Using Retinol While Breastfeeding: Risks, Alternatives & more

Can You Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?

Dermatologists often recommend retinol, a common component in skin care products, to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, clear up acne, and maintain young skin. Doctors claim that utilizing this vitamin A derivative may make it possible to keep clean, smooth skin in an ‘effective’ or ‘reactive’ manner. Due to retinol’s great potency, it is a prominent topic throughout pregnancy and postpartum. Keep reading to know about the crucial safety consideration of retinol and breastfeeding and the correct answer to your question, “can you use retinol while breastfeeding?”

What Is Retinol? 

Retinol is a retinoid, a family of medications derived from vitamin A. Retinoid includes retinol. There are two kinds of retinoids available: OTC and prescription. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, retinol is available over-the-counter in up to 2% quantities. Higher retinoid concentrations may need a prescription. The majority of the time, folks will apply retinol directly to their skin.

Retinol can enter both the stratum corneum and dermis layers of the skin. When retinol is ingested, it is converted to retinoic acid. The presence of retinol in the skin’s layers increases cell turnover while limiting the breakdown of collagen, a protein that helps maintain the skin’s suppleness.

Differences Between Retinol and Retinoids 

To a large extent, retinoids and retinol are two distinct forms of Vitamin A. Both have equivalent anti-aging effects but over a different period. The FDA has approved retinoids, and they are typically only available with a prescription, but retinol is available over-the-counter. Check out the differences between Retinol and Retinoids below:

1. Vitamin A in Several Forms

Both are compounds of vitamin A, yet their chemical structures are somewhat different. Due to the nature of retinol, they need a more extended period to convert to vitamin A. However, to be clear, not all retinoids are retinol, and not all retinol are retinoids.

2. Vitality and Longevity

Retinoids are often more effective than retinol. Due to the molecular nature of retinol, it may be more effective in turning over skin cells than vitamin A in this form, which has a more significant vitamin A concentration. However, since the quantity of retinol is smaller and the molecular structure is different, it takes longer to have the same impact as retinol in the body. Although it remains a viable alternative, patience is required to enjoy the benefits.

3. FDA-approved Retinoids

In the United States, retinoids are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Clinical trials have shown that retinoids, which the FDA has licensed for treating acne, are effective. Without a prescription, you will be unable to get the majority of retinoids.

4. Purchasing Retinol Is More Feasible

Retinol is included in a wide variety of popular items seen on shop shelves. Although the Food and Drug Administration has not authorized retinol, physicians routinely prescribe it to prevent and reverse the effects of aging and acne scars. Retinol products might vary significantly in terms of retinoid content, rendering them less effective in aggregate.

Is It Safe To Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?

It is not safe to use retinol while breastfeeding. Skincare products can make their way into your body and subsequently harm your baby. Retinol is powerful stuff which is why it can potentially harm your little one. It is best to avoid it and be careful with any other Vitamin A products. 

What Are the Risks of Using Retinol When Breastfeeding? 

Retinol being a solid chemical, its usage will always be accompanied by certain risks. Using retinol during breastfeeding exposes your baby to a whole new set of risks, this time for their health. The following section discusses the concerns of using retinol while breastfeeding:

  • When retinol is used topically, the amount passed to your child through breast milk is unknown. Since retinol has been linked to congenital disabilities in children when used during pregnancy, it is suggested that you avoid using it to prevent passing it on to your unborn child.
  • Because retinoids, such as isotretinoin can cause congenital disabilities, we do not recommend their use during pregnancy or breastfeeding, despite their low systemic absorption.
  • When taken during pregnancy, it may have catastrophic implications for the fetus, including miscarriage, and can also harm the development of a breastfeeding newborn.

What Does It Do To Babies?

Using retinol can cause congenital malformations in babies. It is currently unknown as to how much retinol is actually passed on to the baby when the breastfeeding mother uses retinol. However, it is best avoided as it is not worth the risk. 

When Can You Resume Using Retinol While Breastfeeding?

It is safe to say that you can resume using retinol after you are completely done breastfeeding your little one. This may seem like a long time but hang in there, as your baby’s health comes first. 

What Happens If You Accidentally Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?

If used just a few times, it should be okay. However, avoid using retinol for a prolonged period of time or frequently. You should always put your and your baby’s health and well-being first, and hence it is best to get rid of any products which will cause potential damage. 

