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Do you have to switch sunscreens while pregnant?


Pregnancy often serves as a powerful incentive for embracing a cleaner lifestyle. However, this journey entails making challenging decisions – bidding farewell to sushi nights out, brie cheese, and pina coladas (as well as all other alcoholic beverages), transitioning from hot yoga to prenatal yoga classes, and replacing your regular makeup with pregnancy-safe alternatives. 

But, what about sun protection? Can you continue using your usual sunscreen?

There are plenty of sunscreens that are safe to use during pregnancy, so if you already happen to be using one of these, you don’t need to make a switch. Here’s what you need to know, moms-to-be, so you can enjoy some R&R at the beach without worry.

Why it’s essential to apply sunscreen when pregnant

As recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), everyone needs to use sunscreen for protection from harmful UV rays. This is even more important when you are pregnant because changes in hormonal levels increase the risk of sun damage. Without adequate protection, your skin develops dark patches that are known as melasma. People who are pregnant are more vulnerable to this condition, which is why it’s often described as "pregnancy mask."

Sunscreen ingredients: The good & the bad

There are two main types of sunscreens – physical blockers and chemical blockers. As you probably guessed, chemical blockers are the ones that you need to avoid, while physical blockers are regarded as pregnancy-safe.

Physical sunblock: There are just two sunscreen ingredients that are regarded as safe and effective by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They are the main ingredients in mineral-based sunscreens and work by deflecting UV rays from your skin’s surface. If your regular sunscreen contains either one of these minerals, you don’t need to make a swap. However, it would also be a good idea to make sure that the product you use doesn’t contain any synthetic fragrances and has a minimum SPF of 30. If you plan to take a dip in the water, your sunscreen should also be water-resistant. You can check out this list of the best pregnancy-safe sunscreens that meet those requirements.

Chemical sunblock: Unlike physical sunblock, chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays. However, the chemicals used in this type of sunscreen are also absorbed into your bloodstream, raising serious health concerns, especially during pregnancy. Some of these chemicals that you should look out for include oxybenzone, octisalate, homosalate, and avobenzone. All of them are not GRASE (Generally Recognized As Safe and Effective) according to the FDA. Studies in recent years have raised concerns about their endocrine-disrupting effects. Exposure to such chemicals can disrupt hormone levels, which has been linked to problems in fetal growth and thyroid disorders.

Tips to stay safe under the sun

In addition to choosing a pregnancy-safe sunscreen, it would be a good idea to take additional precautions when you’re spending time outdoors.

  • Try to restrict outdoor activities to the hours before 10 am and after 2 pm

  • Apply sunscreen about 15 to 20 minutes before exposing yourself to strong sunlight

  • Use sun protective clothing that offers maximum coverage

  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and UV-protective sunglasses

  • Try to stick to shady areas, like under a tree or a beach umbrella

  • Stay well-hydrated at all times

Remember, sunscreen only provides protection against UV rays, but it won’t protect you from heat exposure or heat stroke. This means that even if you slather on sunscreen, it would be a good idea to limit the amount of time you spend in the sun.

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