Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid While Nursing

While I’m sure you know by now that you need to change your skin care routine while pregnant, but how does this translate over to breasting feeding? Are there skin care ingredients to avoid while nursing?

Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid While Nursing

Luckily, it turns out that breast feeding is very different than being pregnant. The placenta is basically a big sieve, it filters out a lot of stuff but since it is non-specific it does allow a lot of stuff to cross over. A lot of the ingredients to avoid while pregnant are because of the timing of the exposure, your baby was busy making organs!

When nursing, the body is pretty specific about what goes into breast milk. It isn’t filtering everything into the breast milk, instead things are much more specific. The timing of exposure (and potential side effects) is just very different once the baby is out! Those organs have been made, and the baby is also just a lot bigger. So, the list of skin care ingredients to avoid while nursing is much shorter than the list of ingredients to avoid while pregnant.

Medications and Nursing

One thing you need to be worried about are your medications. Nursing safety is a bit different than pregnancy safety for medications. Everything should be looked up in a lactation safety book (Medications and Mother’s Milk or Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation) and discussed with your physician. L1-L3 are considered safe, L4 and above is not safe.

Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid While Nursing

Retin A/Accutane, Retinoids, Vitamin A: Used topically, Retinoids are a category L3, but orally (as with Accutane) they fall to L4. So, topical is ok, systemic is not. I’d check with your doctor if you’re on anything other than just a basic, over the counter topical retinoid, but those found in skin care products should be fine.

Hydroquinone: While there is no data on Hydroquinone in humans, it is absorbed and quite water soluble, and based on some pharmacodynamics (the pKa, which is too complicated to get into here as it was a many hour discussion when I was in medical school), it may be trapped in the breast milk if it reaches it.  So, it is recommended to avoid.

Pretty much everything else: Safe!

Guide to Skin Care while Pregnant or Nursing
Don’t forget to check out the other articles in my Pregnancy and Nursing Skin Care Guide!

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  1. Lindsey
    January 3, 2018 / 7:21 pm

    Thanks so much for doing these posts! They are SO helpful! I’m wondering if you could offer any advice or a resource on how to read ingredient lists? For example, will glycolic acid always be listed that way? I’m currently using a cetaphil moisturizer and I don’t see anything in the ingredients listed as “glycolic acid” but I do see “butylene glycol” and “caprylyl glycol.” Are those the same as “glycolic acid”?

    • 15mins
      January 6, 2018 / 10:02 am

      There are a couple of ingredients that will be listed different ways, but I”m afraid it would be pretty difficult for me to create a post about that. When in doubt, google is your friend. Glycolic Acid is always listed that way, the “butylene glycol” and “caprylyl glycol” are different and are fine 🙂

      • Rebecca Easley Li
        March 19, 2018 / 5:34 pm

        Is Glycolic Acid not ok? It’s not mentioned in your post above, but this comment thread confused me.

        • 15mins
          March 19, 2018 / 6:32 pm

          It’s fine while nursing, but not while pregnant, which I think is why she was asking about it. This was just a thread about reading the ingredient lists basically 🙂

  2. Karina
    February 5, 2018 / 11:57 pm

    So all in all a majority of skin care is safe while nursing?

    • 15mins
      February 6, 2018 / 10:27 am

      Yes! Pretty much everything is safe while nursing.

  3. Michelle
    March 6, 2018 / 2:04 am

    Hi! I would like to try the estee lauder skin activating lotion if it is safe for nursing moms like me. Ingredients: Water\Aqua\Eau; Bifida Ferment Lysate; Peg-75; Propanediol; Butylene Glycol; Betaine; Pentylene Glycol; Lactobacillus Ferment; Acetyl Hexapeptide-8; Acetyl Glucosamine; Trehalose; Caffeine; Sodium Hyaluronate; Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile); Caprylyl Glycol; Carbomer; Ppg-5-Ceteth-20; Citric Acid; Potassium Sorbate; Sodium Citrate; Tromethamine; Disodium Edta; Phenoxyethanol

    Thank you so much! Love your blogs! 🙂

    • 15mins
      March 6, 2018 / 1:27 pm

      This looks good to me!!

  4. Madz
    March 8, 2018 / 1:54 am

    Hi! Are BHA products safe while nursing?.For example,facial toner contains betaine salicylic?

    • 15mins
      March 8, 2018 / 10:10 am

      BHAs are fine while nursing

  5. Madz
    March 8, 2018 / 7:31 am

    Hi!my toner has 10% of willow bark water is it safe while nursing?

