Can I Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?

As a pregnant or breastfeeding mom, there are things you shouldn’t do, take or apply on your skin. You have always wanted a glowing skin and wouldn’t want anything to deprive you of that. However, the challenges that comes with breastfeeding or pregnancy can be overwhelming and may not give you the needed time to take care of yourself.

This reason alone push Pregnant and nursing mom into using retinol skincare products to help rejuvenate their skin. Doing this may not be in the best interest of your baby. Retinoid and Retinol are the common ingredients found in most skin care products for anti-aging, Acne etc.

Applying skincare products with retinol has been discovered to be harmful during pregnancy because the substance penetrates the skin into the bloodstream and harm your baby.

Using products with Retinol while breastfeeding is not advisable too; whatever you take or rub on the body goes into the breast milk.

Hey, don’t feel defeated! You can still look good, radiant, and beautiful even if you don’t use these skincare products that have retinol as the active ingredients.

Now, the big question here is – can you use Retinol while breastfeeding? Keep reading, I am going to answer this question as the article proceeds.

Because you have been told not to use Retinoid doesn’t mean you should neglect your skin beauty regimen. A twenty-first-century woman needs her confidence to function properly in today’s society.

What Is Retinol?

In some foods, Retinol (also known as vitamin A) occurs naturally. Rich retinol deposit is found in animal products such as salmon, beef, cod liver oil, lamb liver, and Bluefin tuna. When it is consumed with dietary fat, Vitamin A is absorbed more readily into the bloodstream because it is a fat-soluble vitamin.

The human body converts carotenoids in certain vegetables and fruits into vitamin A. Some people, however, can prevent their bodies from converting carotenoids into vitamin A, due to genetic mutation. Genetic testing can determine whether or not your body can transform carotenoids (also known as provitamin A) into a type of vitamin A that can be used by your body.

Retinol and Breastfeeding – What Experts are Saying?

No study points out the correlation between retinol and breastfeeding, and the effects it has on babies that are breastfed.

Although, the report shows that Retinoid and Retinol have teratogenic effects on the growing fetus inside the womb. The effect of retinol while breastfeeding and on pregnancy is the reason doctors are more hesitant to advise women on the use of the product.

Therefore, it is important not to take unnecessary risks. Your baby’s life and safety are at stake.

Disclaimer: Before considering using skincare products with retinol while nursing, it is essential to see your doctor for professional advice.

Effects of Using Retinol while Breastfeeding or Pregnant

At this stage, there is a great shift from the norm. The skin becomes very sensitive and changes in texture and even tone. What works for your skin before may not be what your skin needs during pregnancy or when nursing a baby.

mom breastfeeding baby

Medical experts have noticed that the use of some skincare products or even your normal skincare products my cause rash or dull completion at this stage. Therefore, a new approach should be taken to give you your glow back.

Chemicals in some products deposit toxins that penetrate the skin into the bloodstream harming the developing fetus. “They can affect your hormonal cycles and interfere with the production of organs in an unborn baby,” says Dr. Shilpi Agarwal, Board-certified Family, and Medical Consultant.

The same goes for breastfeeding. A baby is always in close contact with their mom. When there is direct skin contact between a baby and her mother and the toxins from the body lotion on the mother breast can be absorbed by the baby’s skin causing adverse effects on the skin. An example of such effects is rash on the skin.

I encourage you to try your best to protect yourself and your bundle of joy as you go through this stage, as you now know that the smallest form of toxicity from your skincare products can cause great damage to your baby.

For Pregnant or Nursing Mom – Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

1. Hydroxy acids and benzoyl peroxide

Hydroxy acids and benzoyl peroxide are generally not recommended for hypersensitive skin. When fighting acne, clearing pores, and exfoliating dead skin cells these substances have become the gold standard. Some nursing moms will practically experience extra sensitivity to everything. Therefore, this is bad news for them and those with skin injuries or defects!

The most common beta hydroxy acid (BHA) listed as an ingredient to some skincare and health products is Salicylic acid. Beta Hydroxy acid has shown complications in pregnancy.  Zondra Wilson Founder/CEO of Blu Skin Care said, “Studies have shown that these acids cause birth defects and various pregnancy complications when taken orally in high doses”.

2. Retinoids

Retinoids come as the best anti-acne substance for some women; they help in acne treatment and line removal from the face. Retinoid comes in different form and retinol while breastfeeding is not in your best interest as a nursing mom. Retinoic is an OTC prescription. Birth defects or malfunctions are caused by Retinoid. When trying to conceive, you should cease the intake of Retinoid and all other forms.

