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Facials While Pregnant: What to Know

Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on April 07, 2022

Pregnancy drastically changes your body. You can predict some changes, but many are unexpected.

Some people get silky hair and radiant skin. Others may not be so lucky and get acne, skin splotches, and stretch marks. 

Whether you're trying to maintain your skin or treat yourself after a hard trimester, you may wonder if a facial is safe for you and your baby. 

Pregnancy and Skin Changes

Skin changes like varicose veins or stretch marks usually occur below the neck. They're easier to hide than blemishes on your face. Facials can help treat:

  • Acne
  • Dark spots (melasma or chloasma)
  • Itchiness
  • Unwanted hair growth

Many skin changes fade soon after birth or clear up over time. If you're concerned about the appearance of your skin changes, you can pursue some facial options.

Are Facials Dangerous While You Are Pregnant?

Not necessarily, but some facial treatments can cause problems during your pregnancy. Always talk to your doctor, dermatologist, and treatment specialist to make sure you and your baby will be safe. 

One overarching concern is an effect called fetal microchimerism, though most traits of microchimerism go beyond the scope of a spa facial. One trait that may put you at risk is its effect on wound healing. 

During many pregnancies, microchimerism improves your ability to recover when injured. However, it may not always be positive. It can influence your healing process in unpredictable or harmful ways. 

Some facial treatments are invasive and require a healing process, so avoid invasive treatments that cause breaking of the skin.

Breaking the skin during treatment has a small risk of infection. Infections while you are pregnant can lead to other complications that can put your or your baby at risk. 

Drug Safety and Pregnancy

Before 2015, many drugs were category C pregnancy drugs. Category C means that the drugs were tested on animals and showed adverse effects. However, their benefits may outweigh the risks in humans.

There's a lack of research because of ethics. Researchers didn't want to perform tests on pregnant women and risk harming them or the baby. They relied on case studies, instead. 

In 2019, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) began overhauling its research, categorization, and labeling system for drugs regarding pregnancy and breastfeeding. They've reviewed many drugs, but the project is still underway. 

Research is still needed. Many of the facials here were generally safe in their initial findings, but they may pose risks in practice.

Speak to your doctor or dermatologist before getting a facial treatment.

Common Facial Treatments

Every spa, dermatologist, or esthetician will have a different menu of treatment options. The options range from simple massages to invasive laser treatments. 

Safe treatments. Many minor facial options are perfectly safe as long as they only affect the surface of your skin. Safe minor treatments include:

Standard facial. A typical facial has four parts:

  1. Cleanse: clears dirt and oils
  2. Exfoliate: removes dead skin cells
  3. Extract: cleans the pores
  4. Moisturize: hydrates and smooths the skin 

The fewer chemicals and invasive options, the safer it'll be for you and your baby. When making an appointment with your local spa, always ask about the type of cosmetics they use for their facials.  

Facial Treatments to Avoid

Chemical peels. Chemical peels remove upper layers of skin. Peels that use glycolic or lactic acid are safe during pregnancy due to their low penetration levels. Lactic acid chemical peels are frequently used to treat gestational acne.

Chemical peels that use salicylic acid, trichloracetic acid, or Jessner's solution (a mixture of lactic and salicylic acid) penetrate deeply. Deeper skin penetration can lead to more complications. 

Chemical peels have risks of scarring and discoloring your skin. Since pregnancy puts you at risk of skin splotches anyway, entirely avoiding chemical peels might be best. 

Topical anesthetic drugs. Before invasive treatments, dermatologists or estheticians may use topical anesthetics to numb the skin. Chemicals like benzocaine and tetracaine are common anesthetics but aren't considered safe during pregnancy by the FDA. 

The FDA considers lidocaine safe during pregnancy. Most estheticians use topical anesthetics that contain a mix of 2.5% lidocaine and 2.5% prilocaine. This mix is safe for pregnancy, as long as additional prilocaine isn't used. 

Botulinum toxin. Botulinum toxin is better known by the name brand Botox. In many case studies, botulinum toxin has shown no adverse effects on pregnant women when used correctly. 

According to animal studies, though, the FDA considers botulinum toxin potentially harmful to pregnancy. With this in mind, exercise caution if you're interested in botulinum toxin treatments.

Topical retinoids. Estheticians and dermatologists use retinoids to treat many skin conditions like acne and psoriasis. Though further research is needed, case studies have shown congenital disabilities caused by retinoid exposure.

Skin-lightening agents. Many skin-lightening treatments use hydroquinone. Your skin absorbs significantly more hydroquinone compared to other topical agents. This absorption rate may concern some in unique cases, but it's proven to be generally safe. 

Epilation.Permanent hair removal, such as laser hair removal or electrolysis, isn't recommended if you're pregnant. Many of the methods haven't been safety tested for pregnancy.

You should particularly avoid electrolysis because it uses electricity. Since the amniotic fluid is a conductor of electricity, there could be a risk of complications. 

Laser hair removal, like chemical peels, can cause skin irritation and discoloration. It's safer to avoid laser hair removal until after pregnancy.

Dermal fillers. Dermal fillers give your face and lips a smooth, fuller look by injecting a filler material into the skin. There aren't any known risks with the filler material, but the treatment poses a unique risk for pregnant women. 

Some of the common side effects of dermal fillers are sensitivity and infection at the injection sites. Since you're more susceptible to skin changes and infection complications while pregnant, you should wait to get dermal fillers until after your pregnancy. 

The Verdict

Despite the uncertainty of more invasive facial treatments, it's safe to treat yourself to a spa day during your pregnancy. Simply stick to simple treatments like cucumber scrub or a face massage, and enjoy your spa day!

Show Sources

SOURCES

Bioessays: "Fetal microchimerism and maternal health: A review and evolutionary analysis of cooperation and conflict beyond the womb."

Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien: "Safety of skin care products during pregnancy."

International Journal of Pregnancy & Child Birth: "A review of the safety of common aesthetic procedures during pregnancy."

International Journal of Women's Dermatology: "A review of the safety of cosmetic procedures during pregnancy and lactation."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Pregnancy and Skin Changes."

Mayo Clinic: "Chemical peel," "Laser hair removal."

Minnesota School of Cosmetology: "Esthiology: Facials, Skin Treatments & Hair Removal."

U.S. Food & Drug Administration: "Dermal Fillers (Soft Tissue Fillers)," "Pregnant? Breastfeeding? FDA Aims to Improve Drug Information."

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