    • 15mins
      March 8, 2018 / 10:10 am

      Willow bark is fine while nursing

  6. Caylee
    March 16, 2018 / 6:49 pm

    Thank you so much for these helpful posts! Do you consider skincare products with Retinyl Palmitate safe for breast feeding? The IT Cosmetics CC cream (which I would love to be able to use again) had this listed and was wondering if it was safe while nursing?

    • 15mins
      March 16, 2018 / 8:29 pm

      I’ve always read that it is safe and I don’t know of anything that says differently, but there are some dermatologists that say not to use it while nursing. I’m not sure why though? It’s a recent thing that I’ve noticed over the last year or so in my medical groups. I used that one wile nursing!

  7. Oluchi
    March 28, 2018 / 5:19 pm

    I love this. Greetings from Nigeria. You have just answered a lot of questions for me.thanks

    • 15mins
      March 30, 2018 / 2:48 pm

      I’m glad it was helpful to you!

  8. Brittney
    April 10, 2018 / 6:14 pm

    Hi there I bough OZ natural vitamin c + aha and after applying it… it dawned on me that it may have unsafe ingredients to use while breastfeeding… i was hoping you could clairfy whether or not they’re safe to use… 98.2% NATURAL. AQUA (WATER), 1,3,PROPANEDIOL, SODIUM MAGNESIUM SILICATE, GLYCOLIC ACID, SODIUM ASCORBYL PHOSPHATE, MAGNESIUM ASCORBYL PHOSPHATE, ARRABIDAEA CHICA LEAF EXTRACT, GLYCERIN, XANTHAN GUM, SODIUM ASCORBATE, PHENYLPROPANOL, CAPRYLYL GLYCOL, TOCOPHEROL, P ANISIC ACID, MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE, SODIUM CITRATE, CITRIC ACID, SODIUM HYDROXIDE

    Thanks in advance!

    • 15mins
      April 10, 2018 / 7:45 pm

      I would avoid this one during pregnancy due to the glycolic acid. It should be fine for nursing!

      • Brittney
        April 10, 2018 / 9:53 pm


  9. Megan
    April 21, 2018 / 5:56 pm

    Do you know if skin medica vitamin c&e complex is safe while nursing ?

    • 15mins
      April 23, 2018 / 8:53 am

      That’s fine for pregnancy and nursing!

  10. Julianne Lai
    May 6, 2018 / 7:46 pm


    So glad I found your post. I wanted to use an eyelash serum and the ingredients listed are:
    Aqua/Water/Eau, Butylene Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Glycerin, Myristoyl Pentapeptide-17, Rhizobian Gum, Sodium Hyaluranoate, Biotin, Panthenol, Pantethine, Hydrolyzed Glycosaminoglycans, Allantoin, Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Seed Extract, Maris Aqua/Sea Water, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Octapeptide-2, Copper Tripeptide-1, sh-Polypeptide-1, Glycine Soja (Soybean) oil, Black Sea Rod Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Sorbic Acid.

    Is this safe to use during breastfeeding? Thank you

    • 15mins
      May 7, 2018 / 9:10 am

      It’s fine while nursing!

  11. cristine mmirabuna
    May 23, 2018 / 3:26 am

    Glycolic soap and toner safe for nursing mom?

    • 15mins
      May 23, 2018 / 11:46 am

      Gylolic acid doesn’t need to be avoided while nursing, it’s much easier to avoid things while nursing than while pregnant!

  12. Aakanksha tiwari
    May 24, 2018 / 1:22 am

    Could u plz tell me whether I use skin lightening cream during breastfeeding bcoz it contain hydroquinone.

    • 15mins
      May 24, 2018 / 2:43 pm

      You shouldn’t, it is the biggest ingredient to avoid while nursing.

      • Kate
        September 16, 2018 / 4:40 pm

        Want to double check. In the original post you state “hydroquinone is likely safe to use during nursing“, but in the comments above and below say that it should be avoided. I have melasma that I would love to start treating, but not sure if it’s safe or not. Thanks!

        • 15mins
          September 16, 2018 / 5:55 pm

          I think some thing strange reverted back to a previous version of this post (a few years ago actually), because I swear I had updated that to say to avoid it during nursing some time ago. And yes, I’ve been telling people in comments for years to avoid it. I’ve reupdated above, it should be avoided. I’d look at using a vitamin C product instead!

  13. LYNN
    June 6, 2018 / 8:12 am

    So anything topical will be safe ? No need to check the ingredients ?

    • 15mins
      June 7, 2018 / 6:38 pm

      You need to avoid hydroquinone and arbutin still.

  14. Chaya K
    June 8, 2018 / 1:14 pm

    Is it safe using salicylic acid twice a day(not sure 2% of more) while nursing?

