7 Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid During Pregnancy

Protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays is important, especially during pregnancy when your skin may be more sensitive to sun damage. However, not all sunscreen ingredients are safe for use during pregnancy. In this article, we will discuss the sunscreen ingredients to avoid during pregnancy.

Safe Sunscreen Ingredients During Pregnancy

Sunscreen ingredients to avoid during pregnancy:

  1. Oxybenzone
  2. Octocrylene
  3. Avobenzone
  4. Octinoxate
  5. Homosalate
  6. Benzophenone
  7. Octisalate

RELATED: Best Pregnancy-Safe Sunscreens in 2023

Which sunscreen ingredients are safe during pregnancy?

The best option for pregnant women is a pure mineral sunscreen with active ingredients, such as Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.

Mineral sunscreens lay on top of the skin and reflect harmful UV rays away from the skin. These sunscreens are free of chemical ingredients that soak into the skin and bloodstream and could potentially endanger the baby in the womb.

Always check the label on a bottle of sunscreen before purchasing it. This remains the only way to know the sunscreen you are buying is for sure safe for you and your baby!

Your sunscreen shouldn’t contain any chemical ingredients I have already listed above! However, I will write them again just in case: Oxybenzone, Octocrylene, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Homosalate, Benzophenone, or Octisalate!

The sunscreen you intend to use during pregnancy can contain chemicals Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, as these active ingredients are safe during pregnancy.

Also, do not rely solely on phrases such as “mineral-based,” “chemical-free,” and “reef-safe”, as they are not regulated and do not guarantee the sunscreen is free of ingredients you should avoid during pregnancy.

Navigating the world of pregnancy-safe sunscreen can be overwhelming, especially with so many options on the market. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best pregnancy-safe sunscreens for both body and the face (click on the provided link).

Sunscreen ingredients to avoid during pregnancy

Some sunscreen ingredients can harm you or your developing baby; thus, you should avoid them during pregnancy.

RELATED: How To Safely Enjoy Sunbathing While Pregnant?

Pregnant women should avoid sunscreens with the following ingredients:

1. Oxybenzone:

Oxybenzone is an active ingredient in many personal care products, including sunscreens. It absorbs UV light, which can help prevent sunburn and other skin damage caused by exposure to the sun.

However, many consider oxybenzone the most worrisome sunscreen ingredient and question whether its otherwise good sun protection justifies numerous potential adverse effects.

Potential risks of using Sunscreens with Oxybenzone while pregnant:

When it goes to pregnant women, one of the main concerns is oxybenzone’s easy absorption through the skin. That means it can absorb into a pregnant woman’s bloodstream, cross the placenta and reach the fetus. Fetal exposure to oxybenzone can lead to lower birth weight and an increased risk of preterm birth.

More alarmingly, many studies have shown that oxybenzone affects the endocrine glands. This can disrupt hormones in the body, particularly estrogen, leading to various developmental problems.

While more research is needed to understand the potential risks of oxybenzone during pregnancy fully, experts recommend that pregnant women avoid using sunscreens or other personal care products that contain this chemical.

2. Octocrylene:

Octocrylene is a synthetic organic compound that absorbs UVB and short UVA rays. While its concentrations of up to 10% are considered safe in cosmetic and personal care, there are some concerns about using octocrylene during pregnancy.

Potential risks of using Sunscreens with Octocrylene during pregnancy:

Octocrylene quickly absorbs into the skin, and trace amounts can be found in the pregnant women’s bloodstream. Thus octocrylene may be able to cross the placenta and enter the fetal bloodstream, potentially exposing the fetus to the chemical. That may affect fetal development and increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth. 

There is limited data on the effects of octocrylene on human pregnancy, but you should avoid it during pregnancy as a precaution.

3. Avobenzone:

Avobenzone protects against UVA rays, while it is ineffective at protecting against UVB rays. As it does not offer complete protection by itself, manufacturers often combine it with other active ingredients.

Avobenzone can also quickly break down in the sun. That’s why it is usually mixed with even more ingredients that act as stabilizers.

Potential risks of using Sunscreens with Avobenzone while pregnant:

Even the use of avobenzone itself during pregnancy is questionable, not to mention all the associated ingredients and their potential adverse effects.

