Whether you apply barely a stitch or regularly go full-on Euphoria, our makeup choices tend to dovetail with our identity. (We all know that one woman for whom a red lip is nonnegotiable — an almost inherent feature.) The colors we choose and the ways we wear them reflect our tastes and proclivities; they allow us to reveal ourselves, most authentically, to the world.
During pregnancy, though, worries often arise about what’s in our cosmetics. For maybe the first time ever, the tiny type on our compacts and tubes stops us. We’re stymied by the curious minerals, waxes, and dyes that make our favorite amalgams so blendable and richly pigmented. Is all that (very) fine print really OK? Generally speaking, however, “makeup is safe during pregnancy and you do not need to change or quit your products,” says New York City dermatologist Dr. Anna Karp. “Makeup is not meant to be absorbed, so there is little risk.” One caveat, she notes, is that certain anti-aging foundations include retinol, which you’ll need to avoid, so do check those ingredient lists.
Rest assured, our winners are all thoughtfully formulated with ingredients to offer peace of mind when wearing them during pregnancy — and after. Because makeup can also play an important role in the postpartum period. Carving out a moment to tap on some concealer, paint our nails or cheeks, or rediscover our lashes can be restorative, normalizing even, bringing us back to ourselves.
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Mimicking that sometimes-elusive pregnancy glow, this oil-free, liquid formula starts off semi-sheer — delivering more of a medium coverage as you layer it on — and leaves skin with a fresh, natural-looking finish and subtle glint. Celebrity hairdresser Sunnie Brook Jones loved how, during pregnancy, she could wear a light layer or “build it up when my melasma and dark under-eye circles were coming in strong.” Despite its exceptionally lightweight feel, she adds, “it blurs imperfections and helped even out my skin texture.” Luminous Silk is available in 40 shades and caters to a range of undertones, offering something for everyone.
Contains parabens, parfum, PEG*
Best CC Cream
CC (or “color correcting”) cream is generally a bit lighter than foundation, but works to refine the complexion. With a built-in mineral SPF and full coverage, this one is made for hot days when thick foundation feels oppressive. Infused with peptides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid, it’s a bit like the lovechild of a foundation and a serum. Beauty expert and Romper contributor Carly Cardellino wore this every single day of her pregnancy. “I loved the added SPF protection (over my regular sunscreen) and the way it evened out my skin.”
Best Tinted Moisturizer
When skin craves hydration but needs a bit of coverage, a tinted serum is the move. Two of the all-star ingredients in this formula are sodium hyaluronate, which plumps and helps to smooth skin, and deeply hydrating squalane. It’s also spiked with hyaluronic acid, which can famously hold up to a thousand times its weight in water (aka it’s a champ at moisturizing dry skin). “Not only is the formulation hyper-clean, it also offers phenomenal coverage that leaves your skin with a candlelit glow and skin-like finish,” says Alex Taylor, co-founder of Perelel. “I started using it while pregnant and it's since become a staple in my makeup bag.”
If you’re waking every hour to pee during pregnancy, dark circles may be a little more prominent than usual, but this buildable concealer — made with mineral pigments — blends seamlessly and delivers a brightening effect, to boot. Two different waxes keep it flexible, so it won’t crease or cake as the day wears on. Cocoa butter plus jojoba and avocado oils add a hint of hydrating dewiness to each of the 12 shades. “The balmy texture never feels like it’s drying out my skin — my skin is more dry than oily, as it is — and it’s easy to apply with my fingertips. Sometimes I’ll blend it with my face lotion/cream to DIY a foundation that’s the same tone as the concealer,” says Anne Vorrasi, senior lifestyle editor with Romper.
It can be hard to find a clean mascara that functions as well as its more traditional counterparts, but Ilia manages to be a triple threat: It lengthens, separates, and holds a curl, all while being free of parabens, formaldehydes, and phthalates. Celebrity makeup artist Janice Kinjo lauds this mascara for its clean formula and dual-sided brush, with short spikes on one side and longer, thinner bristles on the other, which she says, “helps to comb out clumps and coat the lashes naturally.”
Small but mighty, these tiny tubes of cream blush — in eight dewy shades — are a quick and easy way to brighten up the whole face. “For someone who barely wears makeup, a little blush can feel really transformative” says Vorrasi. Truly, she adds, “if I could only put one beauty product on my face, it would be blush.” She especially loves Cloud Paint’s lotion-like texture, noting, “I can pat it on with my fingertips, which means I don't need a separate tool.” The finish looks like skin — the product doesn’t settle into fine lines or accentuate texture or pores the way many powder formulas can.
Kosas broke the Internet when it launched its 10-Second Eye Gel Watercolor Eyeshadow, and for good reason — the brand turned the concept of eye shadow on its head with a watery gel-fluid that applied sheer, blended beautifully, and dried down to a soft, velvety finish. The soft, diffused shadow brightens eyes with a touch of gleam, while the doe-foot applicator makes it easy enough for even the most inexperienced beauty novice to apply. Kinjo counts it as a kit essential — versatile enough to take her from hurried mornings to red carpet events.
