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? Do not use this post to ask about nursing safety. Nursing safety of specific products is address in my pregnancy safety products lists, I delete all questions here about pregnancy safety.
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. Having said that, over the last 4-5 years there’s been a big trend toward recommending avoidance of retinoids while nursing. I’ve heard this from OB, Derm and Peds. I am very conservative in my recommendations and I’m currently recommending avoidance and I screen it out in my product reviews. I am also currently screening Bakuchiol as a retinoid as there is no evidence regarding safety.
• Hydroquinone and other skin lighteners: 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. I would include Arbutin and Kojic Acid as ingredients to avoid.
• Hemp/Cannabis: Similar to the discussion on the ingredients to avoid while pregnant page, we just don’t have enough info about the safety of hemp and cannabis while pregnant or nursing, so I currently recommend avoidance.
• Pretty much everything else: Safe!
Don’t forget to check out the other articles in my Pregnancy and Nursing Skin Care Guide!