Beauty Products to Avoid While Pregnant


CC Image courtesy of Frank de Kleine via Flickr.

If you’re expecting a baby, chances are good that you’re being careful about what you eat, how much exercise you get, and how much you’re sleeping. But what about the beauty products you use every morning? It’s a good idea to be aware of them too, so that you can avoid the harmful chemicals found in these items. Organic salon products are always the safest bet, if you want to be careful. So whether you’re pregnant now, thinking about becoming pregnant, or just want to live a healthier life, here are some of the top ingredients to avoid.

Problem Ingredient #1: Retinoids

This item is at the top because it’s a highly concerning ingredient. It can be found in prescription treatments for acne and psoriasis, since it unblocks the pores of oil glands. Some research suggests it can reverse sun damage, treat certain types of cancer, and reduce wrinkles. But here’s the red flag: use of retinoids have been linked to birth defects and even miscarriages. Before using one, be sure to check with your doctor or OB/GYN. You can also ask about using a topical retinoid while pregnant, since those typically don’t pose the same level of risk.

Problem Ingredient #2: Phthalates

These are found in a variety of beauty products, including anti-aging products, some fragrances, lipstick, and cuticle/nail treatments. Exposure might be linked to developmental and reproductive problems, sometimes serious ones, which have raised the concerns of doctors and women across the country. The brand Urban Decay completely discontinued its use of phthalates in nail polishes to be safe. Of course, we recommend one of our organic salon products as the best option. If you aren’t sure what the risks are, just buy fragrance-free products (many fragrance ingredients are protected under trade secret laws, meaning you might not actually know what’s in the bottle).

Problem Ingredient #3: Toluene

This is an industrial solvent, meaning a liquid that can dissolve chemical substances. Whether you’re pregnant or not, this sounds like a terrible liquid to put on! Toluene is used in many brands of nail polish to allow the polish to go on smoothly and stick to the nail. However, there’s a high risk for developmental and reproductive toxicity, including brain and cell damage. When the fumes are inhaled, the risk factors sky rocket.

Problem Ingredient #4: P-phenylenediamine

We have this unpronounceable word to thank for the initial scare about dyeing your hair while pregnant. In fact, this ingredient is found in hairspray, shampoo, and conditioner, as well as a variety of hair coloring and bleaching products. High exposure has been linked to developmental problems, reproductive toxicity, and cancer. Researchers also suspect it can cause damage to the nervous system. The good news is that there are healthy, organic substitutes: Burt’s Bees, Farmhouse Fresh, Jane Iredale, and more.

Problem Ingredient #5: Parabens

Parabens are widely used in the beauty product industry because they’re preservative that protect items from bacterial growth. This is an important consideration when buying makeup, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, anti-aging products, and toners. But thankfully, you can live without parabens and not have to sacrifice the quality products you love. Choosing an organic salon product will eliminate the risk. Research indicates that parabens might interrupt the body’s hormone systems, which are pivotal for healthy fetal development. The European Union has banned methylparaben, for example, because it was deemed unsafe.

Other Potential Problem Ingredients

It may not be possible to know all the harmful chemicals and ingredients in traditional beauty products. Research and testing continue and will continue as long as there are new products hitting the market. In the meantime, there are a couple ingredients that aren’t as harmful but still pose some risk: selenium, lead acetate, and methylisothiazolinone (MIT). It’s best to steer clear of these ingredients until research has some conclusive answers about whether they are truly harmful. If you’re ever in doubt, feel free to consult your local esthetician or go to the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. Developed by the Environmental Working Group, this site has the truth about more than 72,000 beauty products.

The Solution …

Of course, the best solution for the immediate questions is to talk with your doctor. He or she will know what to avoid, and whether you are at a particular risk. Start by making a list of the beauty products you use regularly and think you will use during the pregnancy. Your doctor should check over this list to make sure it’s okay and cross out any potentially harmful products. If in doubt, avoid the product during your first trimester, when the baby is the most vulnerable.

The point is not to build a large amount of fear into your pregnancy. Far from it – this should be a joyful time! With a little bit of caution and medical advice, you can enjoy being beautiful while keeping you and your baby safe.

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