Calling all mommas to be! Pregnancy can be a glorious time but it also comes with a lot of work and responsibility. While every woman makes sure she follows a healthy diet and lifestyle as part of her prenatal care plan, there is just so many things to think about that many skip one important aspect – pregnancy beauty routine. When you’re exhausted and your hormones are all over the place, it can be hard to check which ingredients are safe and which aren’t from your beauty product labels. To make things easier for you, we reached out an expert to get a scoop of what’s safe and what’s not for moms-to-be. Dr Claudia Calello, Naturopath and Homeopath whose specialty include fertility and pregnancy, shares with us 9 beauty ingredients that every pregnant woman must avoid during her pregnancy.
“During pregnancy, most women pay a great deal of attention to eating healthy foods for their growing baby. But did you know that what you put on your body is just as important as what food you put in your body? The everyday skincare products that you apply topically are absorbed through the skin into your bloodstream. The average woman uses 12 personal care products daily that expose her to hundreds of different chemicals. Some chemicals pass through the placenta directly into your developing baby, while other chemicals are deposited in the fatty tissue of your breasts where they are transferred to your newborn child via breast milk.
Did you know that newborn babies have been found with an average of 200 chemicals in their body at birth, including BPA, Teflon and phthalates among many others? A study published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) confirms this.
You may be surprised to learn that the majority of registered chemicals on the market have never been tested for safety on humans or the environment! The unfortunate truth is that what you buy on the shelves are not necessarily safe for you to use. Your everyday, seemingly innocuous, beauty products contain harmful toxic chemicals with a variety of detrimental effects on the human body. Pregnancy is a particularly important time to watch what products you are using because chemical exposure during foetal development may harm the health of your unborn child and increase the risk of allergies, fertility issues, cancers and other health problems later in their life.
The good news is you have the power to choose safer products and reduce the number of toxic chemicals coming into your body and your growing baby. Below are some of the most important ingredients to avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Found in: Most skincare and personal care products including cosmetics, shampoo, conditioner, hand soap and toothpaste.
One of the most common ingredients, these petroleum-based preservatives are used in many personal care products. They are another type of EDC that may cause hormonal disruption by acting like an oestrogen in the body1. Parabens are particularly linked to breast cancer and are also suspected to cause toxicity to the skin and sense organs (eyes, ears etc).
Solution – Read labels and avoid any product containing methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben or other ingredients ending in –paraben.
Recommended: Toothpaste – Dr. Sharp Fluoride and Paraben Free Toothpaste (non-GMO) and Benecos Organic Toothpaste; Shampoos – Rahua Organic Shampoo, Nine Naturals Pregnancy Safe Shampoo ($20) & conditioner ($20) and Miessence Desert Flower Shampoo (Aussie brand); Hand soap – Avalon Organics Liquid Hand Soap ($8.5) and Jason Natural Hand Soap $9.49) and Vi-Tae® organic soap ($11); and coconut oil for moisturizing and stretch marks
Found in: Sunscreens and any skincare product with SPF
This UV absorber is is another potential EDC that may damage your baby’s developing hormonal system and reproductive tract. Oxybenzone also produces damaging free radicals on your skin when exposed to sunlight, contributing to greater skin damage2.
Solution – Avoid UV absorber sunscreens as they usually contain oxybenzone and other nasty absorbers. Instead use a mineral UV-blocking sunscreen made from non-nanoparticle zinc oxide and natural ingredients such as True Naturals Neutral Unscented Sunscreen SPF 50 ($23.99) and Coola Classic Body Unscented Moisturizer SPF30 ($36).
Nail polish and vinyl nail wraps
Nail polish is a hazardous cocktail of toxic ingredients and is absolutely not safe to use during pregnancy. Some of the toxic ingredients include carcinogenic formaldehyde, hormonal disrupting dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and toluene, a solvent known to affect the developing foetus by increasing the risk of birth defects, low birth weight and behavioral deficits that show as the child grows3. Stay clear of nail polish!
