Skin Care and Fertility – What You Need To Know

It is of paramount importance that you look after yourself, especially when you’re trying to conceive. However, like many women, you may not know that your skin care routine can impact your fertility.

To make things worse, many manufacturers of skin care products do not warn women that some ingredients contained in their products can hinder conception.

We’ll look at the link between skin care routine and fertility and recommend some pregnancy-safe skin care products for moms-to-be.

Why is it Important to Use Fertility-Friendly Skin Care Products

Previous researches, including one published in the high-impact journal, Human Reproduction, showed that perfluorinated chemicals (also known as PFCs) can be harmful to human health.[1]

Unfortunately, many common skin care products that we use on a daily basis contain high levels of these chemicals. PFCs are included in many body lotions and creams to increase their absorption into the body. By applying products containing these chemicals, their transportation into body cells and blood is facilitated.

PFCs have been reported to cause many health issues, including cancer. Additionally, PFCs can cause infertility issues in persons who use products containing these toxins.

In one study,[1] it was shown that women who had higher levels of PFCs had a significantly longer time to conceive. Compared with women who were least exposed to PFCs, those with higher levels had increased odds of infertility.

Men should also be concerned about the ingredients in their skin care products, which may also contain high levels of PFCs. These chemicals can also negatively impact their fertility by decreasing their sperm parameters.[2, 3]

Common Ingredients to Avoid in Skin Care Products

The cosmetics industry is extremely unregulated in many countries, including the United States. Surprisingly, less than 11% of the tens of thousands of products that are catalogued by the Food and Drug Administration have undergone a review to make sure their ingredients meet defined quality standards.

Clinicians and manufacturers of skin care products disagree on the use of some chemicals in shampoos, body lotions, creams, and other related products. On the one hand, some argue that research has shown that these products have a negative impact on both male and female reproduction and, consequently, more limitations should be placed on their use.

On the other hand, some argue that these products are safe when used in limited quantities. The main issue is that many consumers cannot determine whether their exposure to these chemicals is safe.

If manufacturers are not willing to stop using potentially harmful chemicals in skin care products, consumers should educate themselves and consider limiting their exposure to these toxins.

If you and your partner have been trying to get pregnant, it is essential that you watch out for the following ingredients in body lotions and creams.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

Butylated hydroxyanisole and the related compound butylated hydroxytoluene are commonly found in face powder, eye shadows, moisturizers, lipsticks, and blush.

Butylated hydroxyanisole is usually used as an antioxidant and preservative in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Unfortunately, preclinical studies have demonstrated that exposure to high levels of this chemical may cause disruptions in both the male and female reproductive systems.

Octinoxate and Oxybenzone

These ingredients are usually found in nail polishes, sunscreens, body creams, face creams, lipstick, moisturizers, fragrances, foundations, and hair products.

Based on data from animal studies, these chemicals can affect male fertility, albeit their effect is minimal.[4]


These are a class of commonly used preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. They are typically present in body washes, shampoos, foundations, body lotions, and facial cleansers.

Parabens have been reported to disrupt hormone function, an effect that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing cancer. Additionally, parabens have been linked to reproductive toxicity. These chemicals mimic estrogen, a reproductive hormone, and, consequently, interfere with its activity.[5]

Exposure to parabens is also not recommended during pregnancy because the chemicals can cause behavioral alterations in the future offspring.


These are usually found in perfumes, nail polishes, hairsprays. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors, implying that they bind to hormonal receptors and interfere with the activity of reproductive hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.

Exposure to higher levels of phthalates has been linked to a disruption in menstruation and ovarian function. There are also reports that exposure to higher levels of these chemicals increases a woman’s risk of developing endometriosis.[6, 7]

There is also evidence that both men and women with higher levels of phthalates have longer times to conception.[8] Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to poor egg quality [9] and decreased sperm quality.[10] Furthermore, it has been reported that exposure to high levels of phthalate increased the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women.[11]

Scientists have isolated the chemical in amniotic fluid, and women who were exposed to high levels of phthalate exposure during pregnancy may have a premature delivery.[12]


This ingredient is usually found in antibacterial soap, shaving cream, and toothpaste. It can cause hormone disruption and impact your fertility. It has also been reported to increase breast cancer risk. Results from one study suggested that exposure to high levels of triclosan can adversely affect semen quality.[13]

Skin Care Routine and Fertility: Recommended Products

Are you worried about your reproductive health and looking for alternative skin care products that are fertility-friendly? You should opt for organic products.

