Is It Safe to Get a Chemical Peel While Pregnant?

By Emily M.| Last updated on June 8, 2023
chemical peel while pregnant
⏱️ 6 min read

Due to hormonal shifts during pregnancy, your body goes through significant changes that may not be expected, especially skin-related ones.

Although some may be blessed with that pregnancy glow, others can end up with acne, blotchy skin, and melasma. Typically, chemical peels, which act by removing the topmost layers of skin, could be used to treat these issues.

But is a chemical peel safe during pregnancy, though?

Here’s everything you need to know about doing a chemical peel while pregnant.

Is a Chemical Peel Safe for Pregnancy?

It depends on the peel.

A chemical peel treatment is based on applying a peeling solution – mostly acids – to the face, neck, or hands to remove the top layers of skin in order to diminish imperfections by peeling away the skin’s top layers.

When applied in high concentrations, certain ingredients in the peel can enter the bloodstream, which is why they should be avoided during pregnancy.

But this doesn’t mean all acids are unsafe. There are many different types of chemical peeling treatments, so some are pregnancy-safe chemical peel treatments.

This is why it’s crucial to speak with your doctor before deciding to undergo any cosmetic procedure, especially a chemical peel during pregnancy.

If you wish to learn more about chemical peeling treatment – its process, benefits, or even risk and side effect, you can check out our Ultimate Guide to Chemical Peels.

Is a chemical peel safe for pregnancy?
Image source: Freepik

Important: Consider the Intensity

When it comes to chemical peels, depth is the most important factor. There are 3 intensities – light, medium, and deep – of each one of these acids.

So, regardless of the acid, pregnant women shouldn’t book any non-superficial peels. Light, or superficial peels, are generally considered safe during pregnancy, but deeper ones are strictly off-limits.

The strong potency has the potential to harm your baby. Plus, deep peels must be applied under anesthetic, and recovery takes months. If you require a deep peel, wait until you’re done breastfeeding.

Unsafe Chemical Peels During Pregnancy

For a chemical peel pregnancy is a contraindication – well, for most anyways. Since there is a wide variety of chemical peels, some are considered to be safe to use during pregnancy, but stronger (medium to deep) ones are generally unsafe.

Here’s which ones you should avoid:

Salicylic Acid Peel During Pregnancy

Salicylic acid, a very popular beta-hydroxy (BHA) peel, should be used with caution or better yet avoided in people who are pregnant.

Salicylic acid peels tend to be used to deeply exfoliate the skin, so the chemicals reach deeper skin layers – something that could lead to complications during pregnancy.

TCA Peel While Pregnant

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is used to penetrate into deeper skin layers to treat a variety of skin disorders. This peel is considered a medium-strength one and is not safe to use while pregnant.

TCA Peel while pregnant
Image source: Instagram @housofesthetics

Jessner’s Peel for Pregnancy

The Jessner’s peel is another medium-depth peel, often used in combination with TCA. The Jessner’s solution contains lactic acid, salicylic acid, and resorcinol.

Because this product includes salicylic acid, and because it tends to penetrate a bit deeper into the skin, it should either be avoided during pregnancy or used with caution.

Is There Any Pregnancy Safe Chemical Peel?

According to some experts, AHA peels – mandelic, lactic and glycolic acid – can be considered the safest options during pregnancy.

Lactic Acid Peel During Pregnancy

Lactic acid peels are milder than other types. Doing this chemical peel while pregnant is considered to be generally safe since they don’t seem to significantly penetrate the deeper skin layers where blood vessels exist.

Besides, this acid is found naturally in your body, so it doesn’t have any negative effects on the pregnancy or fetus.

Lactic Acid Peel during pregnancy
Image source: Instagram @skinhealth.rotterdam

Mandelic Acid

Another alpha hydroxy acid that’s safe for use during pregnancy and breastfeeding is mandelic acid. In fact, it’s often considered the best choice!

This ingredient’s molecules are larger than those of other AHAs, which means it’s absorbed more slowly and is a lot gentler on the skin.

Still, this doesn’t mean it’s not as effective as other options – it is a multi-tasking ingredient that targets all your issues – acne, fine lines, and discoloration. It’s a natural melanin inhibitor, which makes it ideal for fading hormonally-induced melasma.

