Salicylic Acid while Pregnant: Benefits, Side-Effects & Treatment

Salicylic Acid in Pregnancy – Safety, Benefits & Side Effects

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rashmi Sriram (Dermatologist)
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Now that you’re pregnant, you must be waiting for that pregnancy glow, which most women talk about. But if you have acne and pimples on your face, neck, or hairline, you’re likely to wonder what’s happening to your skin. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can result in breakouts in some women. And if you’re one of those, you may have to deal with unwanted skin problems. Your well-wishers may advise you to use salicylic acid, a common ingredient in most skin products, to get rid of acne. But before you go ahead with it, you must check if it is safe to use during pregnancy.

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 common ingredient used 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?

Salicylic acid products available over-the-counter may not be safe to use during pregnancy. Oral medications aren’t safe either. Salicylic acid is closely linked to aspirin, intake of which during pregnancy is known to adversely affect the foetus. Oral consumption of salicylic acid, especially during the later stages of pregnancy, may also result in complications like miscarriage, birth defects pertaining to that of the heart and lungs, or intracranial haemorrhage. Although more research is required to clearly establish whether its application or consumption can poorly affect the baby’s development or not, it is best avoided during pregnancy. You can connect with your doctor for safer alternatives.

Side Effects of Using Salicylic Acid When Pregnant

Using salicylic acid during pregnancy can pose a risk to you and your baby. Given below are some side effects of taking salicylic acid in pregnancy:

  • Oral intake of salicylic acid can lead to complications in pregnancy like miscarriage or birth defects.
  • Chemical peeling treatment of skin over a large surface area like back, using higher doses of salicylic acid can lead to salicylate poisoning, which may result 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.

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 2.5% or less under supervision.
  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 can 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. Here’s what you can do for healthy skin:

  1. Follow Proper Skincare Routine: By following a good skincare 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 at least twice a week, are some of the things that can be incorporated into the daily regime. Instead of using a salicylic acid face wash in pregnancy, homemade face washes made from natural things like oatmeal can be used.
  2. Maintain a Healthy Diet: Eating foods rich in Vitamin A like carrots and eggs can prove to be 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. Use 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 Zits: Scrubbing can irritate the skin and aggravate the acne. 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 the spreading of bacteria and germs.

Skin troubles during pregnancy are generally a temporary affair and usually, the skin issues subside on its own after childbirth. Suitable lifestyle changes and good skincare 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 acid during pregnancy in order to avoid any potential risks to the pregnancy.

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