Let’s talk about the list of things that are off-limits for pregnant women and it will be a never-ending one! Understandably, the last thing on the mind of expectant mothers is skincare. While one may be consistent with the usual CTM routine, sun protection mostly gets ignored. Pregnant women already get overwhelmed by the changes their bodies go through that maintaining the most basic skincare routine may seem tiresome to them, let alone using sunscreen religiously, even indoors. However, contrary to our beliefs, one of the major reasons that contribute to this erratic sun-care routine is the fear of the product or ingredients impacting the health of the foetus.
We spoke to skincare experts to find solutions on whether or not sunscreen should be used during pregnancy and what kind of product to opt for.
Common Skin Issues During Pregnancy
Before we deep dive into the nitty-gritty of sun protection, let’s look at the common skin issues that arise during pregnancy. Dr Geetika Mittal Gupta, Founder & Medical Director, ISAAC Luxe, says, “Pregnancy-related skin changes are real! They can be different for different people. In some, these are favourable such as glowing skin but others may face issues like skin dryness, darkening or even acne aggravation during pregnancy months.” She further explains that in addition to skin issues, there can be changes in the body as well with stretch marks, spider veins, hair loss, and unwanted hair growth being the most common ones.
Why Is Sun Protection Crucial During Pregnancy?
While sun protection during pregnancy may seem like a daunting task, it is also a crucial one. Dr Madhuri Agarwal, Medical Director & CEO of Yavana Aesthetics Clinic, explains, “Hyperpigmentation is a common problem in pregnancy due to the increased levels of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and melanocyte-stimulating hormone (the hormone that protects the skin from UV damage). Due to these raised levels, freckles and acne marks get darker easily even with the slightest of sun exposure.” She also adds that pregnancy-induced melasma (which causes discolouration patches on the skin), called chloasma, is also seen in more than 75% of women especially due to UV light exposure even for a short duration.”
Increased or altered hormone levels also make the skin hypersensitive to sun rays. It leads to dehydration due to an increase in body temperature. Dr Geetika suggests, “The best way to prevent pigmentation is to apply sunblock and that’s why we generally suggest all pregnant women wear sunblock every 2-3 hours to protect the skin from long-lasting damage.”
Potential Risk Factors Involved With Sunscreens
The fear of potential risks from sunscreens during pregnancy is not irrational. The skin is more sensitive in pregnancy so the chances of an allergic reaction to products are high. Just like any other skincare product, ingredients in sunscreen also get absorbed into the skin which may be a cause of worry.
Dr Madhuri says, “While there is speculation of chemical sunscreen not being safe in pregnancy, it is not always the case. Certain ingredients are to be avoided in pregnancy. The most common ones are oxybenzone, octinoxate, and homosalate.” According to Dr Madhuri, several studies indicate that these ingredients function as endocrine disruptors and have an impact on hormones. In addition to these, pregnant women must also steer clear of parabens and phthalates which are found in multiple products such as shampoos, soaps, and body creams.
Elaborating on the ingredient checklist for expectant mothers, Dr Geetika adds, “According to the FDA, there are only two sunscreen ingredients – PABA (Para-Aminobenzoic Acid) and Trolamine Salicylate that can be dangerous during the pregnancy.”
Safe Sunscreen Formulations During Pregnancy
The two ingredients that the FDA has established to be absolutely safe during pregnancy are found in physical and mineral-based sunblocks – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. As opposed to chemical sunscreens, which absorb the sun’s rays and neutralise them, physical sunblocks are made with these natural minerals that physically block the sun’s harmful rays, reflecting them off the skin’s surface. They are also considered sustainable as they may not pose any plausible environmental risk.