was wondering if you know of any skin care where it helps with stretch marks? Something safe for breastfeeding. Thank you!!

Elena @ 2019-06-05 12:36am

I am nursing mother of 4 month baby. Would it be safe to use matrixl (ordinary brand) and azelic acid (ordinary brand) for anti-aging and brightening ?

Nims @ 2019-05-17 7:12pm

Hi Alana,

I am currently nursing my 7 month old and i feel like my skin is stuck in a rut. I want to achieve smooth, supple and clear and glowy looking skin. What do you recommend? Im also having some breakouts in the lower part of my face and I have combo skin. Thanks

Laura @ 2019-04-24 1:41pm

Hi, the tinted moisturizer you recommended is not mineral based sunscreen?

Rachel Williams @ 2019-04-04 12:48pm

Do you know if Eminence’s Stone Crop Whip Moisturizer + Neroli Eye Serum breastfeeding safe?
I’m currently using their exfoliant you recommended and love it! ?

Erin @ 2019-04-01 1:32pm

Hello!
Are Clinique superdefense daily defense moisturizer with SPF 20 or Clinique super rescue antioxidant night moisturizer okay to use while breastfeeding? Thank you in advance!

Angela Vartanian @ 2019-03-24 3:46pm

Hi Alana

Your website is so informative! Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I am looking to buy Mizon Apple Peeling and Mizon Hyaluronic serum – would you be able to tell me if they are safe to use while nursing? Also, how about coffee scrub? Thank you and best wishes.

Joanna @ 2019-03-08 1:54pm

Hi, Teesha! Congratulations on your little one! I wasn’t able to find Elisa Natural Skincare on Amazon so I wasn’t able to look up the ingredients. On that note, when looking at skincare for rosacea and acne-prone skin, look for calming ingredients. Chamomile is a great example. Since you are also acne-prone, look for gentler products to exfoliate the skin. I really like https://www.skincarebyalana.com/rhonda-allison-mandelic-arginine-serum-5oz.html. Not only will it help with slight exfoliation, but it also has amino acids which will help strengthen the skin. :)

Alana @ 2019-03-05 2:38pm

Hi, Jasmine! Yes, I have heard of Rodan and Fields, but I personally have not used their products, so unfortunately I can’t provide any insight. I recommend consulting your doctor to confirm their products are safe during breastfeeding. :)

Alana @ 2019-03-04 9:46am

Hi! Based on my research online, niacinamide appears safe to use while breastfeeding, but please consult your doctor to be sure. It’s particularly great for smoothing the skin and its anti-aging benefits.

Alana @ 2019-03-04 9:38am

Hello i have a 4month old and currently breastfeeding , and was in troduce to rodan and fields ! i love their line and have seen amazing results for women of all colors. Have you heard of this line and is it safe to use???

Jasmine Sade Little @ 2019-03-01 7:32am

Any thoughts on niacinamide?

KD @ 2019-02-28 10:30am

Hi Alana, great to finally see a well needed article like this being posted. I was wondering if you have any advice regarding the use of topical vitamin E oil on the face only while breast feeding ? If possible, could you include the data used to come to your conclusion, in your answer? Thanks!!

Pat @ 2019-02-21 9:42pm

Hi, Jessica! Congratulations on your little one! The key here will be to balance your skin without being too harsh. To start, I like https://www.skincarebyalana.com/alana-mitchell-daily-oc-cream-cleanser.html. It is a great first cleanser or standalone cleanser to gently remove dirt, oil, and makeup. Next, I would recommend a toner that helps balance any excess oil like https://www.skincarebyalana.com/rhonda-allison-beta-green-tea-lotion.html. To hydrate, you will want a product that will not only address a breakout but will also help fight acne-causing bacteria, like https://www.skincarebyalana.com/epicuren-acidophilus-pro-biotic-facial-cream-emulsion-moisturizer.html. And since you’re a new mama, my favorite eye cream that fakes a full night’s rest is https://www.skincarebyalana.com/rhonda-allison-eye-revitalizer.html. A regimen isn’t complete without a spot treatment, so I recommend https://www.skincarebyalana.com/skin-script-blemish-spot-treatment-5oz.html which helps soothe and heal spots, blemishes, and breakouts. Last but not least, don’t forget your SPF https://www.skincarebyalana.com/prevention-daily-matte-moisturizer-spf-32.html. It’s oil-free and mattifying so you don’t have to worry about looking oily throughout the day.

Alana @ 2019-02-13 3:29pm

Hi! I’m nursing my 7 month old and my face needs help. I’m in need of a whole face routine. I have been getting cystic acne and I have oily skin. Thanks!

Jessica @ 2019-02-11 1:36am

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