A swipe of bold lipstick is one of the quickest ways to look chic and pulled together. Several of our panelists nominated this specific formula — and beauty editor Janell M. Hickman-Kirby calls the shade Amour Fou her “go-to red lip for any occasion.” She says it stays put without drying out the lips. “I always, always get compliments when I wear this shade,” she adds. The doe-foot applicator makes this vegan and cruelty-free formula easy to apply, and it’s comfortable but designed to last, so you can still sip a drink or kiss your baby without worrying about touch-ups.
This vegan eyeliner (no talc, parabens, phthalates, or mineral oil) is made with charcoal powder for an intense deep-black color. And thanks to its ultra-pointy, precision tip, the liquid formula “can draw very fine lines,” says Kinjo, allowing us to tightline with ease and create cat-eyes with a flick of the wrist.
Best Brow Product
Give a nod to the fluffy, full brows of the ’80s with this everyday product that adds a bit of volume, color, and depth to eyebrows while keeping hairs in line. “I only get my brows done once a quarter, so this keeps them looking full and neat in between visits,” says Hickman-Kirby. Available in three shades (blond to black/brown), the formula includes conditioning vitamin B5, ensuring brows stay soft, plus kaolin clay and mineral pigments for natural-looking color.
Made using bamboo silica and other clean ingredients, this setting powder works like an IRL filter, obscuring pores while absorbing excess oil. Kinjo says it’s ideal for suppressing shine on hot days when you won’t have time to retouch your makeup. With shades ranging from translucent to tan — and created from cocoa- and fruit-derived pigments — the powders can double as contour colors or even bronzers, depending on the hue you choose.
A lot of products claim to be multitaskers, but this sheer, easy-to-build highlighter really can do it all. Vorrasi likes to lightly pat it under her brows, high on her cheekbones, and on the outer corners of her eyes. “For special occasions that call for more than everyday makeup, I’ll use it as an eyeshadow primer or pat a little bit over a matte lipstick,” she says. Kinjo loves it for its high-quality ingredients. Not only does it impart a dewy sheen, but it’s actually hydrating thanks to coconut oil, vitamin E, and castor seed oil.
Best Lip Liner
This chunky crayon can be used to line lips or scribble them in with color. While the company describes its finish as a velvety demi-matte — somewhere between super matte and high gloss — Kinjo says, in her experience, the crayon reads more matte, which she likes. But don’t get it twisted: Matte doesn’t mean dry. The formula moisturizes lips with jojoba seed oil, muru muru, and shea butters; glides on easily and wears comfortably; and like all things Honest, it’s vetted by a toxicologist to ensure all ingredients are safe. The shade range is equally thoughtful, with colors spanning from muted petal pink to bold reds and deep mulberry.
Best Lip Gloss
Like a leave-on conditioner for lips, this oil-to-gloss treatment softens without a hint of stickiness (because no one wants to relive the ’90s lip gloss era, when the slightest breeze would plaster your freshly ironed hair to your lips). Hickman-Kirby goes as far as to call this product the best beauty launch of 2021. “When I want to look casual but cute I am reaching for this gloss — it’s a universally flattering, peachy hue that isn’t greasy or tacky. Everyone should own a tube,” she says.
It can be surprisingly hard to find a balanced bronzer — one that isn’t so shimmery that it veers into glitter territory but isn’t so matte that it looks drab and flat. This plant-based bronzer — with hydrating olive-derived squalane and oil-absorbing mica and cornstarch — strikes the perfect glowy note. Available in three shades, it instantly warms up the face and is great for days when you only have time to apply a product or two.
“This has been my go-to bronzer for years. I love that it’s not too warm or too cool, and despite my skin changing so much during pregnancy, it still gave me the perfect glow,” says Tina Kolokathis, executive editor with Elite Daily.
Consider primer the shapewear of makeup — a base layer that helps everything that comes next look smooth and even. This lightweight liquid is made with silk extracts that help to blur the appearance of pores and fine lines while also acting as a barrier against pollutants. Taylor says she spent hours searching for a baby-safe primer to help her makeup withstand the heat and humidity during the summer she was pregnant. “I eventually landed on Tatcha and have been using it ever since. It's super lightweight but performs beautifully —plus, it never triggers a breakout and I trust their clean formulations,” she says.
Contains phthalate-free parfum*
Best Nail Polish
While most reputable polish brands have by now banned the potentially harmful chemicals once associated with lacquer — stuff like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) — pregnancy certainly isn’t the time to mess around with questionable cosmetics. “The chemicals in nail products freaked me out, since I’ve seen some carry warnings that they might cause birth defects,” says Parizaad Khan Sethi, beauty editor, journalist, and former beauty director of Vogue India. When she was expecting, she bought a top coat, base coat, a bunch of shades from Zoya — a brand known for natural nail formulas — and brought them with her to every appointment. The long-wearing paints cover the spectrum — from creams to foil finishes, a range of opacities, and almost every color under the sun.
*For a full explanation of any ingredients we've noted, click here.
Photographer: Graydon Herriott
Art Director: Shanelle Infante
Set Stylist: Amy Elise Wilson