A List of Skin Care Ingredients That Shouldn't Be Used While Breastfeeding

Although a woman may not have reactions to ingredients in skin-care products prior to being pregnant, she needs to consider all the potentially harmful ingredients in the products during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Chemicals from skin-care products seep into the bloodstream and, in extreme cases, can cause birth defects and allergies, and affect breast milk, report the doctors at the website BabyandPregnancy. Read the labels carefully to avoid skin-care ingredients that shouldn't be used while breastfeeding or when pregnant. Although it's not always easy to identify every ingredient in skin-care products because of proprietary trade secrets, some generic terms provide clues to the base of the materials.

Young mother breastfeeding her baby. (Image: Sean Prior/Hemera/Getty Images)

Petroleum Products May Irritate Baby

A breastfeeding mother should avoid petroleum-based ingredients, because they can irritate sensitive baby skin. Names that indicate the use of petroleum in the product include propylene glycol, mineral oil, paraffin, petrolatum and isopropyl alcohol.

Formaldehyde May Cause Allergic Reactions

Formaldehyde is a common ingredient used as a preservative in skin-care products. It is often hidden in materials with other names to prevent scaring people away from using it. Formaldehyde can cause serious allergies and allergic reactions in the breastfeeding baby. Some technical names used to indicate the presence of formaldehyde include hydroxymethylglycinate, DMDM-hydantoin and methenesmine.

Baby May Be Sensitive to Parabens

Parabens are widely used in skin-care products and are absorbed into the skin. Although most skin-care products contain small amounts, most are insufficient to cause any harm to nonpregnant women or mothers who are not breastfeeding. Parabens accumulate in the body, creating abnormal amounts of chemical buildup that can affect the endocrine system of a baby who is sensitive to the substance. The suffix "paraben" usually appears in the ingredient's name, such as isopropylparaben or methylparaben.

Avoid Retinoids

Retinoids are used to diminish wrinkles and are popular in skin-care products. Retinoids reduce wrinkles by speeding up the production of vitamin A, which aids in preventing collagen breakdown and speeding up cell division. Oral retinoids have been shown to cause birth defects, reports BabyCentre U.K. Breastfeeding mothers also should not be use retinoids, according to BabyCenter. Retinoids are listed by a variety of names that include Retin-A, differin, tazorac, retinol or retinyl.

Avoid Salicyclic Acid in Masks and Peels

Salicyclic acid is an ingredient used in acne creams and exfoliants. It is commonly found in skin cleansers and toners, and often goes under the names BHA, beta hydroxy acid and salicyclic acid. The chemical bores deep into the skin's pores. The ingredient also is available in oral form, which should be avoided as well. Although occasional light, topical use is not typically harmful to breastfeeding babies, salicyclic acid in facial masks and body peels is much more toxic because it is left on the skin for longer periods of time and used in greater concentrations.

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