Pregnancy – a beautiful period of your life, a personal milestone for you as a woman. You are well aware of the hormone surges and the effects on your body, mind, and mood. But it is also the phase where you will want to question every action of yours, and rightfully so! 

There are so many products that have become such an integral part of your lives, that you stop thinking before using them. But during pregnancy, you must question every product before using it, so that the little one growing inside you is safe and protected from the harmful chemicals.

There are many changes that you make to your schedule during pregnancy – you give yourself time for exercise, yoga, attending childbirth classes. You not only give up alcohol or that occasional smoke, but also happily sacrifice your favorite treats and beverages. Likewise, products like sunscreen that you have been using need slight tweaking to ensure that it is safe during pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation.

Here, you will find the answers to all those annoying questions that you often do not know whom to ask. From understanding the recommendations to having all the information on how to make an informed choice, this article will address your doubts all in one go. So, let’s get started.

Is Sunscreen Safe During Pregnancy?

This is your big question for which the simple answer is ‘MOST DEFINITELY YES!’ 

The sunscreen that you use is for your protection, to save your beautiful supple skin from sunburns and future likelihood of cancers. So, giving up sunscreen during pregnancy, lactation, or for any other reason is never warranted, say expert dermatologists.

Now here’s the surprise – the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that you continue to use sunscreens during pregnancy. Due to the various hormones in high levels in the body to sustain the pregnancy, skin pigmentation called melasma is common¹

Freckle-like spots can vary in number and can be controlled with the regular use of sunscreen. So, all you ladies out there, sunscreen helps reduce not only sunburns, wrinkles, and cancer risk, but also assists you to manage the skin changes during pregnancy!

But it is important to use the right sunscreen, one that is free from unwanted chemicals to safeguard your precious one while controlling melasma or the ‘mask of pregnancy’. 

And why is that? 

Though you apply the sunscreen on your skin, some chemicals may get absorbed into the bloodstream and end up passing through the placenta and to the child. Your little one is undergoing so many drastic changes so quickly inside you. Even small amounts of these harmful chemicals can affect some organs or parts of your precious one. 

But there is nothing to worry about. Barring a few, most of the chemicals are safe and you just have to watch out for the bad ones.

How do you know if your Sunscreen is safe to Use during Pregnancy?

Well, the answer to this question is solved by the Food and Drug Administration or the FDA². There are two sunscreen chemicals that are harmful during pregnancy, and you must ensure that your product is free of them. Remember not even small amounts or traces are good for your baby, so turn over the bottle or tube and check those ingredients. 

Trolamine salicylate and Para-aminobenzoic acid or PABA are the two offending agents that the FDA has banned in sunscreens in the USA³. Yet, it is good practice to look for them in the ingredient list. 

Now, when you look at the ingredient list, you may ask yourself whether some of the other chemicals noted there are safe or not? As a general rule, shouldn’t all chemicals be harmful in some form or the other? 

Well, some of the other ingredients may include octisalate, homosalate, octinoxate, avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, 4-methylbenzylidene or ensulizole. Some dermatologists believe these chemicals affect the endocrine or the hormone system of both the mother and the child. Oxybenzone is thought to affect growth and development of the fetus. As per FDA, the safety of these chemicals needs to be studied for longer periods to confirm or refute their use in sunscreens. 

So now, how do you decide?

To answer this question, you need to know that there are broadly two types of sunscreens – the chemical ones and the mineral ones. The chemical sunscreens have chemicals that alter when they absorb the ultraviolet rays of the sun, or they act chemically. The mineral ones, on the other hand, simply act as a waterproof barrier between the sunrays and your skin. They are neither absorbed into the skin nor do they undergo chemical change4.

The two natural minerals that are usually safe for use as per the FDA are – titanium dioxide and zinc oxide5. They are physical blockers of the ultraviolet rays that cause all the harm to your skin. Whether it is those premature wrinkles, dark spots, freckles, sunburns, or skin cancers, blame it on the ultraviolet component of the sun’s rays. So you see, you should look for a product that has these natural minerals.

As they form physical barriers, they are also called physical sunscreens. Another advantage of natural minerals is that they cause significantly fewer allergic reactions as compared to their chemical counterparts, making it safe for use for anyone and everyone.

Such sunscreens are safe options not only in pregnancy and lactation, you can also use it for your little one during those outings in the sun. I know some mothers who fell in love with these products and switched to them for life! They are also better options if you tend to have delicate, thin, or sensitive skin.

sunscreen on top of a rock

What else should you look for in your Sunscreen?

Remember all those ads for sunscreen? What do they harp upon? SPF isn’t it? Well, SPF is important and that is what you need to look at too while buying your brand. 

What is SPF you ask?

