Safe Skin Care

For a worry-free pregnancy, stay away from these commonly used remedies.


We asked New York-based pediatric and adult dermatologist Jody A. Levine, M.D., who is expecting her fourth child, for advice on which prescription drugs and over-the-counter product ingredients to avoid.

1. Accutane: This retinoid (or vitamin A derivative) taken orally for severe acne is known to cause birth defects of the brain and heart. Doctors even recommend waiting at least 30 days after discontinuing the drug before you try to conceive. You should also avoid applying any topical retinoid products, including Avage, Differin, Renova, Retin-A, retinols, retinyl palmitate and Tazorac.

2. Tetracycline: This antibiotic acne treatment has been shown to cross the placenta, potentially staining the developing baby's teeth and impairing skeletal growth. It should also be avoided if you are nursing, as it is excreted in breast milk.

3. Topical Salicylic Acid: This beta hydroxy acid that's used on acne-prone skin has not been shown to be harmful, but when taken orally, salicylic acid (aka aspirin) has been associated with birth defects and bleeding later in pregnancy. Dermatologists suggest avoiding salicylic acid in any form.

4. Benzoyl Peroxide: While there have been no animal or human studies on the use of benzoyl peroxide, an antibacterial ingredient, during pregnancy, some may be absorbed when it is applied topically. You should avoid using products with this ingredient.