Glycolic Acid Peel During Pregnancy

Glycolic acid peel is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) of a natural origin. It removes the outermost layer of the skin, loosens the skin cells from the epidermis, and induces skin shedding.

Since this ingredient’s molecular structure is quite small, it can penetrate more easily. However, as we already mentioned, the amount of layers reached depends on the intensity of the concentration.

Light glycolic peel pregnancy related risks are quite low, as it doesn’t penetrate any deeper than the surface layer. This is why many consider getting a glycolic acid peel pregnancy safe.

NOTE

Glycolic and lactic acid peels are considered pregnancy safe chemical peel treatments, as they don’t penetrate as deep. Deeper skin penetration can lead to complications, which is why medium-depth peels like salicylic acid, trichloracetic acid, or Jessner’s solution should be avoided. 1

Is Chemical Peel While Trying to Conceive Safe?

Answering this question is kind of tricky because it depends on which type of peel we’re talking about, among many other factors.

If you’re actively trying to get pregnant, it’s best to refrain from chemical peels apart from those known to be safe during pregnancy, to avoid an I had a chemical while pregnant without knowing I was pregnant situation – and all the potential risks.

So if you’ve recently had a chemical peel and are trying to get pregnant, speak to your obstetrician/gynecologist about any concerns you may have.

Chemical Peel While Pregnant – Risks & Side Effects

Chemical peels in general carry some risk of adverse effects. But during pregnancy, these risks not only have a higher chance of happening – there are also some additional, pregnancy-related ones on top of that!

Here’s what chemical peel pregnancy side effects may manifest:

May Worsen Pigmentation

During pregnancy, experiencing skin darkening is quite common. You’ve probably even heard of pregnancy-related melasma or chloasma.

Chemical peels may even make the condition worse. Since the procedure is causing injury to the skin, your body begins to defend itself, resulting in inflammation. During this process, additional melanin is released, which can make the pigmentation worse.

Now, on top of all that, during pregnancy microchimerism improves your ability to recover when injured. So, it can influence your healing process in unpredictable or harmful ways.

Ineffective in Many Cases

Chemical peels just don’t perform as effectively on your skin during pregnancy thanks to all the hormonal changes in your body.

The treatment might temporarily alleviate issues like pigmentation and acne, but since these issues are brought on by pregnant hormones, they usually return quite fast. So this procedure may not be worthwhile – especially considering the long list of risks it carries.

Can Cause Complications

The biggest reason chemical peel during pregnancy isn’t recommended is because the solution might be toxic to the fetus. If the chemicals pass through your bloodstream, they can lead to complications or even a miscarriage.

May Trigger Herpes

After this treatment, some clients can potentially develop a viral infection like herpes. Pregnancy-related infections can result in further issues that could endanger you or your baby.

Other Risks

On top of additional complications related to pregnancy, don’t forget about the “regular” side effects of these procedures.
Common risks and side effects include the following:

risks of chemical peels while pregnant
Image source: Instagram @shelbys_serenity

Is Getting a Chemical Peel During Pregnancy Worth It?

During pregnancy, the skin goes through a number of changes. Melasma, or the darkening of the skin, and other issues like acne or hair growth can be brought on by hormonal changes.

But usually, right after birth, these issues disappear as the skin returns to its pre-pregnancy state.

Because skin conditions are brought on by hormonal fluctuations, addressing them with any cosmetic procedure may not help. In fact, it may make things worse – your skin may end up irritated, damaged, and patchy.

It is always advisable to wait it out because the issues, for example, melasma, usually go away without treatment. And if the problems don’t resolve on their own, you can safely book the treatment once you’ve given birth to a healthy baby.

By postponing the treatment you are also getting much better results from it since you’re allowing your body to return to its regular hormone levels on its own.

To Sum Up

Before booking a treatment, make sure you’re well-educated about all the potential risks the procedure might pose to your health, and the health of your baby. Consult with your doctor and don’t go against their advice.

The safest thing to do is to postpone unnecessary chemical peel procedures until the end of pregnancy, wherever possible.

Cover image source: Freepik

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