More Resources Why Avoid Retinol When Breastfeeding?

Why Avoid Retinol When Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and crucial time for both mother and child. However, it's essential to be aware of potential risks, especially when it comes to skincare. One such concern is the use of Retinol, a popular ingredient in many skincare, and beauty products. With that being the case, in this instalment of our "Questions moms ask" series, the Limerick team respond to the question "why avoid Retinol when breastfeeding?" Let's get started.

Questions moms ask: Why avoid Retinol when breastfeeding?

What is Retinol?

Of course, before we can go ahead and answer our core question for today - "why avoid Retinol when breastfeeding?" - it's important to understand just what Retinol is and what it's used for. Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, and it is a popular ingredient in skincare products, particularly because of its skin renewal properties. Retinol helps promote collagen production and cell turnover, reduce signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles, and improve skin texture. Thanks to its numerous benefits, Retinol is also a substance commonly ingredient in many over-the-counter medicinal creams and serums treating skin conditions such as acne.

Questions moms ask: Why avoid Retinol when breastfeeding?

Why should I avoid Retinol when breastfeeding?

Potential Risk to Baby's Health

The primary reasons to avoid Retinol when breastfeeding are the potential risks that it poses to your baby. When breastfeeding, some substances that a mother consumes - which is the case with Retinol as it's absorbed into the skin - can pass through breast milk, exposing the baby to these substances. High levels of Retinol and other such substances can be toxic to infants, potentially leading to birth defects, development issues, and other health complications.

Increased Skin Sensitivity

Another reason to avoid Retinol during breastfeeding is its potential to cause increased skin sensitivity. Retinol can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and prone to irritation. This heightened sensitivity may not be ideal for new mothers caring for their infants - breastfeeding or pumping can be painful at the best of times, and dealing with increased skin sensitivity on top of that isn't going to help.

Lack of Research

While Retinol's potential risks are well-known, there isn't enough research specifically focusing on its effects during breastfeeding. Due to ethical concerns, most studies on Retinol exclude pregnant and breastfeeding women. This results in limited data on the safety of Retinol use during this critical period, and that lack of data has an effect on what we know about how Retinol affects breastfeeding moms and their little ones. In the absence of conclusive evidence, in Limerick's opinion it's best to err on the side of caution and simply avoid Retinol altogether when breastfeeding.

Questions moms ask: Why avoid Retinol when breastfeeding?

Is it just Retinol that I need to be concerned about?

Sadly, the answer here is no. The potential risks posed by Retinol extend to all of the members of the retinoid family - so it's not just Retinol that nursing moms need to avoid, but all retinoids.

Questions moms ask: Why avoid Retinol when breastfeeding?

Is Breastfeeding the only time that this advice applies?

Again, unfortunately not. Because Retinol is absorbed into the body - as it needs to be in order to become mixed in with mom's milk - the same risks that Retinol presents when present in breastmilk also apply before birth, while baby is still in the womb. As such, Retinol should be avoided throughout pregnancy too.

Questions moms ask: Why avoid Retinol when breastfeeding?

What alternatives can I use instead of Retinol?

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a safe and effective alternative to Retinol for breastfeeding mothers. This ingredient helps retain moisture in the skin, providing hydration and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It's gentle and doesn't pose the same risks as Retinol, making it a suitable choice for new mothers.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and as such can help protect the skin from environmental stressors, promote collagen production, and improve skin tone. It is safe to use during breastfeeding and can provide similar benefits to Retinol without posing the same risks.

Questions moms ask: Why avoid Retinol when breastfeeding?


Breastfeeding is a unique and precious time in a mother's life, but it also comes with responsibilities to ensure the health and safety of both your health and that of your baby. We hope that the information laid out above has answered today’s featured question of "why avoid Retinol when breastfeeding?" and the surrounding issues clearly and concisely, but don't forget that the Limerick resource center is also home to further entries in our "questions moms ask" series - which includes questions such as "why is my Lansinoh pump not suctioning?" and "why do my nipples turn purple sometimes?" as well as further practical breastfeeding advice and support from moms who've been there and done it themselves.