One of my pregnant friends asked me, what she should avoid during pregnancy in term of skincare and makeup. So I did a little digging. Here is a summary of everything I read.
I will provide links if anyone needs to read further about any of the compounds given below.
High risk (Scientifically proven to affect):
- Retinoids/Accutane – A commonly used substance in acne treatments and anti-aging products. Scientifically proven to cause birth defects. A list of different forms of retinoids to avoid is given here.
- Formaldehyde, Toluene – Known carcinogens. Commonly found in nail polish, especially in Gel manicures. Opt for nail polishes that are free of formaldehyde, Toluene (not just pregnant women but everyone should consider avoiding these).
- Aluminium – Found in antiperspirant deodorants. FDA recognise this as a chemical to be avoided by expectant mothers. Instead, opt for natural deodorants or aluminium free ones like Ethique solid blocks.
- Botox – This is something that has not been tested on humans, but because of how Botox works, it is recommended to avoid during pregnancy. The chemical in Botox – Botulinum toxin- apparently paralyses the muscles around wrinkles so that they become less visible. It is the most acutely lethal toxin known (OMG!) which can spread around when injected to one place. Sounds scary to have around when a person is growing inside you.
Medium to low risk (Little or no conclusive evidence for adverse effects but good to avoid):
- Benzoyl peroxide, Salicylic acid – Used to treat acne. Found in skin care products likes facewash and also in some acne-treating makeup. Using these in moderation with doctors advice is okay. Using facewash with these compounds is comparatively safer than wearing makeup that includes these as ingredients. However, it is recommended to avoid both as much as possible.
- Phthalates – This is found in Haircare (shampoo), skincare (handwash), nail polish and even hair spray. Effect of Phthalates are not tested on humans, but animals show adverse birth effects. Therefore it is recommended to avoid. Check for products that clearly state Phthalate free.
- Ammonia – Found in hair dye. Not tested to check the effects but it is recommended to avoid hair colouring if possible due to minor absorption of chemicals via the scalp. However, if the colour does not go near the scalp (e.g. highlights to hair ends), it is okay use in moderation. Always ensure proper ventilation during application to avoid inhaling any chemicals. (Personal advice: Please stay clear of hair dyes until your baby is born)
- Lead – This is found in lipsticks. However, there are no clinical trials to prove that lead in lipstick causes adverse effects. But because cases of lead poisoning have been reported, it is good to stay away from makeup items that have the ingredient in them.
- Hydroxy acids (AHA, BHA) – Found in a number of cleansers, toners and exfoliants. Salicylic acid is a commonly used BHA (look for risk factors in salicylic acid above). Glycolic acid and lactic acid are common AHAs. Due to lack of conclusive evidence, these AHAs used in small amounts may be okay. But professionals advice to minimise the use as much as possible and obtain doctor’s recommendation before using.
- Essential oils – Knowledge around how essential oils affect humans, in general, is limited. A common opinion by medical professionals is that due to the concentration levels, essential oils can be harmful even for non-pregnant people. Two essentials oils to stay clear from, that has known adverse effects during pregnancy, are tea tree oil and rosemary oil.
- Always opt for products, both skin care and makeup, that are labelled ‘3-free‘ (Phthalate, Formaldehyde and Toluene) or ‘5-free‘ (3-free + formaldehyde resin, and camphor).
- Use Mineral makeup if possible – mineral makeup sits on the skin and do not get absorbed.
- Makeup that is ‘noncomedogenic’ or ‘nonacnegenic’, which do not clog pores, are comparatively safer to use.
- Avoid hair removal creams – Wax or shave instead.
- Always wear sunscreen when out in the sun in addition to wearing sunglasses and hats. Always use physical sunscreen with Titanium Dioxide or Zinc oxide – These too sit on the skin and provide lasting protection.
- Finally, ALWAYS ask your OB/GYN or the medical officer, before taking any antibiotic, pharmaceutical-grade skin care or any drug for that matter.
See you in my next!