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Is it safe to use chemical peels during pregnancy?

Chemical peels are used by women around the world for a number of skin issues. They are chemical solutions that are applied to the facial area. Imperfections such as wrinkles, acne and hyper-pigmentation can be improved by using these facial treatments.

Normally, the procedure is done in a doctor’s office, but there are also over the counter peels. During pregnancy, you may find that you have a better or a worse skin condition than before. In the latter case, you might think about getting a peel to smooth out any imperfections. But do chemical peels and pregnancy mix?

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Chemical peels and pregnancy: types and uses

There are different types of chemical peels. Normally, a dermatologist will recommend the best type for each skin type. However, while pregnant there are some things to consider about each type of peel.

  • Anything that contains retinoids (a type of vitamin A) has to be avoided during pregnancy. Although they work on acne and brighten up the skin, retinoids can cause birth defects. 
  • Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide products should also be avoided. They can both be easily absorbed through the skin and have been linked to birth defects. These substances are used to get rid of acne, a common pregnancy issue.
  • Azelaic acid peels are considered safer than other types of peels. However, some researchers have found that it can be toxic for animal embryos. This peel is used for acne and rosacea.
  • Hydroquinone is a product used to lighten the complexion. However, products that contain it can be very irritant. There are also studies that link skin lighteners use with low birth weight and smaller placenta.
  • AHA peels are rated as safest during pregnancy. They contain lactic acid, which is generally considered safe to use while pregnant. These peels can be used to slightly lighten the skin and get rid of spots. It is a milder peel compared to other types. However, its use has been linked to skin cancer as it can burn the skin and make it prone to damage.

As you can see, chemical peels and pregnancy don’t go that well together. There are risks for both mother and baby when using them. There are other types of peels also, as most use more than one active ingredient.

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Chemical peels and pregnancy: additional risks to consider

Nowadays, most pregnant women are aware of the impact of environmental influences on a developing foetus. But there are also risks for the new mother that many women don’t know about.

  • Your skin suffers some changes during pregnancy. You might experience a darkening of the skin known as melasma. The condition occurs due to hormonal action. But your skin will revert to normal once you give birth. Using a chemical peel to lighten up a melasma affected skin might be hazardous. You might end up with skin patches of different color or with damaged skin.  
  • The skin becomes much more sensitive to UV rays after a peel. Some doctors have linked this sensitivity to an increased risk of skin cancer.

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Chemical peels and pregnancy: what experts recommend

  • Most doctors, especially dermatologists, recommend waiting until after your pregnancy to treat any skin issues. Since the hormones can create some skin problems, treating these conditions externally might not even work at all. 
  • Using a sulphur based product for acne issues while pregnant is considered safe by experts. There are soaps that can be used on a daily basis.
  • Melasma is a condition that will go away on its own. It’s best not to treat it during pregnancy. Some products must also be avoided while breastfeeding.

If you are still unsure about chemical peels and pregnancy it’s best to ask your doctor. Even using over the counter products is not advised by most experts.

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Source: The cosmetic use of skin-lightening products during pregnancy in Dakar, Senegal: a common and potentially hazardous practice

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