Salicylic Acid in Pregnancy – Is It Safe, Benefits & Side Effects

Woman washing face

During pregnancy, some women may experience skin breakouts due to various pregnancy hormones. Such breakouts can effectively be treated with salicylic acid, a popular ingredient in most skin treatment products. But during pregnancy, it is sensible to exercise some caution in this regard because products consumed or even applied by the mother can possibly get transferred to the unborn child and adversely affect the baby’s growth. Doctors generally advise against the oral consumption of salicylic acid during pregnancy. However, it may be safe to use minor amounts of it in the form of face washes or other products that consists not more than two percent of salicylic acid. A higher dosage may prove harmful. Therefore, it is very important to check the labels on products and identify the percentage before using them.

What is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is a colourless, crystalline beta hydroxy acid. It is available in two forms: oral and topical. It is a commonly occurring ingredient in most skin treatment products as it is known to effectively cure breakouts and decrease inflammation of the skin. Salicylic acid is the key metabolite of aspirin which is also known as acetylsalicylic acid as it is formed from a chemical reaction between acetic acid and salicylic acid. This is why its use during pregnancy is viewed with some concern. A number of products like face washes, dandruff shampoos, acne creams, cleansers and soaps, anti-ageing lotions and creams may contain salicylic acid.

Is Salicylic Acid Safe during Pregnancy?

Topical use of salicylic acid in limited quantities to treat hormonal acne is usually considered safe during pregnancy. Still, more detailed research is required to clearly establish whether its application or consumption can poorly affect the baby’s development or not. This is because salicylic acid is closely linked to aspirin whose intake during pregnancy is known to adversely affect the fetus. Some studies indicate that oral consumption of salicylic acid, especially during the later stages of pregnancy, may result in complications like miscarriage, birth defects pertaining to that of the heart and lungs, or intracranial haemorrhage. Therefore, it may be best to avoid using salicylic acid during pregnancy or limit its usage in order to avoid any unnecessary problems later on. However, it is always sensible to consult your doctor who may suggest safer alternatives.

What Are the Benefits of Using Salicylic Acid While Pregnant?

Salicylic acid is popularly used for cosmetic purposes. Some of the benefits of salicylic acid during pregnancy are:

  • Salicylic acid can effectually cure acne triggered by pregnancy hormones.
  • It can help treat skin ailments like calluses, warts, corns, psoriasis, dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis.
  • It aids in exfoliating the skin by sloughing off the skin cells.
  • It has proven beneficial in unclogging the pores of the skin.
  • Salicylic acid is anti-inflammatory and can help reduce fever and pain.
  • At higher measures, it is also used as a chemical peel in peel treatments.
  • It is known to ease stiffness of joints and muscles.

Woman washing face

Side-Effects of Using Salicylic Acid While Pregnant

Certain side effects of salicylic acid while pregnant can be:

  • Oral intake of salicylic acid can lead to complications in pregnancy like miscarriage or birth defects.
  • Excessive peeling treatment of skin using higher doses of salicylic acid can lead to salicylate poisoning, resulting in dizziness, ringing in the ears, quickened breathing or difficulty in breathing, nausea, etc.
  • Some pregnant women may be allergic to salicylic acid and can experience skin irritation, swelling, hives or itching.
  • Using products containing a higher concentration of salicylic acid may result in drying and peeling of skin.

What About Other Topical Treatments?

Before using any topical treatment during pregnancy, it is always advisable to consult a doctor. Some of the other available topical treatments are:

  1. Benzoyl Peroxide: It is considered safe to use benzoyl peroxide during pregnancy. Although bear in mind to restrict its usage to 2% or less.
  2. Topical Clindamycin: According to FDA, topical clindamycin is classified in Class B which means animal testing has revealed no harmful effects on the fetus.
  3. Glycolic Acid Or Azelaic acid: These do not get absorbed in high measures by the skin and hence are considered safe to use.
  4. Alpha Hydroxy Acid Or Witch Hazel: This is also believed to be a safer alternative and may be used while pregnant.

Other Natural Alternatives:

Salicylic acid and pregnancy may not go hand in hand. Using salicylic acid while pregnant can be avoided and pregnant women may opt for other safer and natural alternatives instead to deal with skin issues. Some of them are as follows:

  1. Proper Skin Care: By following a good skin care routine, most skin problems can be prevented. Washing the face at least twice a day; morning and evening, drinking adequate amounts of water, washing the hair regularly are some of the things that can be incorporated into the daily skin care regime. Instead of using a salicylic acid face wash in pregnancy, homemade face washes made from natural things like oatmeal can be used.
  2. Proper Diet: Eating foods which are rich in vitamin A like fish, carrots, and eggs can prove beneficial for the skin. Maintain a healthy and balanced diet by including lots of fruits and vegetables. It is best to avoid fatty or processed foods and carbonated drinks.
  3. Suitable Sunscreen: It is advisable to use an oil-free, non-comedogenic, pregnancy safe sunscreen with a good SPF in order to prevent sunburn.
  4. Avoid Scrubbing and Popping Of Zits: Scrubbing can irritate the skin and aggravate the acne situation. Refrain from picking, squeezing or scratching a pimple. This may lead to an over-stimulation of oil glands and scarring. Also, avoid touching the face too often in order to prevent spreading of bacteria and germs.
  5. Apple Cider Vinegar and Baking Soda: It is recommended to dilute the apple cider vinegar with 3 parts of purified water and then apply to the affected area. Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate can be used by mixing it with water to form a thin paste and then applying to the pimples. Both the natural products help in clearing the skin by keeping it dry and oil free.
  6. Lemon And Honey: Both lemon and honey are naturally antibacterial and antiseptic. Lime juice can be used as an exfoliant and astringent. Honey is very soothing for the skin.
  7. Coconut Oil And Cucumber: Coconut is anti-fungal and antibacterial in nature and can be used as a moisturizer. Cucumber is naturally cooling and soothing for the skin.

Skin troubles during pregnancy are generally a temporary affair and usually, the skin clears up on its own after childbirth. Suitable lifestyle changes and good skin care habits can go a long way in keeping the skin healthy and clear. It is always wise to consult a doctor before using any topical treatments like salicylic acids during pregnancy in order to avoid any potential risks to the pregnancy.