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Skin Care During Pregnancy: Acne and Essential Oils

Source: user cglatz

Source: user cglatz

When I found out that I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was research skin care ingredients. I knew there were lots of rules surrounding pregnancy skin care, and I didn’t want my baby to grow three arms because I was using potentially harmful ingredients. I found that safe skin care during pregnancy is easily achieved, as long as I was willing to give up a few of my favorite skin care products for a few months.

Two of the most common skin care concerns during pregnancy are acne blemishes and the use of essential oils. Acne care during pregnancy can be difficult, as many of the ingredients considered unsafe for use during pregnancy are included in acne treatment products. Thankfully, the demand for gentler, safer skin care products is on the rise, resulting in an increased number of pregnancy-safe acne products. Glycolic acid and lactic acid (sometimes listed as alpha hydroxy acids or AHAs) are great choices for treating acne during pregnancy. Ingredients to avoid are beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), salicylic acid, retinol, retinyl linoleate, retinyl palmitate, retinoic acid, retin-a (also known as renova or tretinoin), differin (adapelene), avage (tazarotene) and tazorac.

In addition to finding acne skin care products free of the previously mentioned ingredients, trying natural alternatives may achieve the results you desire. Slice the end off a white potato and hold it against your blemish for about 10 minutes. It will reduce the redness and inflammation, plus boost healing time!

Essential oil use during pregnancy can be tricky. Some claim that you should stay away from all essential oils throughout your entire pregnancy. I (and many others) believe that this view is spread due to the fact that it simplifies the search for pregnancy-safe beauty products. The downside to discontinuing the use of all essential oils while pregnant is that there are quite a few essential oils that actually benefit the skin, mind and body during pregnancy! However, some essential oils are definitely not safe for use during pregnancy.

So, it’s up to you to decide – stay away from all essential oils for the ease and simplicity it offers, or research essential oils as needed to find out which products are safe for you and your baby. To help with your decision, I’ve created a list of essential oils that provide benefits to pregnant women, plus a list of unsafe essential oils that are commonly used in skin care products. Please note that the Unsafe for Use list is not a comprehensive list of all the essential oils that are to be avoided while pregnant; it only includes essential oils that are commonly used in skin care compositions.

Suitable for Use:

  • Bergamot
  • Grapefruit
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mandarin
  • Neroli
  • Orange
  • Petitgrain
  • Ylang Ylang

Unsuitable for Use:

  • Anise
  • Aniseed
  • Angelica
  • Basil
  • Bitter almond
  • Camphor
  • Chamomile
  • Cinnamon
  • Clary sage
  • Clove
  • Fennel
  • Ginger
  • Jasmine
  • Laurel
  • Marjoram
  • Myrrh
  • Peppermint
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen


  1. Jaclyn
    Posted July 9, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Why do you have some oils listed as both suitable and unsuitable?? Like Lavender and Ylang Ylang

  2. Leanna Kelly
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Ah, simple human error! Great catch. They are both suitable for use during pregnancy, and I have updated the blog post to reflect this. So sorry for the confusion. Thank you for bringing the error to my attention!

  3. Dara
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    I am looking for information on cinnamon and clove essential oils used on the skin in small diluted amounts. Can you give information as to why these oils are dangerous during pregnancy and what their risks are? Thank you!

  4. Leanna Kelly
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Great question! It is wise to avoid cinnamon and clove essential oils during pregnancy because they are both linked to skin sensitization. Due to the many changes skin goes through during pregnancy, “pregnant skin” is already pretty sensitive to begin with, so using an ingredient linked to skin sensitization can lead to uncomfortable results. In addition, cinnamon essential oil is also an emmenagogue, which means that it’s used to help regulate the menstrual flow and/or cycle, making it unsuitable for use during pregnancy.

    Thanks so much for your comment!

  5. mt
    Posted July 17, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I was obsessed with the Made from Earth Aloe & JOJOBA CREME THERAPY I was pregnant! I started using it around 3 months and kept with it everyday until my son was born (and a bit beyond). Its 100% chemical free with no fragrance, is made from wonderful ingredients, feels amazing on your skin, and best of all…no stretch marks!

    I thought I would be prone to them, since I have others on my hips and thighs from teenage years, but not a one appeared during pregnancy. It is a bit pricey, but a little goes a long way. I applied very liberally, 1-2 times a day and used almost 4 bottles during my whole pregancy.

    Very well worth it if you are looking to avoid stretch marks, and if you are a healthy mom who refuses to use chemicals in your skincare products…

    you can find them at

  6. Leanna Kelly
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the tip! I love organic, chemical-free skin care products. It’s so nice knowing I’m using something that won’t harm my skin, body or baby. Thanks so much for your comment. I hope you continue to enjoy our blog.

  7. melanie
    Posted July 24, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    I noticed a few others that are listed as both suitable and unsuitable: Lemon, Lime, Mandarin, Neroli, Orange. Can these be used during pregnancy?

  8. Leanna Kelly
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Hi Melaine,

    I am so sorry for the confusion! It looks as if the “suitable for use” list was copied and pasted below the “unsuitable for use” list, resulting in double listings. I fixed the lists, so all should be clear and correct now. Those oils are all suitable for use during pregnancy. Again, I’m sorry about the confusion. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  9. pauline
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    I started using the Made from Earth Vitamin Enhanced MOISTURZIER when Made from Earth first came on the market years ago. There are two specific reasons why I continue to use it.

    I am sensitive to cosmetic product smells and perfumes – I can only use chemical and fragrence free – it certainly does not make my eyes water – and its ability to be absorbed by the skin without leaving a residue, or greasy feeling. Some skin products have left my face dried out even though labeled as “moisturizers”. The Made from Earth Moisturizer has this wonderful ‘cool’ feeling to it.

    A $70.00 jar lasts 6 months – do the math. Some over the counter skin products cost over $30.00 and Made from Earth products on the whole, are fiscally sound purchases for those looking for a bargain.

  10. Posted October 17, 2011 at 3:58 am | Permalink

    The only advice I have is that you might want to review your skin care regimen. Sometimes the products that work when we are not pregnant will stop working when we are. Try reading Paula Begoun’s book “Don’t go to the cosmetics counter without me”

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