The most common types of retinoids are listed as follows:

a. Tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova, Stieva-A)

There is minimal absorption of tretinoin containing Retin-A drug via topical sources as cited by Hales Medications and Mothers Milk (2019). Topical tretinoin belongs to category L3 of lactation risk or is fairly safe for breastfeeding. The FDA has recommended, however, that nursing mothers will avoid using a tretinoin cream called Renova (0.02 percent tretinoin) because it is not clear if this drug finds its way into human milk.

b. Tazarotene (Tazorac, Zorac)

Presently there is no data to determine if this medication can be transferred into breast milk. It is used topically mainly to treat acne and healthy plaques psoriasis. Dr. Hale mentioned, that the absorption rate increases when applied to a large surface area. The use of this medication should be taken with caution. Consult your doctor about the health implications of using this drug when you are breastfeeding.

c. Adapalene (Differin)

Adapalene is used topically in acne treatment and is similar to tretinoin. Without a prescription, it can be bought over the counter. Regarding its transfer to human milk, there is no available data about it. McHale states, however, that when added topically to the skin, it is practically unabsorbed, and therefore undetectable in breast milk.

d. Isotretinoin (Accutane, Isotrex, Absorica)

For treating severe acne popular isotretinoin called Absorica is used. Mothers who are breastfeeding should not use the drug during nursing and up to a month after treatment is complete, as it is strongly advised against. Isotretinoin belongs to category L5 lactation risk or should be used for breastfeeding.

Before considering taking these medicinal products, consult your doctor first.

e. Retinol

Retinol is a much less effective prescription-strength retinoid that falls within the category of non-prescription retinoids. Creams and serums that are formulated to reduce fine lines, dark spots, and wrinkles widely contain retinol. It can improve your skin tone and boost the production of collagen in the skin.

Although the risk of transferring to breast milk is low, however, it’s best to avoid retinol containing products when nursing your baby. No studies have gone to actually determine conclusively their safety for a mother who was breastfeeding. However, there are healthier options that can be used, instead of retinol while breastfeeding.

3. Essential oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated substances extracted from plants. It is therapeutic, good for your skin when moderately used. As long as you are careful, there are a variety of essential oils you can continue to use while pregnant.

4. Chemical sunscreens

Getting sunbathe isn’t a bad idea! When you need a safer sunscreens pick an all-natural option that does not penetrate the skin. A mineral-based sunscreen with zinc becomes a safer alternative ingredient because it provides a physical barrier against the sun.

Skincare Tips While Breastfeeding

When it comes to breastfeeding, there are many compatible skin care products available. In this segment, we are going look at other skin care treatments that are suitable while breastfeeding. The message to take home is to choose natural products that take care of your skin needs.

Vitamin C

Collagen productions help your skin appear radiant with an even tone; it is improved by Vitamin C or ascorbic acid. Most facial creams and serums have Vitamin C as a common ingredient, this vitamin can also be gotten from citrus fruits and green vegetables.

Drinking water

skincare tips - retinol while breastfeeding

Dehydration is not only bad for our health, but it is also bad for our skin. Lack of water in our body can make our skin appear dull and flaky. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day or to thirst to keep your skin moisturized.

Sleep well

sleep well

In the early weeks of being a new mom, a proper sound sleep seems impossible at times. You look a lot healthier with glowing skin when getting a good night’s sleep. Whenever you get a chance or when your baby is sleeping during the day, take a nap when you have anything shorter than 8 hours of sleep at night.

Oily and Fatty foods

Sometimes, oily foods may seem to be the easier option, but it may cause acne to appear or make you look more aged. Switch to healthier alternatives and prevent oily skin by reducing your intake of fried and fatty foods. With less oil, you can make a tasty meal by Steaming and grilling your food.


Eating foods and fruits high in antioxidants helps to keep free-radicals away from your skin. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, etc., contain high levels of antioxidants your body needs to wade off free-radicals.

Cleanse regularly


Looking after your baby leaves you with little or no time to take care of yourself. During breastfeeding, it becomes impossible to carry out your usual skincare regimen. It is important to get your skin cleanse regularly, to maintain healthy skin. As part of your morning and night routine, wash your face with a gentle facewash.

Different Forms of Retinoid and Retinol

You must reconsider your stand with Retinol and breastfeeding. When using retinol while breastfeeding, it is important to know that it’s not the safest thing at this stage.  You may have come across brands with retinol in it – I am not going to mention any here for you. But I will only advise you to choose wisely when shopping for skincare products.

To avoid accidental usage, been aware of retinol containing products will help you. Anti-aging and anti-acne products are usually where Retinols are found. For every product, you intend to purchase, always read the label of the product.

Retinoids are seen with the following names;     

  1. Retinol
  2. Retinoic acid
  3. Tretinoin (Retin-A and Renova)
  4. Retinyl linoleate
  5. Retinyl palmitate
  6. Adapalene (Differin)
  7. Tazarotene (Tazorac, Fabior, Zorac, and Avage)

Best Acne Skincare Products for Breastfeeding Mom

Now you have known the effects of Retinol while breastfeeding, here are the best skin care products you can use in managing Acne pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Aleavia Purifying Organic Facial Cleanser

Some facewash contain ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid that are not safe to use during nursing. You may be tempted to choose them because they are formulated for acne to help with your breakouts. Choose instead a gentle cleanser that will cleanse but not irritate your skin.

