More Resources Questions Moms Ask: Why Can't I Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?

Questions Moms Ask: Why Can't I Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?

In the latest entry in our 'questions moms ask' series, the Limerick team are answering the question 'why can't I use Retinol while breastfeeding?' It's absolutely true that Retinol can be a very effective skincare treatment or ingredient in skincare products, but equally so, it's incredibly important to avoid using it while breastfeeding as exposure to Retinol can cause a number of health problems in babies. In this blog we'll look at what those health problems are, the other non-harmful products and substances that moms can use as an alternative to Retinol, and answer some other frequently asked questions related to this topic.

Questions Moms Ask: Why Can't I Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?

Why is Retinol used in skincare and beauty products?

Retinol is a form of vitamin A that is used in many skincare products. It works by increasing the production of collagen and elastin, which are the proteins that keep skin looking young and firm. Retinol can also help to exfoliate the skin, promoting cell turnover, and in the process reducing the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and other marks or signs of aging.

Questions Moms Ask: Why Can't I Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?

So, why can't I use Retinol while breastfeeding?

Retinol is not safe for use by breastfeeding moms because it can be absorbed into your bloodstream through your skin - and if Retinol does pass into your bloodstream, from there it can also pass into your breast milk. This means that your baby could potentially ingest Retinol through your breast milk.

Questions Moms Ask: Why Can't I Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?

What are the risks of using Retinol while breastfeeding?

The risks of exposing your baby to Retinol can include:

Birth defects

Retinol use has been linked to a number of birth defects, including skull and facial malformations, and abnormal cardiac development.

Liver damage

Retinol can damage the liver, and this is especially so in infants.

Developmental delays

Retinol exposure can lead to developmental delays in infants, such as delayed growth and speech.

Questions Moms Ask: Why Can't I Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?

Safe Alternatives to Retinol

However, just because you're breastfeeding doesn't mean you have to stop taking care of your skin, as there are a number of safe alternatives to Retinol that you can use, including:

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance that helps to hydrate the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant. It can protect the skin from sun damage and reduce the appearance of dark spots, and of course is readily available through eating or drinking the juice of citrus fruits.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is a great moisturizer, and has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities too. These properties make it great for reducing signs of aging, and particularly useful for treating the effects of sun damage.


Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3, whose uses as part of a beauty regimen include improving the appearance of uneven skin tone, hyperpigmentation, redness and inflammation.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)

AHAs can be used to exfoliate the skin,  helping to remove dead skin cells and reveal brighter, more radiant skin.

Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs)

Likewise, BHAs also exfoliate the skin, however, they are better at unclogging pores and reducing acne breakouts.

Questions Moms Ask: Why Can't I Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?


Of course, we absolutely understand that after reading this blog, moms asking 'why can't I use Retinol while breastfeeding?' may well have some other questions that they need answers too as well. This FAQ section aims to provide at least some of those extra answers that moms may be seeking.

What should I do if I am breastfeeding and using Retinol?

If you are breastfeeding and using Retinol, it is important that you stop using it immediately. It's also a good idea to talk to your doctor about the breastfeeding-safe alternatives that can be used.

What if I accidentally used Retinol while breastfeeding?

If you have accidentally used Retinol while breastfeeding, it is important to stop as soon as you realize the error, and talk to your doctor. They can help you to determine if your baby is at risk of any health problems.

Can I use Retinol again after I stop breastfeeding?

Yes, you can use Retinol again after you stop breastfeeding. However, it is important to restart Retinol use slowly, and gradually increase the strength of the product(s) you use over time.

Is the breastfeeding phase of my child's development the only time that Retinol is dangerous?

No. Retinol (and all members of the Retinoid family) can also pose a risk to your child while they are still in the womb. As a result, all Retinoids should be avoided as soon as you find out that you're pregnant.

Are there any other skincare ingredients that I should avoid while breastfeeding?

Yes, in addition to Retinol itself, all members of the Retinoid family should be avoided during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Furthermore, moms should also stay away from skincare or beauty products containing the following ingredients:

  • Arbutin
  • Alpha-arbutin
  • Hydroquinone
  • Tretinoin
  • Isotretinoin
  • While green tea is safe to drink in moderate amounts, it does contain Epigallocatechin (EGCG) which can be harmful in pregnancy. For that reason expectant moms may wish to limit or abstain from green tea consumption, and avoid green tea extract as a skincare product.

Questions Moms Ask: "Why Can't I Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?"


Retinol is a powerful skincare ingredient that can be very beneficial for your skin, and we understand that some women may also have specific health concerns for which Retinol is an appropriate treatment. However, if this is the case for you it's important that you consult with your physician and switch to an alternative treatment at the earliest opportunity because - as we've seen today - Retinol can be very harmful to your baby.

Questions Moms Ask: Why Can't I Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?

Further breastfeeding support from Limerick

In addition to this blog answering "why can't I use Retinol while breastfeeding?" you'll find other entries in our "questions moms ask" series - such as "why does the Haakaa hurt?", "why is my right boob bigger than my left?", "why do my nipples turn purple sometimes?" and more - in our resource center. You can also learn more about our very own range of breast pumps on our website - just click here if you're a new parent, here if you're a healthcare professional, or here if you're a corporate stakeholder - and if you'd like to buy one of our pumps or some breastfeeding accessories right now, you can do so via our shop.