I never really put much thought into what I applied to my skin until I was pregnant with my son. Then all of a sudden, I actually had a reason to be concerned, not because I wanted to look after myself at the time but mainly because I wanted to do anything I could to keep this little person growing inside of me from harm.
Now that I am pregnant again, I have become more interested in certain products and how they can be absorbed into the bloodstream, and with the skin being the largest organ of the human body I think it is pretty important that we pay close attention to what we are putting on it, particularly when pregnant.
If you are also pregnant please be aware that my intentions are not to try and instil paranoia into your already anxious, pregnant mind but just to inform you of some of the facts so that you can then make a more educated decision when it comes to beauty and skin care when pregnant.
I’m not trying to encourage everyone to start throwing away all their beauty products and start rubbing a crystal under their armpits for deodorant, but personally I have found that just familiarising myself with a few nasty ingredients and being able to make better choices for my skin and the health of my unborn child makes me feel a little more at ease.
After researching I have found that there isn’t really a set guideline that determines what percentage of a particular product is absorbed into the bloodstream because every chemical has a different absorption rate and to make that even more confusing, some chemicals react to the body and make other chemical compounds more or less absorbable. However, It is important to know that If the products you are using contain harmful ingredients such as toxic chemicals, colours, and fragrances, there is a risk that some of those ingredients can then make their way into your body, your blood stream and lymphatic system.
I always read labels, if there is anything I can’t pronounce, normally i’ll look it up, chances are it may not be the best option! Trying to choose natural and certified skin care products can help eliminate some of those nasties.
See below for details of chemicals found in cosmetics & products, as well as cosmetic procedures and treatments to avoid while pregnant. There are also some natural, essential oils that are not recommended when pregnant, I have also included a list of these to avoid.
SKIN LIGHTENING/BRIGHTENING PRODUCTS
During my first pregnancy I had a terrible “Pregnancy Mask”, dark pigmentation on my face that seemed to be mirrored exactly on each side. It did lighten after I gave birth to my son however it still lingered even throughout the months afterwards while I was breastfeeding. This is simply a hormonal skin condition that is triggered by the melanin in the skin. There are products available on the market to help lighten them however I am yet to find one that actually works and is safe to use in pregnancy. Skin lighteners often contain a chemical called hydroquinone which is a hormone disruptor and is also linked to cancer and organ toxicity, so definitely NOT suitable when pregnant.
Most Spray tan formulas contain an ingredient called DHA (dihydroxyacetone) that is considered “safe” in the unregulated beauty industry, BUT for external use only!
Inhaling this chemical throughout the spraying process, can be potentially dangerous to your unborn child and some studies have shown that DHA is mutagenic and can result in primary DNA damage. The actual effects that spray tans will have on your unborn baby are unknown however it is best to look try to stick with fake tans that you can apply by rubbing, not spraying. If you do want to use a spray, make sure the room is well aired. Also protect your eyes and lips with barrier cream or petroleum jelly. Be mindful that fake tans can occasionally cause allergic reactions and although you may not have had a reaction to fake tan before, your skin can become more sensitive when pregnant due to hormone level changes. Do a small patch test first to see if you are allergic to the ingredients, even if you used the product before you became pregnant.
It's fine to use nail polish and nail polish remover every now and then during pregnancy. However, it's worth knowing that chemicals in nail polish can be harmful if you’re regularly exposed to them. The two most common chemicals are formaldehyde and toluene.
Formaldehyde is used as a hardener in nail polish. Breathing in formaldehyde can irritate your nose, eyes, throat and lungs. There is a known cancer risk if you're exposed to high levels of formaldehyde over long periods. Although it may not be good for you to be exposed to formaldehyde too often, your unborn baby is unlikely to be affected. That's because formaldehyde is rapidly broken down in your body.
Toluene is used to help nail polish glide on more smoothly. Like formaldehyde, breathing in toluene can irritate your eyes, throat and lungs. There’s also a risk that exposure to toluene at high levels can damage the nervous system and cause birth defects in an unborn baby. But you'd need to be regularly, directly inhaling toluene fumes for this to be a risk.
If you are wanting to steer clear of these, there are some nail polishes on the market that do not contain these ingredients so make sure you do your research.
Most fragrances contain called phthalates that make the scent stick to the skin as well as preserve the fragrance, some animal research suggests that exposure to certain phthalates may disrupt the development of reproductive organs in an unborn baby - but it’s hard to know for sure which fragrances have them and at what levels, since manufacturers aren’t required to list the chemical compounds on their packages .The bottom line is that there’s no conclusive data on the safety of phthalates, one way or the other but If you are concerned about phthalates, you could use some pure essential oil that has been diluted down with a carrier oil and potentially limit other fragranced products, such as lotions and deodorants and look for phthalate-free beauty products.
Some research suggests that aluminum-containing underarm antiperspirants, which are applied frequently and left on the skin near the breast, may be absorbed by the skin. Some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer, however studies are inconclusive, it is also unknown the effects that this would have on the fetus.
But if you are wanting to avoid the risk factor, opt for aluminium free deodorants. Also be aware that loads of deodorants contain parabens, synthetic fragrances, other ingredients to try and avoid are PEG 20, propylene glycol, triclosan and sodium benzoate. There are lots of natural deodorants on the market, I have found that most health food stores have a great product range of natural skin care and beauty products.
