Q: Is it safe during pregnancy to use an over-the-counter retinol lotion?

A: Yes. Though doctors advise against using a prescription retinoid when you're pregnant, a less potent over-the-counter retinol lotion (like Neutrogena Dermatologics Retinol NX Serum, $65; QVC.com) is considered safe. (Retinol, like such prescription retinoids as Retin-A and Tazorac, helps brighten and smooth the skin and, over time, can encourage collagen growth.) But the skincare ingredient you need most is actually sunscreen, which helps prevent the formation of dark spots that can result from a pregnancy-related increase of a melanin-stimulating hormone, says Mary Lupo, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane Medical School in New Orleans.

Keep in mind: If your skin becomes sensitive, apply an emollient lotion (like CeraVe, $13; Drugstore.com) under the retinol lotion every other night.

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