Acne Solutions


Benzoyl Peroxide and Pregnancy

Benzoyl Peroxide and Pregnancy

By Yvette Chau

Many women have questions about benzoyl peroxide and pregnancy, as well as other common over-the-counter acne ingredients. Although these products are typically considered “safe” since they are available to you without a prescription, you still need to be cautious, especially during pregnancy.

The most common ingredients found in over-the-counter-remedies (topical form) include:

-benzoyl peroxide,

-salicylic acid,


-alpha hydroxy acids, and

-resorcinol and sulfur.

OTC Benzoyl Peroxide

Questions about benzoyl peroxide and pregnancy safety remain a concern. BP works by killing acne bacteria deep within the skin and is found in concentrations of 2.5%, 5%, and 10% in topical creams and gels. There are also prescription forms of BP or combinations of BP with other active agents that you can get from your doctor.

Here are the two sides of the debate for benzoyl peroxide and pregnancy safety:

Benzoyl peroxide is commonly used: Currently, there are no case reports about benzoyl peroxide and birth defects in research studies. So far it appears there is a low risk to the unborn child.


Benzoyl peroxide is a category C drug: So far, there have been no studies on humans or animals that show risk correlations between benzoyl peroxide and pregnancy. This means the risk is still unknown. About 5% of each topical dose is absorbed systemically. It is unknown if BP passes into breast milk. Make sure you consult with your doctor about taking BP safely.

Salicylic Acid

This medicine may be absorbed through the mother's skin. Like benzoyl peroxide and pregnancy, there are no studies of topical salicylic acid and pregnancy showing risk to a fetus. Topical salicylic acid has not been studied in pregnant women. Only oral salicylic acid (aspirin) studies in animals show that birth defects occur at very high dosages. But oral salicylic acid is unrelated to the topical form.

Generally, the absence of harmful feedback of topical salicylic acid means that the risk to an unborn child is low.


Retinol is a form of vitamin A, which in high doses can be dangerous to pregnant women. Based on 1980 U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for vitamin A in the diet that is a combination of retinol and beta-carotene, pregnant women should not exceed a daily total of 2665-3000 units of retinol (900mcg). Breastfeeding mothers should not exceed 4000 units of retinol (1200mcg). Again, confirm with your doctor regarding a healthy amount for you.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Resorcinol and Sulfur

Resorcinol can be absorbed through the mother’s skin, but none of these ingredients have proven to be a risk in pregnancy.

Always read the labels on the products to see if they are pregnancy-safe. If you feel uncomfortable about a product, never second-guess yourself. See your doctor. Your caution will pay off for the health of your baby as well as your own.

Yvette Chau is a freelance writer based in Edmonton, Canada specializing in the area of skincare and acne treatment. Ungoing failed treatments herself before finding a solution for her own skin problems, she offers information and advice to others on

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