Aleavia Purifying Organic Facial Cleanser comes with no harmful additives; this plant-based cleanser is everything your skin needs. Instead of using toxic chemicals, it uses natural prebiotics to help restore balance and treat acne. The facewash helps the skin not to be overly dry because of the presence of oils that help keep your skin moisturized.

This product helps tackles the dark skin patches that may occur during pregnancy and also help clear your acne.

Aleavia Purifying Organic cleanser is organic and is paraben-free with natural ingredients. It is useful since parabens in the body can mimic estrogen. It is none irritating, with no fragrances or colors, specially formulated for extra sensitive skin during pregnancy.

Orange Blossom Water Face Toner

A toner helps to restore your face’s pH balance, it removes all makeup traces and debris that can block pores and cause breakouts on your skin. In a nutshell, toner is a big part of your skincare regimen process.

This toner works in two ways – it cleanses the skin and restores the natural acidity of the skin that is removed after cleansing. Many others use alcohol as an astringent, which may appear to dry out your face.

In this toner, the orange blossom has antimicrobial properties that help to combat bacteria causing acne on your skin.

This toner is suitable for the lifestyle of almost every woman because it is mild and vegan-friendly.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost

Hydro Boost is a non-comedogenic moisturizer that contains neither retinoids nor retinol while breastfeeding. This moisturizing cream is ideal for both pregnant and nursing women. It keeps Acne out, prevents breakouts caused by extreme dry skin.

Hydro Boost comes with a hyaluronic acid that keeps your skin hydrated. Can be worn under makeup,. it has a gel-like consistency which makes it easy and smooth on the skin while hydrating your skin all day long.

Ideal for people with sensitive skin, as it is fragrance-free, color-free, and oil-free. Hydro Boost won’t block your pores and cause more breakouts as its non-comedogenic.

I will want you to choose a complete skincare routine with one line of products designed to work better together, by purchasing the companion products in the Hydro Boost line.

Freeman Facial Manuka Clay Mask

To avoid retinol while breastfeeding, use a face mask that removes dead skin cells or pulls dirt from the depths of your pores without drying too much. Then, immediately replenish the lost moisture dissipated while using your mask, with a moisturizer.

Honey and tea tree oil remove oil without over-drying the skin. It helps kill the acne-causing bacteria on your skin without the use of harsh chemicals; they are all-natural antibacterial agents. It is very affordable.

It can be used as a cleanser if you’re in a hurry or used as a mask for deep cleaning. With the tea tree oil in the product, we recommend only using this mask occasionally as opposed to a daily cleanser.

Freeman Facial is multifunctional; it is a mask for deep cleaning, or as a cleanser when in a hurry. I suggest the occasional use of tea tree oil as a mask, rather than a daily cleanser.

Swisspers Exfoliating Cotton Rounds

If you use a toner, use Swisspers exfoliating cotton rounds to give it additional help instead of the regular variety.

Swisspers rounds have a rougher side that helps you gently scrub your skin so that you do not block your pores when removing extra makeup, dirt, and skin cells. It is mainly useful for breakouts along your hairline and on your forehead.

These rounds can be used for makeup or other beauty applications due to their versatility.

I recently came across these exfoliating rounds and they have had the greatest impact on my breakouts. I have battled with Acne for some years; these rounds have done better over every other thing I have tried – including drugs.

Maybelline Dream Liquid Mousse Airbrush Foundation

If you are looking for a foundation that won’t clog your pores and is non-comedogenic then Maybelline Dream Liquid Mousse Airbrush Foundation is your choice. It is light; it provides adequate coverage to mask your present breakout and won’t cause additional skin problems.

Some of these products are not recommended for daily use during breastfeeding or pregnancy since it contains harmful ingredients. This foundation offers you a full-coverage; it is non-comedogenic and gives a smooth-looking finish to create an illusion of flawless skin.

It is appropriate for use on sensitive skin and It stays long (can be worn for up to 16 hours and). It comes in a different color that matches different skin types. It helps to keep your skin healthy by moisturizing it and preventing it from drying out.

Almay Skin Protection Comfort Concealer

When you have a blemish, it perfectly normal to want to cover and treat it. For the best match on your complexion, Almay Skin Protection Comfort Concealer comes in three different shades to choose from. It is okay to use occasionally but not daily, even if formulated to help clear your breakouts.

It prevents your face from appearing too shiny, as it has a mineral complex to absorb oil throughout the day. This concealer contains aloe and chamomile that helps reduces reduce inflammation and redness, it doesn’t irritate the skin because it is hypoallergenic.

Almay skin concealer is thick enough to cover your blemishes properly, so you can call it a full coverage concealer. To help cover and heal your skin during breakouts, there are additional products in the line if you’d like to purchase a full product line.

Take Home

I hope you have learned enough and properly informed about retinol and breastfeeding. As a take-home, I want you to know that things can find their way into the milk your baby drinks whether you take them internally and topically.

Therefore, to protect your baby from potential harm, take time to examine all products you use and everything you eat; make sure they don’t contain retinol while breastfeeding.

Let’s get your opinion in the comments section about using retinol while breastfeeding.


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