Vinyl nail wraps are often marketed as a ‘safe’ solution, but unfortunately they are also unsafe to use during pregnancy. They are made from PVC (polyvinylchloride), a type of soft plastic that contains phthalates, and therefore may have unfortunate effects on baby’s reproductive system.
Solution – Forego nail treatments during pregnancy, steer clear from gel nails and let your nails shine in their natural glory. However if you love nail polishes, then use vegan and natural 7-free brand Kure Bazaar, considered safe for pregnant women. Use the nail polish remover from the same brand too.
Even hair straightening treatments contain formaldehyde and hence you should absolutely avoid it.
Found in: lipsticks, tinted lip-gloss, cosmetics and hair dye
Everyone knows that lead is bad for our health and is associated with increased risk of cancer, infertility and miscarriage4. Yet this toxic ingredient is found in over 90% of lipsticks, including mainstream brands and shockingly even certified organic ones! Heavy metals like lead are naturally found in the minerals used to make lipstick, so unless they are specifically removed after mining from the ground, the lipstick will still contain lead. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid wearing tinted lipsticks and tinted lip balms because lead exposure during foetal development can impair your child’s IQ levels, causing deficits in behavior, attention and memory5.
Solution – Use non-tinted lip balms made from natural ingredients like nut or seed oils (eg. Jojoba oil, almond oil and shea butter). Avoid hair dye and reduce the amount of cosmetics you use while pregnant as they may also contain lead and other harmful chemicals. Less is best!
Just because you’re expecting doesn’t mean you have to absolutely forego makeup! Fortunately, there are many safer and natural makeup brands that you can use when absolutely essential. We recommend Jane iredale PureMoist Lipstick ($25), Jane Iredale LipDrink Tinted Lip Balm ($15) (not all products of Jane Iredale are vegan), tinted lip balm from Hurraw! (black cherry for $5.93), Aromi lipsticks and vegan makeup pack from Australian brand Ere Perez.
Aluminium antiperspirant deodorants
Found in: Deodorants
Most antiperspirant deodorants are made with aluminium. Aluminium is a heavy metal that alters the function of the barrier around the brain (blood brain barrier) and causes toxicity to the nervous system6. Elevated aluminium levels may be implicated in children with ADD, ADHD and autism spectrum disorder. Aluminium is also suspected to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer10.
The other concern with antiperspirants deodorants is they are designed to stop you from sweating by blocking the sweat glands in the armpit. This reduces your body’s ability to expel toxins through sweat, thereby contributing to toxins storing in in the body.
Look out for aluminium listed as aluminium chlorohydrate or aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrex. Avoid crystal deodorants, as they can be aluminium based too.
Solution: Deodorants (not antiperspirants) will allow your body to perspire if needed, but contain agents to stop the bacteria from breeding (bacteria are the cause of the smell). Be sure to use natural deodorants that are aluminium free and contain only natural, real ingredients.
Recommended: deodorant from Aussie brand Miessence, Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Lavender Deodorant Cream ($18), Vi-Tae® Natural Aluminum Free Deodorant Spray ($18) and Dr. Hauschka Deodorant ($20.5)
Fragrance or Parfum
Found in: All skincare, hair and other personal care products.
‘Fragrance’ or ‘Parfum’ are artificial scents found in perfumes and many personal care products. Fragrances are a trade secret with manufacturers not obliged to declare the ingredients. There are often hundreds of chemicals used to create a single fragrance. There is no way of knowing the full impact of these chemicals on our children or us, as they are undisclosed and unable to be assessed for safety.
The other major problem with fragrances is they often contain phthalates, potent endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that mimic the hormone oestrogen and interfere with our naturally present hormones. Exposure to EDCs during foetal development can increase the risk of birth defects, damage the reproductive system and affect your child’s fertility. In boys they may cause undescended testicles, hypospadias, lowered sperm count and possibly higher testicular cancer risk, and in girls early puberty and a heightened breast cancer risk later in life. EDCs are linked to many other illnesses, including allergies, asthma, behavioural and learning problems including ADHD, hormone-related cancers, obesity and diabetes, among others7.