    • 15mins
      June 8, 2018 / 2:16 pm

      It’s fine while nursing

  15. swapna
    June 11, 2018 / 12:04 am

    Is Augustinus Bader rich cream safe while nursing? Ingredients are Aqua (Water), Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil, Pentylene Glycol, Squalane, Octyldodecanol, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Ethylhexyl Stearate, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Tribehenin, Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate, Sorbitan Oleate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Sorbitol, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, TFC-8, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Magnesium Sulfate, Panthenol, Butylene Glycol, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Lactic Acid, Lanolin Alcohol, Zinc PCA, Dextran, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-8, Citric Acid

    • 15mins
      June 11, 2018 / 10:07 am

      Looks ok!

  16. Nicole
    June 14, 2018 / 11:01 am

    I’m planning on using Tend Skin soon but seen it wasn’t tested on pregnant or nursing women. Do these ingredients look safe while breastfeeding?

    Isopropyl alcohol, butylene glycol, acetysalicylic acid, cyclomethicone, glycerin, diglycerin, polysorbate 80.

    • 15mins
      June 14, 2018 / 11:14 am

      Safe for breastfeeding, but not while pregnant.

  17. Mey
    June 19, 2018 / 4:44 am

    Hi,i’m planning to use klairs midnight blue youth activating drop as my antiaging serum. Are these ingredients safe to use while breastfeeding?

    Sh-oligopeptide -1, sh polypeptide-1, butylene glycol, vaccinium angustifoliun (blueberry), fruit extract, sorbitan sesquioleate, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, chlorphenesin, guaiazulene, ethythexylglycerin, adenosine.

    • 15mins
      June 19, 2018 / 8:30 am

      fine while nursing

      • Mey
        June 19, 2018 / 9:49 am

        Thankyou for your information 😘

  18. Jm
    June 24, 2018 / 2:26 pm

    I have been using a topical oil on my stretch marks for several months and just read retinol is not safe for nursing. It has retinoid complex (1%). Baby is over a year and on solids. Should I be worried?

    • 15mins
      June 24, 2018 / 3:24 pm

      At this point no, your baby is mostly getting calories and nutrition from the food anyways. Retinoids in nursing some think are fine, I haven’t heard a convincing argument that they aren’t other than “we avoid it in pregnancy”…

  19. Toni
    July 6, 2018 / 5:06 am

    Your blog is brilliant! I’m a nursing mum wondering if it’s safe to use the following products.. please share your advice regarding these,

    Klairs supple preparation toner

    Klairs Freshly Juiced vitamin drops Serum:

    Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum :

    Estée Lauder Advanced night repair Eye Cream

    **Ingredients removed to help the page load faster

    • 15mins
      July 7, 2018 / 8:05 am

      Nursing is much less restrictive than during pregnancy 🙂 For nursing these are all ok!

  20. Joti
    August 20, 2018 / 12:27 am

    Hi, I have just purchased the Charlotte tilbury day cream, night cream and eye cream.
    Please can you advise of the night and eye cream are suitable to use whilst nursing.
    Thank you so much

    Magic Eye Rescue

    Aqua/Water/Eau, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Butylene Glycol, Polysorbate 60, Olus Oil (Vegetable Oil/Huile Vegetale), PEG-8, Ethylhexyl Stearate, Dicaprylyl Ether, Sorbitan Stearate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Olive il PEG-7 Esters, Phenoxyethanol, Saccharide Isomerate, C12-16 Alcohols, Cera Alba )Beeswax/Cire D’Abeille), Glyceryl Stearate, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Squalane, Ethylhexylglycerin, Chlorphenesin, Hyrogenated Castor Oil, Squalane, Ethylhexylglycerin, Chlophenesin, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Palmitic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Disodium Edta, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Sorbitan Isostearate, Sodium Hydroxide, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Protein, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Superoxide Dsmutase, Citric Acid, Tocopherol, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium PCA, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Retinol, Daphne Odora Callus Extract, Sodium Dextran Sulfate, Nicotiana Sylvestris Leaf Cell Culture, Aluminum Hydroxide, Plumeria Rubra Flower Extract, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascrobic Acid, Lecithin, Potassium Sorbate, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492).

    Magic Night Cream:

    Glycerin, Aqua/Water/Eau, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil , Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sucrose Stearate, Ethylhexyl Stearate, Olus Oil (Vegetable Oil/Huile Vegetale), Dipentaerythrityl Hexacaprylate/Hexacaprate, Hydroxystearic/Linolenic/Oleic Polyglycerides, C20-40 Alcohols, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Butylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Cera Alba (Beeswax/Cire D’Abeille), Ethylhexylglycerin, Chlorphenesin, Cellulose, Cellulose Gum, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Parfum (Fragrance), Titanium Dioxide, Xantham Gum, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Squalane, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Retinol, PEG-8, Caramel, Tocopherol, Daphne Odora Callus Extract, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Nicotiana Sylvestris Leaf Cell Culture, Plumeria Rubra Flower Extract, Ubiquinone, Lecithin, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Ascorbyl Teraisopalmitate, Benzoic Acid, Hexyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Benzoate, Linalool, Hydroxycitronellal, Cinnamyl Alcohol, Eugenol, Red 33 (CI 17200), Yellow 6 (CI 15985), Yellow 5 (CI 19140).

