Skin Care While Breastfeeding
beauty & skin

Skin Care While Breastfeeding

Over 80 percent of new mothers breastfeed their children [1].

Are you part of this group? Have you noticed any skin issues popping up since you started breastfeeding? Skin problems can be common for new, breastfeeding moms. However, they can also be uncomfortable and irritating.

Read on to learn more about what causes these issues. You’ll also find some steps you can take to combat them.



Common Skin Issues for Breastfeeding Moms

Any new mom will tell you that changes to the body don’t stop after you’ve given birth. Between hormone fluctuations, stress, and lack of sleep, lots of changes take place during the postpartum period, too. This is especially true when it comes to the health and appearance of the skin. 

breastfeeding mom with newborn

Here are some of the most common skin issues breastfeeding moms might experience:



Melasma is characterized by dark patches of skin. It’s sometimes referred to as the “mask of pregnancy” since it mostly affects pregnant women, but this condition can also show up during the postpartum period. 

The most common cause of melasma is hormonal shifts that occur during and after pregnancy. 

High levels of estrogen have been linked to increases in the melanocyte-stimulating hormone, the hormone that’s responsible for darker skin pigmentation [2]. Estrogen levels are elevated after pregnancy and remain this way for some time, which can contribute to melasma. 



Eczema is also known as dermatitis or atopic dermatitis. If you struggle with eczema, you might notice that your skin feels rough, itchy, or overly dry. 

While breasting, many new mothers develop eczema around their nipples, specifically [3]. Postpartum women often have increased skin sensitivity, and those who have a history of eczema, in particular, might notice more flare-ups during this period.



Postpartum hormone fluctuations can cause acne or make it worse [4]. Other factors that occur during the postpartum period can affect acne, too, such as stress, sleep deprivation, and dehydration [5, 6, 7,].


Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections around that nipple can take place during breastfeeding. These infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus, may occur after a suction injury that goes untreated. If you develop a bacterial infection, you might notice the following symptoms: redness, swelling, discomfort, fever, and flu-like symptoms [8]. 



Top Breastfeeding Skin Care Tips

As your journey in motherhood continues, it’s always good to keep your doctor aware of what you’re experiencing, even different skin concerns. In addition, you can also be proactive about taking care of your skin while breastfeeding to help you feel your best:


Keep the Skin Clean

From unclogging pores to general skin maintenance, regular cleansing is one of the most important steps to add to your postpartum skincare routine. 

Washing the skin with a gentle cleanser can help to get rid of dirt, bacteria, and other potential irritants. Be sure to carefully clean the nipples before and after breastfeeding, too. This helps you to avoid exposing your baby to any chemicals that could potentially be harmful to them. 

When it comes to washing the face, keep in mind that it is possible to overdo it. Most skincare experts agree that washing more than twice per day (or once for folks with very sensitive skin) can cause redness, dryness, and irritation. It might also make acne worse [9].


Use a Vitamin C Serum

Vitamin C has been shown to be very effective when it comes to combating melasma [10]. 

droplet of serum skincare

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help to protect the skin from environmental damage. It also minimizes discoloration and brightens the skin. To experience these benefits, try applying a vitamin C serum to your skin once or twice per day after cleansing. 


Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

During the postpartum period, you can reduce the severity of several skin issues when you make moisturization a priority. 

When it comes to issues like acne, applying moisturizer on a regular basis can help you to combat excessive dryness. When your skin is dry, it may produce more oil, which will likely make your acne worse [11]. If you have very oily skin, you can use an oil-free moisturizer to experience these benefits without feeling like you’re adding fuel to the fire.

Regular moisturizing can help with eczema, too. If you’re dealing with eczema around the nipples, an emollient will soothe discomfort, minimize redness, and provide some relief [12]. An emollient is an ingredient found in many moisturizers that helps with dryness, flakiness, and irritation.

Don’t forget to moisturize your hands, too. You’ll likely find yourself doing a lot of handwashing and applying hand sanitizer while breastfeeding, and frequent washing without moisturization can leave your hands dry, red, and cracked [13].


Stay Hydrated

You can hydrate your skin with lotions and creams, of course, but you can also hydrate from the inside out by making sure you’re drinking enough water. If you’re dehydrated, your skin could be be more prone to dryness and cracking. After all, it’s 63 percent water [14].

Make sure you’re drinking a sufficient amount of fluids each day. What’s considered “sufficient” will be different for every woman who’s breastfeeding, but some experts have recommended up to 13 8-ounce cups per day [15]. 

Keep in mind, you don’t have to only drink plain water to improve your hydration. You can also hydrate with juices, teas, and other beverages, as well as soups and broths.

If you’re focused on improving hydration, be sure to factor in electrolytes, too. Electrolytes are minerals like magnesium, potassium, and sodium that carry an electrical charge and ensure the cells are properly hydrated [16]. 

Try adding an electrolyte drink mix to your water to boost your electrolyte intake (like Hydrant), increase hydration, and improve the flavor of your plain old water.


Read Ingredient Lists

When you’re breastfeeding, it’s always important to keep a close eye on ingredients used in skin care products (and others). If you have any questions or concerns, we always recommend checking in with your doctor to be safe. In skincare, here are some ingredients that some people recommend as safe:

Lactic Acid

A chemical produced by bacteria in foods like yogurt; it helps to clear pores, minimize scarring and discoloration, and can create a more balanced, even skin tone [17]

Vitamin C

As we mentioned above, vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps with discoloration from melasma. It can also have protective benefits against environmental damage. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another antioxidant. It’s a common ingredient used in a variety of creams and lotions because it increases moisture and can soothe dry or inflamed skin [18].