Safe Skincare Alternatives While Breastfeeding 

Safe Skincare Alternatives While Breastfeeding

There is no reason why you should have to forego having clean, smooth skin just because retinol is not safe to take during pregnancy or nursing. It is feasible to get a broad range of retinol-like advantages without risk of adverse effects when using breastfeeding-safe alternatives. These are just a few items that are safe for nursing mothers to consume:

1. Bakuchiol 

Babchi plant extract has been utilized in Naturopathic remedies for a very long time, and according to the literature, Bakuchiol is one of the most often used components today. Bakuchiol is one of the few retinol substitutes demonstrated to be beneficial against anti-aging and skin lightening. Bakuchiol works similarly to retinol in that it prevents and treats fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation while also enhancing skin elasticity and suppleness. Bakuchiol does this by binding to the same receptors as retinol. Daily use of the plant extract has been shown to minimize the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots.

2. Azelaic Acid 

Apart from being an excellent acne therapy, azelaic acid, a natural chemical used in place of salicylic acid during pregnancy, is also a very effective anti-aging agent. Azelaic acid was precisely as effective as prescription retinoids over six months, and it was far more tolerable than retinoids over the same period. While it may lack the anti-aging benefits of retinol, it may be beneficial in preventing and treating postpartum acne. It is just less effective. Additionally, you may always use hyaluronic acid to moisturize your skin as needed.

3. Vitamin C 

Vitamin C is an excellent choice for reducing hyperpigmentation and scarring since it is a safe vitamin to take while breastfeeding. An antioxidant’s primary function is to protect cells from the detrimental effects of aging and free radical damage. Additionally, the process involves creating collagen, responsible for skin suppleness and a more uniform skin tone.

Skincare Ingredients to Avoid While Breastfeeding 

While not all cosmetic items are harmful to newborns, a handful should be avoided at all costs. We’ve compiled a shortlist of skincare things to avoid when nursing.

1. Makeup 

Avoid Products Containing:

  • Salicylic acid 
  • Retinoic acid 
  • Retinol Retinyl Linoleate 
  • Palmitate 
  • Retin-A
  • Differin
  • Tazarotene
  • Tazorac

2. Sunscreens 

When it comes to nursing mothers’ skincare, the choice of sunscreens is crucial. When sunscreens are generally safe to use, certain compounds in chemical-based sunscreens may be harmful during breastfeeding and pregnancy.

Avoid Sunscreens That Contain:

  • Retinoids
  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate

3. Acne Treatments

Even if you have been acne-free since your teen years, you may have acne breakouts as your body changes to suit your baby’s growth. Before going for an over-the-counter acne product regularly, it’s always a good idea to consult with a dermatologist to ensure the goods you’re using are safe for your child.

Avoid Products That Contain:

  • BHA retinoids (also known as Beta Hydroxy Acid Retinoids)
  • Sodium salicylate (or choose products that contain no more than 2%)

How Early Can You Start Using Retinol After Pregnancy?

As soon as you finish breastfeeding, you may restart taking retinol (or try it for the first time) without fear that you’ll pass it on through breastmilk. Once a woman has finished her pregnancy and breastfeeding, retinol may be pretty beneficial. Acne-related hyperpigmentation may be reduced or eliminated by using this product. You should always see your dermatologist before taking any prescription, whether you are nursing or not.


1. Can I Use Topical Retinol When Breastfeeding Or During Pregnancy?

No, you cannot use topical retinol during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Studies have shown that there is a higher risk of miscarriages and congenital malformations in the foetuses when the mothers have used retinol products. There are many side effects of retinol while breastfeeding, and they must be avoided. 

2. What Kind Of Retinol Serum Can I Use While Breastfeeding?

It is best to avoid retinol serum while breastfeeding. Skincare products can enter your body and be passed down to your little one and cause harm. Avoid retinol serums while breastfeeding. 

Due to obvious ethical concerns, there is no clinical examination to determine what is safe or dangerous. All that is required here are warnings and imagined dangers. If you’re still on the fence, it’s best to avoid any forms of retinol while nursing.

Also Read:

Is Botox Safe during Breastfeeding
Apple Cider Vinegar when Breastfeeding
Are Medications Safe during Breastfeeding

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