    • 15mins
      August 20, 2018 / 10:25 am

      Anything that is ok while pregnant is fine while nursing, Charlotte Tilbury was actually added to the big list of pregnancy safe products over the weekend. There are some products that weren’t safe while pregnant, but they were all fine while nursing.

      • Joti
        August 22, 2018 / 6:39 pm

        Thank you. As both products have retinol in them are they still safe, as I am getting mixed feedback from people.

        • 15mins
          August 22, 2018 / 8:46 pm

          I consider retinol fine during nursing based upon all the reading I’ve done and people I’ve talked to (derms and OBs). However over the last year or so I’ve heard more doctors say to avoid retinol while nursing, not because of any new studies that have come out, but just as an extension of avoidance while pregnant.

  21. Kalyn
    August 22, 2018 / 3:09 am

    Hi, I absolutely love your post. I was planning on buying the ziip nano current device and wanted to see if either of their conductive gels were safe for nursing my 7 month old. Thank you so much!

    Golden Gel Ingredients
    Water (Aqua)
    Dimethyl Isosorbide
    μconotoxin Cn CIII.
    Acetyl Glutamine
    Bacillus/Soybean/Folic Acid Ferment
    Chondrus Crispus Extract
    Hydrolyzed Chondrus Crispus Extract
    Sodium Hyaluronate
    Glycine (Soybean) Soja Extract
    Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract
    Hematite Extract
    Magnesium Aspartate
    Zinc gluconate
    Copper gluconate
    Jasminum Officinalis Extract
    Xanthan Gum

    Silver Gel Ingredients
    Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice
    Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract
    Butylene Glycol
    Aspalathus Linearis (Rooibos) Extract
    Boswellia Serrata Extract
    Camellia Sinensis (Tea) Extract
    Chondrus Crispus Extract
    Copper Gluconate
    Honey Extract
    Hydrolyzed Chondrus Crispus Extract
    Hydroxypropyltrimonium Hyaluronate
    Magnesium Aspartate
    Pearl Powder
    Sodium Hyaluronate
    Zinc Gluconate
    Xanthan Gum
    Sodium Dihydroacetate
    Citric Acid
    Dimethyl Isosorbide
    Potassium Sorbate
    Sodium Benzoate

    • 15mins
      August 23, 2018 / 8:38 pm

      Looks ok!

  22. Marsha
    August 31, 2018 / 1:00 am

    Hello, I’m a nursing mom. I recently purchased an organic, wholesome, vegan anit-aging whitening creme. Is it safe?
    Ingredients: Aloe barbadensis, cocos nucifera glycerin, simmondsia chinensis, ascorbyl palmitate, vitis vinefera, persea gratissima, prunus amygdalus dulcis, hyaluronic acid, hamamelis virginiana, tocopherol, helianthus annuus, panthenol, lavandula angustifolia, anthemis nobilis, soluble collagen, camellia sinensis, urtica dioica, stellaria media, ulmus fulva, silybum marianum.

    • 15mins
      August 31, 2018 / 6:08 pm

      This looks fine

  23. September 2, 2018 / 12:34 pm

    How about sodium hyaluronate is one of the ingredients on my toner n my moisturizer it is safe to used while I’m breastfeeding?

    • 15mins
      September 2, 2018 / 1:30 pm

      It’s fine! It’s a salt of hyaluronic acid, a HUGE molecule that is too big to penetrate much or move around in your body. It holds moisture in certain areas, you’ll find it in a lot of moisturizers. It’s naturally made by your body.

  24. Jaimie Macari
    September 4, 2018 / 9:53 pm

    Hi there! 1st time mom here. I have pregnancy mask on my check bone lines and am looking for something to reduce the dark appearance of them. Do you have any suggestions? The girls at Ulta pointed me towards the dermatologist developed Exuviance Performance Peel AP25. It has glycolic avid, mandelic acid and gluconolactone as the main ingredients. Do you think it’s safe to try? Thank you!

    • 15mins
      September 6, 2018 / 10:05 am

      If you’re postpartum it should be fine. I’d also add in a Vitamin C serum and go crazy with sunscreen

    • 15mins
      September 18, 2018 / 12:39 pm

      My OB had said yes, and I haven’t found anything specifically about it.

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