Shea Butter

Shea butter is a natural emollient extracted from the nuts of the shea tree. It’s found in many moisturizers, including nipple balms and creams, and can be very soothing for dry or cracked skin [21].


Steer Clear of Irritating Ingredients

There are lots of ingredients that can help your skin. At the same time, though, there are also certain skincare ingredients to avoid while breastfeeding. 

safe skincare

The following are some of the most problematic ones to steer clear of, especially during this time:


Petroleum, or crude oil, is a fossil fuel found in many skin products. It and petroleum-based ingredients like mineral oil and paraffin oil, can be irritating to your skin and your baby’s skin [21].

Not everyone experiences a reaction to petroleum, of course, and it’s a popular skincare ingredient for lots of folks. However, some experts recommend avoiding it just to be on the safe side, especially if you’ve experienced skin irritation in the past or currently have damaged or broken skin. As always, consult with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. Each person has a different skin tolerance and needs.


Parabens are preservatives that make skin care products more shelf stable. It’s recommended to avoid them while breastfeeding because they can also cause skin irritation. They’ve been linked in some studies to endocrine disruption and potential hormone imbalances, too [22]. More research is needed for further conclusions. 


Formaldehyde is another preservative that may irritate your skin or your baby’s. It can trigger allergic reactions as well [23].


Retinoids speed up vitamin A production in the body and are commonly used in anti-aging products. Exposure to retinoids can be harmful to babies and may lead to rashes and skin irritation [24].

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens can cause skin irritation and may be linked to endocrine disruption. Examples of chemical sunscreens include oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, octisalate, homosalate [25]. Zinc oxide may be a good alternate when heading outdoors instead. 



Time for Better Skin Care While Breastfeeding

It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with eczema, acne, or any other skin issues related to breastfeeding. These tips can help you look and feel your best while you take care of your little one. 

Keep them in mind and give one (or more) a try, and congrats on your newborn! 




[1] Fox, Maggie. More Moms Are Breastfeeding Their Babies — But Not for Long Enough, Experts Say. NBC News.
[2] Celis ME. Effect of estrogen and progesterone on the release of MSH in gonadectomized rats. Neuroendocrinology. 1977;24(2):119-28. doi: 10.1159/000122703. PMID: 24814. 
[3] Murray, Donna, R.N. Tips for Breastfeeding with Eczema.,considered%20safe%20for%20breastfeeding%20women.
[4] Elsaie M. L. (2016). Hormonal treatment of acne vulgaris: an update. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 9, 241–248.
[5] Zari, S., & Alrahmani, D. (2017). The association between stress and acne among female medical students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 10, 503–506.
[6] National Sleep Foundation. How Sleep Improves Your Skin.,psoriasis%2C%20and%20even%20eczema.%E2%80%9D
[7] Palma, L., Marques, L. T., Bujan, J., & Rodrigues, L. M. (2015). Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 8, 413–421.
[8] Medical News Today. Breast infection: What to Know.
[9] Sharkey, Lauren. How Often Should You Actually Wash Your Face? Healthline.
[10] Taylor MB, Yanaki JS, Draper DO, Shurtz JC, Coglianese M. Successful short-term and long-term treatment of melasma and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation using vitamin C with a full-face iontophoresis mask and a mandelic/malic acid skin care regimen. J Drugs Dermatol. 2013 Jan;12(1):45-50. PMID: 23377327. 
[11] American Academy of Dermatology. How to Control Oily Skin.
[12] Moyer, Nancy, M.D. What’s the Best Way to Use an Emollient? Healthline. 
[13] UC Davis Health. Preventing Another COVID-19 Problem: Skin Irritation from Handwashing.,ingredients%20that%20can%20trigger%20dermatitis
[14] Minnesota School of Cosmetology. How Dehydration Affects Your Hair & Skin.
[15] Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate.
[16] U.S. National Library of Medicine. Electrolytes.
[17] Migala, Jessica. Lactic Acid Is the Gentle AHA Your Skincare Routine Needs, According to a Dermatologist. Prevention.
[18] Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006-. Vitamin E. [Updated 2018 Dec 3]. Available from:
[19] Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006-. Benzoyl Peroxide. [Updated 2018 Oct 31]. Available from:
[20] Ogbru, Omudhome, PharmD. Zinc Oxide Topical.
[21] Watson, Kathryn. What Is Shea Butter? Healthline.
[22] Tam, Christine C.; Elston, Dirk M. Allergic Contact Dermatitis Caused by White Petrolatum on Damaged Skin.
[23] Boberg J, Taxvig C, Christiansen S, Hass U. Possible endocrine disrupting effects of parabens and their metabolites. Reprod Toxicol. 2010 Sep;30(2):301-12. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2010.03.011. Epub 2010 Apr 8. PMID: 20381602. 
[24] Ngan, Vanessa. Formaldehyde Allergy. DermNetNZ.
[25] First Skin Foundation. New Parent Information on Retinoids and Your Child.
[26] Consumer Reports. What You Need to Know About the Chemicals in Your Sunscreen.

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