Acne Treatments During Pregnancy

Note that the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you should always seek expert advice from your dermatologist or obstetrician if you wish to treat acne during your pregnancy.

Here’s a list of products that are considered safe during pregnancy:

Topical Antibiotics

Although topical clindamycin is thought to be safe during pregnancy, it is advisable that you consult your obstetrician.

Oral Antibiotics

Other antibiotics such as clarithromycin and azithromycin are reportedly safe during pregnancy.

Benzoyl Peroxide

This drug is usually used to treat mild to moderate acne. According to experts, this drug is safe to use in limited amounts. Therefore, it is necessary that you talk to your doctor before taking it during pregnancy.

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is derived from wheat, barley, and rye. Laboratory studies have shown that this drug is safe in animals. Therefore, experts believe it is sage for use during pregnancy.

Salicylic Acid

This medication is usually used to treat mild acne. It is available as an over-the-counter drug and is considered safe for use for a limited period. If you’re pregnant and wondering whether you should use it, talk to your dermatologist or obstetrician.


This drug is used to treat mild to moderate acne vulgaris. Sold as a gel (brand name, Aczone®), this drug has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity.

In animal studies, there is no evidence that this drug causes birth defects. However, there isn’t enough data on whether it is safe for use in pregnant women. You should talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant and are planning to take this drug.


Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that has anti-inflammatory properties. When applied to the body, only a small amount of the drug is absorbed. Therefore, it is considered safe in pregnant women.

Laser Treatment

Laser treatment is generally safe during pregnancy.  Before starting laser treatment, you need to book an appointment with a dermatologist.

Facial Sunscreen for Use During Pregnancy

If you’re looking for a sunscreen that’s safe for use during pregnancy, Elta MD UV Clear SPF is a great choice. This mineral sunscreen is oil-free and it is quickly absorbed by the skin, leaving zero residue.

Additionally, Elta MD UV Clear SPF contains niacinamide, which can help reduce skin discoloration and redness.

Exfoliant for Use During Pregnancy

Azelaic Acid

As discussed earlier, this product has been reported to be safe for use in pregnant women. It is sold as a gel, foam, and a cream for skin application under the brand names Finacea® and Azelex®.

This medication can cause a significant disappearance of skin blemishes and help to decrease swelling and redness of the skin. Read more about this medication here but make sure you talk to your doctor before using it.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid (also called alpha hydroxy acid) is produced from cane sugar. It safely exfoliates the top layers of the skin and decreases wrinkles and hormone-related pigmentation.

Glycolic acid may have adverse reproductive effects if used in large doses; however, the amount contained in skin care products is considered safe [14].

Although researchers have not investigated the effects of glycolic acid in human pregnancy, women should not be worried about using topical glycolic acid during pregnancy because only a negligible amount of the product is expected to be absorbed into the body [14].

Some recommended glycolic acid-based brands include Silk Therapeutics’ Silk Renewing Peel and Elizabeth Arden Skin Illuminating Retexturizing Pads.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is derived from the fermentation of carbohydrates or by chemical synthesis from acetaldehyde. It is also produced naturally in the body.

Lactic acid has both humectant and exfoliating properties and is therefore an exfoliant that can also work as a moisturizer.

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment and Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Glow Moisturizer are some great choices that you can try.

Mandelic Acid

Mandelic acid (also called amygdalic acid) is alpha hydroxy acid derived from the extract of bitter almonds. Research shows that the application of mandelic acid results in slight exfoliation, which remained for 7–10 days and was eliminated by using a moisturizing cream [15]. However, it is less effective than glycolic acid due to its larger size and its slower penetration into skin.

Vivant Skin Care Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Wash is a great non-comedogenic formula that works well for women with sensitive skin.


I’m Princila, founder of Check Ovulation and a proud mom of two. I’m an alumna of James Lind Institute. After working in clinical jobs, my passion for writing took its toll, and I ended up switching careers to work in the medical publishing industry. I also have a passion for healthy food, which prompted me to take several online courses in nutrition and health offered by Wageningen University. (I still haven’t completed the courses thanks to my busy mommy schedule!). When I’m not writing/editing scientific and medical manuscripts or taking care of my family, I use my free time to research, learn, and write about healthy living. I have also authored a few books in the self-help niche using the pen names Princila Murrell or PN Murray. Protection Status