Avobenzone can mimic the hormone estrogen. That could disrupt the delicate hormonal balance during pregnancy and affect fetal development. It can block the effects of testosterone, thus negatively affecting reproductive health.

There is not enough research yet to fully understand avobenzone risks during pregnancy. But due to its potential risks, avoiding avobenzone during pregnancy has been advised.

4. Octinoxate:

Octinoxate is another popular UV filter in sunscreens. When reading sunscreen labels, you can also find it under Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, so pay attention to both names.

Octinoxate easily absorbs into the skin and continues to be absorbed even after sunscreen application. Thus there is not a surprise that recent studies have shown those using products with octinoxate have higher levels of octinoxate in the bloodstream than the threshold suggested by the FDA.

Potential risks of using Sunscreens with Octinoxate during pregnancy:

Animal studies have shown the hormonal effects of octinoxate on the metabolic system, as it reduces thyroid hormone production. These hormones are vital in fetal brain development, particularly during the first trimester!

Additionally, octinoxate may also affect the production of androgen and progesterone, which can also affect the developing baby.

5. Homosalate:

Homosalate is an organic UV filter widely used in U.S. sunscreens.

Until today, the FDA has presented insufficient data to evaluate whether it is safe and effective to use in sunscreens.

Studies have found that homosalate can penetrate the skin, disrupt hormones, and produce toxic breakdown byproducts over time. Despite these concerns, the FDA allows U.S. sunscreen manufacturers to use it in concentrations up to 15 percent.

In contrast, European Commission states that homosalate is not safe to use at concentrations of up to 10 percent. Thus they recommended a maximum concentration of 1.4 percent due to concerns for potential endocrine disruption.

As the safety of homosalate remains controversial, you should never use sunscreen with this active ingredient while pregnant.

6. Benzophenone:

Used to, was benzophenone a very common active ingredient in sunscreens. However, its use in sunscreens is questionable due to its potential advert effects. Lately, manufacturers are increasingly replacing it with alternative UV-absorbing agents.

Benzophenone can cause skin irritation, allergies, and other negative effects. Some studies suggest it may cause hormone-disrupting effects, which is even more concerning for pregnant women.

Although the results are still inconclusive, avoiding sunscreens with benzophenone during pregnancy is the right choice!

7. Octisalate:

Octisalate is another chemical in sunscreens that raised concerns about its safety. The FDA has not prohibited using octisalate in sunscreens yet. But they have requested additional safety testing due to concerns about its absorption and potential endocrine effects.

Potential risks of using Sunscreens with Octisalate during pregnancy:

First, octisalate easily absorbs through the skin, even at levels ten times higher than the FDA’s maximum safe exposure limit. That can cause skin irritation and other negative effects.

Another concern is its potential endocrine effect. If the octisalate affects the endocrine glands, it would mean it affects hormones that regulate the body’s functions, such as growth and development, metabolism, and reproduction.

While the results of studies are inconclusive, it’s better to be safe than sorry and pregnant women should avoid using sunscreens with this active ingredient.

Key Takeaways

Sunscreen Ingredients To Avoid During Pregnancy

Protecting your skin from the sun is important, but not all sunscreen ingredients are safe during pregnancy. 

Chemical sunscreens, such as those containing oxybenzone, octocrylene, avobenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, benzophenone, or octisalate, can enter the bloodstream and potentially harm the baby in the womb. Thus you should avoid them during pregnancy!

Your best option during pregnancy is a pure mineral sunscreen with active ingredients like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. These active ingredients do not absorb but only lay on the skin and reflect harmful UV rays away. 

What to remember when buying sunscreen during pregnancy:

  1. Always check the label before purchasing, and avoid the following sunscreen ingredients: Oxybenzone, Octocrylene, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Homosalate, Benzophenone, and Octisalate.
  2. Pregnant women should use mineral sunscreen.
  3. Take phrases such as “mineral-based,” “chemical-free,” and “reef-safe” with reservation, and look at the label anyway.
  4. Look at our list of the best pregnancy-safe sunscreens to make your purchase easier.

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