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Can you use retinol in pregnancy? Try this natural, non-toxic alternative...

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

The Quick Run-Down

  • Most doctors recommend ceasing the use of retinol products during pregnancy

  • Retinol can pass through the skin and into the bloodstream and some studies show that retinol can harm a growing fetus.

  • Many other skincare products have been linked to reproductive toxicity.

  • A compound called bakuchiol is a plant-derived natural alternative to retinol.

  • Studies show that it is likely to have similar benefits to retinol, without the frequently experienced side effects of dryness and redness - or potential concerns for pregnancy.

What is retinol?

Retinol is part of a class of chemicals called retinoids, which are derived from Vitamin A. It is sold over the counter as an ingredient in skincare products such as creams, gels, serums and lotions.

Also known as Vitamin A1, retinol is the darling of dermatology. Clinically proven to boost the amount of collagen your skin makes, it improves skin texture, tone and pigmentation and clearing up acne. The prescription-only version (known as tretinoin) packs a serious punch, but even over-the-counter versions offer visible changes.

Beloved by patients and dermatologists alike for its anti-aging effects, it smooths fine lines and wrinkles and smooth skin.

Is retinol safe when trying to conceive or in pregnancy?

Retinol may be harmful to developing babies, as studies show that retinol can harm a growing fetus.

It is not well understood exactly why, however, when Vitamin A builds up to excess levels which are stored in your fat, this can become toxic.

This is why retinol use is not recommended when trying to conceive, in pregnancy or when nursing.

The advice for pregnant women and those trying to conceive is to try to avoid retinoids and retinols. That's because they are related to vitamin A - when taken by mouth can cause harm to developing embryos and fetuses. California EPA’s Proposition 65 lists all-trans retinoic acid as developmental toxicants.

Although there is no direct evidence yet to suggest that topical retinoids and retinols can cause direct harm to reproductive health, or reduce the success of fertility treatments, they have been implicated along with parabens, phthalates and plastics in reproductive toxicity.

Refining Your Regime

When you start becoming aware of all the fertility-zapping chemicals hiding in everyday personal care products, one of the hardest things to face is that your highly perfected, hard won skincare regime might be nixed.

Replacing your regular workhorses like cleansers, moisturizers and serums with clean alternatives is now absolutely no hardship, thanks to the multitude of fantastic skincare ranges that have cropped up and started producing beautiful refined, natural, non-toxic, organic versions of these everyday products.

If you regularly use a retinol-based product, you'll likely be the beneficiary of smoother, plumper, brighter skin and the thought of giving it up can feel mildly distressing.

But here's reason to celebrate, there's a natural plant-derived alternative to retinol.


Introducing bakuchiol - pronounced: bah-koochy-ol - retinol's all-natural, less irritating (but just as effective!) sister.

One study found that "significant improvement in lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, elasticity, firmness and overall reduction in photo-damage was observed", and that bakuchiol can function as an anti-aging compound with "a retinol-like regulation of gene expression".

And here's the really good part, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Bakuchiol packs the same punch as retinol but WITHOUT the usual retinol associated side effects like dryness, redness and photosensitivity, as has been shown by a further randomized, double blind 12 week study.

Where does it come from?

Bakuchiol is a phytochemical found mainly in the seeds of the plant Psoralea Corylifolia (Babchi), which is naturally found in the Indian subcontinent, though it is also found in other plants.

You'll sometimes find it called babchi oil or bakuchi powder and it has been used for centuries in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine.

The compound has been found to have anti‐inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-acne activity and targets several cellular pathways similar to those targeted by retinoids.

How to use Bakuchiol

There are a whole range of oils, serums and creams so you can choose an option that fits best into your current skincare routine. Like retinols, many bakuchiol products are designed to be used as a night-time product.

To play it safe, why not ditch the retinol and give the natural alternative a try?

For more support around trying to conceive or your family building journey, try ELANZA video-based coaching.


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