Well, SPF is ‘Sun Protection Factor’ – the higher the SPF the greater is the sun-blocking action. As a rule, never buy a product with less than SPF 30. Ideally, go for one with higher SPF if you are going to the beach on a sunny summer day.

The sun’s ultraviolet rays are of two types – UVA and UVB. Both are harmful and you need a product that obviously protects you against both these types of rays. Using a broad spectrum sunscreen is the answer for this. Luckily, mineral sunscreens block most of the types of ultraviolet radiation.

Additionally, you may prefer a product that is waterproof especially if you tend to sweat a lot, or have to work outdoors longer, or you are planning to take that trip to the beach. 

Here, I would advise against using sunscreens that have added fragrance. Scent or perfume is chemical in nature and defeats the purpose of these physical blocks. 

How Much Sunscreen Should You Use?

You may not realize how important the answer to this question is. You may take all the trouble to do the research and find the best product. You may pay that extra buck to ensure the safety of your precious one and yourself. But if you do not use it adequately, it is not going to protect you well.

Experts recommend applying sunscreen about 15 minutes before stepping out. You will have to reapply every two hours at least. In case, you are in water or sweaty and the sunscreen is washed out before 2 hours, you need to dab it on. Also, reapply means that you need to reapply, not retouch like makeup. You can wash out the old layer if possible or just apply over it.

Tipy Tipy Tip Top, Which Brand Do You Choose?!

Consumerism has provided us with options to choose from but has also made our job difficult! With so many mineral or physical sunscreens in the market, which is the one product that is safe, effective, and economical?

You are overwhelmed with pregnancy, lactation, and child care and do not want to think about the sunscreen brands? Totally understandable! So, we have made this easier for you and summarized some brands that are safe and tried and tested by several pregnant women.

Best Overall Sunscreen for Pregnancy

There are two products in this category that deserve a mention. These are brands that are designed under the guidance of dermatologists and are focussed on safety and efficacy.

Sheer Botanical Facial Sunscreen SPF30

This lovely product is light and just blends into your skin and daily routine. It is good for daily use and is completely mineral-based, meaning no harmful chemicals. It is one of the last things you do as part of your skin routine. With nourishing elements and a pleasant rose scent, Sheer Botanical Facial Sunscreen SPF30 is a popular product among women, pregnant or not. 

One downside is the cost which may not make it suitable for daily use for some of you. They do offer discounts on a regular basis, and you should be on the watchout!

You can buy this product here.

Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen - Evereden SPF 30

CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 

Finally, a product that moisturizes and provides sunblock naturally! 

As the name suggests, it is 100% mineral-based and the preferred option during pregnancy. SPF50 ensures that you have good protection against all the ultraviolet radiation. 

Ceramides are natural ingredients that prevent evaporation of the moisture from your skin while you are in the heat of the sun. Drying of the skin is also responsible for skin aging and this product prevents that quite efficiently.

Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen - CeraVe

It also makes this product ideal for delicate skin. During pregnancy, your skin may become thin and stretch out under the influence of hormones. This product is one that is designed to help you through all these problems. Tested for allergies and acne-inducing side-effects, CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF50 is the go to product for a large number of pregnant women.

Another advantage that users site is the non-creamy, non-white layer that it forms unlike other mineral-based products with this level of SPF.

It is also economical compared to other products with these features and is highly recommended.

You can buy this product here

Best Sunscreen in a Makeup Product

In this category too, there are multiple products worth a mention. Firstly, because of the dearth of makeup products with adequate SPF protection, read above SPF30. And secondly, your skin type may prefer one brand over another, so you need the options!

ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40

In keeping with its name, this amazing product evens out your skin color and hides blemishes efficiently. Available in several skin tones to suit your natural skin color, the liquid preparation is convenient to use. Nutrients present in it nourish your skin while acting as a skin base and a sunscreen!

You can find this product here

Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen-ILIA

Colorescience Brush-On Sunscreen Mineral Powder

Another easy-to-use and relevant product for all you women. Believe it or not, you can apply this powder over or under your makeup! Ever wondered how to rewear your sunscreen every two hours? Well, here is the product for you!

Available for a variety of skin types, this product is hypoallergenic and acne-proof. Another great feature of this product is that it is available in a range of SPF from SPF30 to SPF50.

You can buy this product here

Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen-Colorescience

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra-Light Fluid Broad Spectrum SPF 50

This under makeup product is a light, liquid preparation free from harmful chemicals. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in this SPF50 face sunscreen provides wide protection against UVA and UVB rays. 

This product is especially suitable for oily skin as it does not make the skin greasy and does not leave any white patches as it is extremely light. In addition, the antioxidant formula protects the skin from free radical damage.

