What is Pregnancy Safe Skincare?

Quick takeaway: 

  • The retinol Dr Koo uses is pregnancy safe. As long as the absolute concentration of retinol is below 8000IUs it’s pregnancy safe
  • RETINOL is NOT the same as TRETINOIN OR ISOTRETINOIN.
  • Retinol in high doses can also be detrimental. It is NOT the same as prescription TRETINOIN (Retin A or Retin A Micro). 
  • Retinol is NATURALLY occurring retinoid and form of vitamin A and our bodies actually need a certain level of naturally occurring Vitamin A
  • Due to super saturation you can use the same wipe 3 to 4 times 

Pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant? Confused about what skincare products you can and cannot use? Frustrated by the fine print on the labels in your bathroom?


Don’t worry. You’re not alone. 


In this article, I’ll walk you through what pregnancy safe skincare isーwhich products you absolutely can’t use while pregnant, and which are actually safe in certain concentrations. 


First, let’s cover the absolute no-no’s. Those are hydroquinone and isotretinoin


Hydroquinone is a compound used in many beauty products to remove skin spots. It passes very easily into the bloodstream, and with prolonged use can cause cancer. It’s therefore entirely unsafe for expectant mothers, and I recommend women avoid it even if they’re not pregnant. (None of my Private Practice products contain hydroquinone.)


Isotretinoin is the generic name for Accutane, a drug prescribed to treat stubborn acne. When ingested by expectant mothers, it causes terrible fetal abnormalities. Do not use it during pregnancy, or even when contemplating becoming pregnant. 


Now that we’ve covered the no-no’s, let’s talk about ingredients that are safe in the right concentration. Those are tretinoin and retinol


Tretinoin is the generic name for Retin-A and Retin-A Micro, topical drugs prescribed to lessen wrinkles, minimize pores, and tighten loose skin. Traditionally, expectant mothers have stayed away from tretinoin because its name is nearly identical to isotretinoin, which is on the no-no list. Tretinoin, however, is perfectly safe during pregnancy. That being said, to be on the safe side, doctors recommend staying away from it in the first trimester. (Note that none of my Private Practice products contain tretinoin, so they’re entirely pregnancy and lactation safe.)


Retinol is a naturally-occuring form of Vitamin A. Formulators add it to beauty products for its skin-smoothing, anti-acne, and anti-aging properties. In very high concentrations, retinol can be harmful to pregnant women; therefore the highest recommended concentration for topical retinol is 8000 international units (IUs). Historically, retinol has been confused with tretinoin and isotretinoin, and understandably soーtretinoin, isotretinoin, and retinol are all in the Vitamin A family. As a result, people have incorrectly assumed that retinol isn’t safe during pregnancy, but that isn’t true. As long as the product contains 8000 IUs or less, it’s perfectly safe. (My Private Practice products contain, at a maximum, 8000 IUs.) 


More questions? Contact us at info@drkooskincare.com, or via phone at (314) 984-8331. 


I can’t wait for you to love your skin.

ーDr. Koo