Pregnancy brings along a lot of changes. While your body is physically changing and preparing during this 40 week period, you’re also making some conscious decisions about and changes to your diet, daily routine, and even your skincare routine. You’ve probably already bid farewell to sushi and retinol, but you might not even realize that you should also do an overhaul of your sunscreen options.
About the Experts:
Absolutely. No matter what, you should be wearing sun protection each and every day. While there’s so many things you are figuring out and preparing for during your pregnancy, we understand that finding a new sunscreen with your dermatologist can seem daunting. But no worries, because we’re here to help with recommendations from a few experts.
Since sunscreen protects against skin cancer and sunburn, it’s even more important to wear sunscreenwhen you’re expecting, as an influx of hormones can bring changes to your skin. “When it comes to pregnancy, your skin may actually be more sensitive to the sun than otherwise, causing hives, heat rash, and conditions like melasma,” says Rhonda Klein, MD, a board-certified dermatologist.
“For the same reasons non-pregnant patients should wear sunscreen, pregnant patients should also wear sunscreen—anti-aging, preventing the darkening of skin and sun spots, and prevention of skin cancer—but particularly during pregnancy, patients are at an increased risk of melasma, a condition that can cause darkening of the skin on the face that can be very difficult to treat,” says Caren Campbell, MD, a board-certified dermatologist.
In order to ensure you’re using pregnancy-safe sunscreen, it’s important to understand the different types of sunscreen you may see on store shelves so you know what to reach for.
There are two different types of sunscreen: physical and chemical sunscreen. When you’re pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive, you should only reach for physical, also known as mineral, sunscreen. Physical sunscreen contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These two sun-protecting ingredients are made up of larger molecules that won’t be absorbed into your skin and can’t reach your bloodstream. “They sit on top of the skin and scatter and deflect UV rays, physically blocking them from penetrating the skin,” says Hadley King, MD, an NYC–based dermatologist.
“Recommendations for sunscreen during pregnancy are not much different than for non-pregnant folks, but just further encouraging the use of mineral sunscreens over chemical sunscreens. For all patients, I always recommend broad-spectrum sunscreens that are SPF 30 or higher and mineral,” add Dr. Campbell.
Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the only ingredients that meet the FDA’s criteria for being Generally Recognized as Safe and Effective (GRASE).
Unlike physical or mineral sunscreen, chemical sunscreen is made up of smaller molecules that are absorbed into the bloodstream. The ingredients in chemical sunscreen often include oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, and homosalate. “Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin where they absorb UV rays, convert the rays into heat, and release them from the body,” says Dr. Klein.
You should avoid all chemical sunscreens during pregnancy, and there’s one ingredient in particular that dictates why: oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is categorized as an endocrine disruptor and “can have an adverse effect on fetus development, reproductive, neurological, and immune systems,” says Dr. Klein.
Keep in mind, you’re still not in the clear to use chemical sunscreens postpartum if you’re breastfeeding. “In some studies, researchers have found detectable levels of oxybenzone in human blood and breast milk,” says Dr. King. If you need a cheat sheet to help you shop for pregnancy-safe sunscreen, you’re in luck. We rounded up our favorite mineral sunscreens below so you can slather away without second-guessing.
This oil-free, fragrance-free multitasker is perfect for sensitive skin during pregnancy and protects against the sun’s rays without messing with your complexion, thanks to non-nano zinc oxide and a powerful blend of antioxidants that also keep free radical damage and the adverse effects of pollution and sun damage at bay. This is especially helpful if you're dealing with increased sensitivity to the sun or hyperpigmentation. "UV exposure can intensify or worsen these conditions so it's always best to avoid the sun for long periods of time, and use an SPF of 30 or greater every day," says Kristine Guanzon, retail marketing manager for COOLA.
This silky fragrance offers sun protection and much-needed nourishment, thanks to a potent combination that’s majorly moisturizing. Zinc oxide, organic aloe, shea butter and cocoa butter work together to keep skin hydrated while also keeping UVA/UVB rays away. It’s also free of phthalates, sulfates, parabens, and fragrances, making it a safe choice for even acne-prone skin.
This multitasking product not only protects from the sun’s rays (thanks to zinc oxide), but it also offers a beautiful bronze glow that allows you to fake a sun-kissed look without the harmful side effects that come along with tanning. Simply spray this spray sunscreen for a gorgeous glow. Bonus: It’s water-resistant, so you won’t have to worry about it streaking while you’re having fun in the sun.
ELTAMD creates high-quality sunscreen thanks to the dermatologists behind their research and development. The brand formulates for all skin types and their SPFs are fragrance-free, oil-free, and noncomedogenic—all features we love when looking for sensitive skin–friendly sunscreen. They do carry both physical and chemical formulations, so be sure to pay attention to the active ingredients if you’re searching their site for a pregnancy-safe sunscreen.
If you’re someone who hates the chore of reapplying or frequently wears makeup, this product is the easiest solution ever. It’s an SPF mineral powder that not only protects with SPF 50 but also acts as a nice touch-up to your makeup if you need to blot away some shine.
NEUTROGENA SPFs are popular drugstore favorites for a reason. While this zinc-based, dry-touch sunscreen will never leave you wondering if your skin is protected enough. This sunscreen is ideal for long days in the sun, from going to the beach to chilling at a backyard BBQ. Bonus: There’s a version of this sunscreen for your body, too.
If you like lighter formulas but are worried about breakouts, choose a sunscreen from a brand that knows what they’re doing in the name of acne. This formula is also full of antioxidants, helping your skin to be as healthy as ever.
SPF is the ultimate anti-aging product. If you’re not protecting yourself from the sun, you’re practically begging for wrinkles. DR. DENNIS GROSS SKINCARE takes things a step further though and adds in vitamin C, E, and sea buckthorn for extra anti-aging and wrinkle-smoothing benefits.
Oily skin is no excuse to skip on the SPF, especially with cool products like this one from SUPERGOOP! Zincscreen has a pink-hued formula that blends in translucent and is specially made for sensitive, acne-prone, and oily skin.
Another drugstore favorite, this pick from LA ROCHE POSAY is a great everyday sunscreen to use under makeup or on a bare face. SPF 50 ensures a little bit of extra protection, and the super-fluid texture makes it feel light and airy on your skin.
Looking for more SPF recommendations for your skin type? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. And don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.