You can find this product here

Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen - La Roche-Posay

Best Sunscreen for the Face

Why do you need a separate category for this, you ask? Well, the skin of the face is different from the skin of the rest of the body. It is more sensitive with different zones. The face is exposed all the time too, you cannot do anything to cover it up like wear long sleeves or pants.

So, do consider a different product.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte™ Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

A basic product in cream form, no fragrance, no essential oils, Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte™ Physical Daily Defense SPF 30 is a no-nonsense sunscreen with broad spectrum protection. Free from chemicals, it is ideal for daily use. It is neither greasy nor does it leave white paste-like areas.

It works simply by protecting the skin from ultraviolet rays of sunlight and slows down skin damage due to free radicals and oxidative damage. Your skin stays younger because it is saved from these damaging reactions and chemicals.

Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen - Drunk Elephant

This tinted cream-based sunscreen has the guarantee of Drunk Elephant, a brand known for quality products. So, obviously, this product comes at a price.

You can find this product here

Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen

Another basic product at an affordable price, Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen has so many features at an amazing price. SPF50 offers broad spectrum protection against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.

Non-smelly, non-sticky, non-white, non-pasty formula that provides highly water resistant protection is the high point of this product. It is also completely vegan and reef-friendly for the environment conscious.

Another upside of this product is that it is available in a stick applicator for those of you who prefer that method.

You can find this product here

Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen - Thinksport SPF 50

Best All-Natural Sunscreen 

For all those of you who like to keep all the components in your sunscreen natural, this category is specially created for you. While ensuring the mineral base of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, this category looks at products wherein the moisturizing and other components are also natural in origin. Being natural, most products are vegan and cruelty-free.

Sun Guardian Oceanic Glacial Water DAY CRÈME SPF 30

This product is classified as a Day Crème and it has several natural antioxidants to do the job. SPF30 offers UVA and UVB protection in this non-scented, chemical free product. Oceanic Glacial Water, Zinc Oxide, Green Tea, and Vitamin E provide all the components required to protect against those skin-aging free radicals.

Users describe it as a light-weight product that gets absorbed quickly and blends the skin tone in a matte finish. Being natural, it suits almost all skin types and has fewer allergy or acne-inducing concerns.

You can buy this product here

Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen - Sun Guardian Oceanic Glacial Water DAY CRÈME

Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 40 by Earth Mama

This amazing product contains Organic Red Raspberry seed oil and Organic Argan oil for keeping your skin moisturized. While most find these components soothing for their dried out skin in pregnancy, some with oily skin may find this product aggravating their problem.

Being natural, it has all the advantages like being hypoallergenic and much lower risk of producing acne. It does better than others in this category by providing water resistant broad spectrum protection for a longer period.

You can find this product here

Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen - Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 40 by Earth Mama

Best Sunscreen for Melanated Skin

Black Girl Sunscreen Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

If you are having trouble with white residues on your beautiful melanated complexion, then this is the product designed specially for you. Melanated skin also needs to be protected from the harmful rays of the sun and this product does just that.

A broad spectrum mineral-based sunscreen with SPF30 is adequate as per recommendations.

This product has natural ingredients like Jojoba, Cacao & Avocado for natural moisturization.

Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen - BlackGirlSunscreen

Being light-based, it blends easily with your skin tone giving you a natural look, naturally!

Another great feature is the water resistant function for 80 minutes. All in all, a great product customized to meet your needs.

You can buy this product here

There are several other ways to help shield yourself from the harsh sunlight. Use these in addition to the layer of sunscreen. Use those wide-brimmed hats, large sunglasses, and try to avoid the sun at the peak when it is overhead. For most places this is a couple of hours around 12 pm or 10 am to 2 pm. If you are in the far east or far west, these timings may differ somewhat.

These supplement the sunscreens and it remains a fact that hats and sunglasses cannot replace the use of sunscreens. So dab that protective layer of minerals and keep your skin light and free from damage. Choose from a wide range of products, one for each occasion, and one that works for you. Take the trip outside with your little one and enjoy the sun and fresh air!

Disclaimer –  Please be aware that ingredient lists for all products listed in this article may change or vary from time to time. Please refer to the ingredient list on the product package you receive for the most up to date list of ingredients.

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Dr Kavita Ramanathan

Dr Kavita Ramanathan is a practising pathologist with over 12 years of clinical experience. Having completed her MBBS and MD in Pathology from the University of Mumbai, she went on to work for several institutions in India. As a medical writer, she writes to give practical tips to the non-technical audience.

As a mother to a young girl, motherhood is a topic that is close to her heart. Her own experience in raising her daughter while balancing her residency and medical career has taught her many practical aspects of successful child-rearing. Her knowledge of medicine and skill as a writer appeals to a broad spectrum of parents and mothers.