Solution – Fragrance-free and unscented products are your best bets. Avoid perfume and products containing artificial fragrances such as moisturizers, shampoo, as well as household air-fresheners and stick diffusers. Look for the words fragrance, parfum, perfume or aroma on the label as a guide to artificial fragrances.
Found in: All skincare, hair and other personal care products, especially those labelled ‘natural’.
While essential oils are generally safe and beneficial to health they should be avoided during pregnancy as they can still cross the placenta. Essential oils are high concentrate extracted from plants and are very powerful. It is therefore important to use them in only very small quantity. Generally, we don’t know how much quantity of each oil is safe for use, hence you must consult an aromatherapist or your doctor to find out which essential oils are safe to use in pregnancy. For example, rose and sage oil may cause bleeding in uterus, tea tree oil is very potent and toxic when injested and rosemary oil can raise blood pressure and cause uterine contractions when taken in high dose8. So pregnant women should ban all products containing these oils.
Retinol, Retin A or Tretinoin
Found in: Acne creams, cosmetics, perfumes, hair dyes and more
Retinol is a potent form of synthetic vitamin A. According to a research by EWG, retinol can cause foetal malformations and may also increase the development of skin tumors when applied to the skin and exposed to sunlight. This Vitamin A derivative must be absolutely banned from your beauty kit during pregnancy.
Solution – Read labels and avoid products containing retinol, Retin-A, retinyl palmitate or tretinoin (all-trans retinoic acid).
Found in: Skincare products for acne, breakouts and pigmentation (moisturizers, cleansers and exfoliators).
Salicylic acid can cause pregnancy complications and birth defects in some cases and must be avoided during pregnancy as it can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream even with topical application9. Pregnancy can often be tough on your skin and cause skin problems like acne and breakouts. You may require products to get back the clearer skin, so I recommend swapping salicylic acid with glycolic acid as it is considered safe to use in pregnancy. It is great for combating hyperpigmentation or breakouts that can occur from the hormonal imbalance that occur in pregnancy.
Other ingredients and products to avoid are fake tan, mercury found in skin lightening or anti-ageing cream and the preservative triclosan found in antibacterial soaps and many other products. When buying any skincare or personal make sure to remember these 6 tips!
- Retire all products that contains any of the above ingredients or any other ingredient that is known to have pregnancy-related concern.
- Switch to a complete natural, certified organic, fragrance-free skincare and personal care routine.
- Always read the label. If a full list of ingredients is not provided (only active ingredients), then be suspicious.
- Reduce the amount of products that you use and ensure they contain certified organic, natural, real ingredients that you can recognize. Products with a ingredients list that you do not understand should be avoided. If you can recognize the ingredients, for example jojoba oil, almond oil, aloe vera, then this is most likely to be safe to use.
- Look up unfamiliar ingredients to find out what they are and if they are safe. Some great resources that I highly recommend are:
– “The Chemical Maze” book or app by Bill Statham & Lindy Schneider
– EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database www.ewg.org/skindeep
– Campaign for safe cosmetics www.safecosmetics.org
– “Healthy Home Healthy Family” website and book by Nicole Bijlsma www.buildingbiology.com.au/
- Know you are using safe products to keep your growing baby healthy and give them the best start in life.”
Claudia Calello is a Naturopath, Homeopath, Trained Teacher in Natural Fertility Education and the owner of Mind Body Health Clinic. She specialises in fertility, pregnancy, nutrition and children’s health and wellbeing.
[Source: 1 www.safecosmetics.org; 2 http://chemicalmaze.com; 3 www.ewg.org/skindeep; 4 www.intertox.sav.sk; 5 http://ec.europa.eu; 6 http://chemicalmaze.com; 7 http://www.who.int; 8 http://www.babycentre.co.uk; 9 http://www.livestrong.com; 10 hal.archives-ouvertes.fr]
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