Baby Talk: Is it safe to use sunscreen when you are pregnant?

July 15, 2014 

Q: Is it safe to use sunscreen when you are pregnant?

A: Anything that a mother ingests always has the potential of getting to her growing baby. I understand your concern. When a lotion is applied to the skin it may or may not be absorbed into the blood stream. It is through the blood stream that a baby becomes exposed to what the mother ingests.

I have read that it might be wise for pregnant women to avoid using sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and PABA. Oxybenzone permeates the skin and allows chemicals to be potentially absorbed into the blood stream. It is not only in some sunscreen products, it is also in other lotions, skin care products, lip balms and lipsticks. Painful skin allergic reactions have been reported with products that contain PABA. Check the ingredients in anything that you put on your skin for both of these products.

Sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are considered safe during pregnancy. They are minerals that reflect the sun's rays off the skin.

Protection from damaging ultra violet rays is important all the time, but especially during pregnancy. The increased release and production of hormones during pregnancy affect a woman's skin in many ways. One of effect is that the skin sometimes produces more melanin than it can use. Melanin is a substance that gives color to our skin and our eyes. The more melanin one naturally has the darker their skin and eye color will be. A fair skinned, blue- or green-eyed woman may develop what is called the pregnancy mask. It can also happen to women using the birth control pill because the birth control pill tricks the body into thinking it is pregnant. The pregnancy mask is seen as random dark brown blotches on a woman's face. Sun screen can prevent the mask from appearing.

Another effect of pregnancy is moles appearing or growing larger. In most cases the moles are not dangerous. You should always show them to your doctor to make sure.

Sunscreen helps protect from premature aging, skin cancers and sun damage. However, it is not your only protection. Wearing a hat with a brim and clothes that are opaque, is also important. Combining all of these together is the best protection for your skin.

But your skin is not the only part of your body that needs protection. Ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays can cause cataracts, eyelid cancers and macular degeneration. Blue-eyed people are especially vulnerable to vision damage from the sun. Even on overcast days, blue-eyed people should wear sunglasses that offer a strong protection against the sun's rays. A hat with a brim of three inches or more will offer protection for your skin and eyes.

Sunshine is not to be feared, but respected. We receive benefits from the sun. The sun helps us make Vitamin D and lifts our spirits. Lucky us, we live in the sunshine state. Use protection and enjoy our beautiful state. Just read the labels before you slather and wear a hat. After all, doesn't every woman look beautiful in a hat?

Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital's Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living.

Contact her at

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