RETINOIDS & SALICYLIC ACID
Both of these compounds used for exfoliation, anti-ageing and acne treatments, are considered unsafe during pregnancy. Salicylic acid & Retenoids have been shown to cause birth defects, pregnancy complications and even linked to miscarriage. Keep an eye out as they may also be listed under the following names: beta hydroxy acids or BHA, which are all salicylic acid. Retinoids are commonly listed as: retinol, tretinoin, retinoic acid, retin-A, isotretinoin and alitretinoin.
Parabens (methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl) are used as a preservative, and are found in a variety of self-care products including: shampoo, facial cleansers, body washes, lotions, foundations, etc.
Parabens act like the female hormone oestrogen in our bodies. There are some concerns that this may affect our health. In particular, high levels of oestrogen can increase the risk of certain types of cancer which has led to calls for further research. However, the oestrogen-mimicking effect of parabens is between 1,000 and a million times weaker than natural oestrogen. Therefore their impact on our bodies is thought to be low. But, if you are wanting to opt for paraben-free products , thankfully there are loads on the market now,
Some sunscreens that contain Oxybenzone, sometimes listed as benzophenone. This chemical is linked to developmental toxicity and hormonal disruptions, but the amount that is absorbed into the blood stream is unknown. Obviously being sun smart is extremely important, especially here in Australia, so definitely DO NOT ditch the sunscreen all together but if you can look for mineral based sunscreens such as zinc oxide, also wear a hat, this will also lessen that dreaded pigmentation I mentioned.
Hair dye contains a cocktail of carcinogenic ingredients however it is unknown what amount of the chemicals would actually be absorbed into the bloodstream. Still it’s important to know that the chemicals found in hair dyes such as Arylamines are a family of chemicals that pose a risk factor for bladder cancer and have been found to cause cancer in experimental animals. PPD (p-phenylenediamine), a chemical from this family, is even listed on non-permanent “natural” hair dye products. High exposure to PPD has been linked to reproductive/developmental toxicity and cancer.
What Precautions Should I Take When Chemically Treating My Hair?
- Consider waiting until the second trimester to treat your hair.
- Make sure the treatment is done in a well-ventilated area.
- Do not leave the chemicals on your hair any longer than indicated by the directions.
- Rinse your scalp thoroughly with water after treatment.
- Wear gloves when applying treatment.
- Carefully follow the directions on the package.
- Do a patch test for allergic reactions before completing the process.
- Never dye or bleach eyebrows or eyelashes. This could cause swelling or increase risk of infection in the eye area.
ESSENTIAL OILS WHEN PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING
It is recommended to check with a doctor or midwife before taking essential oils during pregnancy or while breastfeeding
Essential oils can affect hormones, gut bacteria and other aspects of health and extreme care should be used when taking them while pregnant or breastfeeding .There is evidence that essential oils can cross the placenta and get to the baby so it is important that we do our research to establish which ones are unsafe to use.
It is NOT recommended to orally take essential oils while pregnant or breastfeeding, however it is still safe to enjoy aromatherapy using certain oils and very diluted use of approved essential oils in skin care recipes and baths. It is recommended to do a patch test on your skin with a diluted oil before using it during pregnancy. Dilute an essential oil by mixing the drop with at least a teaspoon (5ml) of a base oil before you add it to a bath or smooth it over your skin. Grapeseed oil, coconut oil or sweet almond oil work well as base oils.
OILS THAT ARE NOT SAFE DURING PREGNANCY;
· Black pepper
· Clary Sage (often used during labor by midwives safely)
· horseradish (should not be used by anyone),
· Mugwart (should not be used by anyone)
· Peppermint essential oil (may decrease milk supply while breastfeeding, avoid using topically while nursing
SKIN TREATMENTS/ PROCEDURES WHEN PREGNANT
Always obtain clearance from your obstetrician/doctor prior to having any skin/beauty treatment.
BOTOX & DERMAL FILLERS
There have been animal studies using botox that show an association with fetal abnormalities however no medical studies using botox or fillers have been done on expecting mothers, most likely due to the lack of women who would be willing to potentially put their unborn child at risk. Therefor there is no way to determine it’s safety, it is advised to wait until your child is born and you have finished breastfeeding.
Microdermabrasion is considered safe to have during pregnancy. However due to hormonal changes this can cause the skin to be more sensitive and the provider may recommend a more gentle headpiece to help buff and polish away the dead skin particles. Make sure you mention that you are pregnant so they can tailor the treatment to you and also ensure that the products that are used to prep the skin beforehand and after the treatment are safe to use in pregnancy. I have actually been having these treatments at Laser Clinics Australia since being pregnant and am noticing a great result so far.
LASER HAIR REMOVAL
There are no studies that evaluate the safety of laser hair removal during pregnancy. It is recommended to avoid laser hair removal while pregnant due to the lack of information about the effect on the fetus.
SOME OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS….
1. Sukin- Sunless Bronzing Gel
2. Lavanila- Natural Deodorant
3. Thankyou – Body Wash
4. Sukin-Hydrating Facial Mask
5. Hourglass-Veil,fluid Makeup
6. Josie Maran-Argan Cleansing Oil
7. Hourglass- Illume Sheer Colour Trio in Sunset
8. Josie Maran- Vibrancy Oil Foundation
9. Invisible Zinc- Tinted Daywear
10. Bare Minerals- Lip Gloss
11. Josie Maran- Surreal Argan Finishing Balm
12. Sukin- Organic Rosehip Oil- (Best treatment for the prevention and lightening of stretch marks)
13. Organic Coconut Oil- (I use this for moisturising my skin, hair and scalp treatments)