If you're about to be a mom, you may be wondering what you can safely slather on so baby doesn't get harmed. With all of these lotions and potions on the market and their unreadable ingredient lists teeming with toxic chemicals, finding the right products and herbs for pregnancy-safe skin care might be a bit overwhelming.
keeping baby (and mom) safe
All mamas-to-be deserve love and pampering without any harmful substances sneaking their way into their baby boo! Just when you think you have to omit any or all beauty products from your daily ritual, we’re here to tell you what is safe (and what to avoid, of course) during pregnancy and nursing.
Choosing pregnancy safe skin care will put your mind at ease and keep you looking your best while your tot-to-be grows.
Let’s start with what to avoid:
ingredients to avoid during pregnancy
1. Nail Care
We all want pretty nails, but why not rock them naked? Our nail beds are alive and permeable allowing nasty chemicals like dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, and toluene in nail polishes to pass through into our bodies.
Even “natural” nail polishes contain ingredients that are inadequately tested. Let’s try to avoid these not-so-pretty paints and their toxic fumes, which are known to cause reproductive harm.
2. Spray Tanning
Sunless tanning is the epitome of an oxymoron. I mean, why would we want to spray on fake liquid sunshine? These spray-on tan formulas contain an ingredient called DHA (dihydroxyacetone) that is considered “safe” in the unregulated beauty industry for external use.
Inhaling this chemical through the spraying process, however, can cause potential harm. One study shows that DHA is mutagenic, causing primary DNA damage. Let’s choose the safer alternative and sunbathe 15 minutes a day, with proper sun protection, and receive the wonderful benefits of vitamin D essential for your baby’s bones.
Choose D over DHA!
3. Skin Lighteners
Often times the “Pregnancy Mask” appears in the form of dark pigmented patches on the face. These color changes are triggered by hormones that increase the production of melanin in the skin.
This temporary mask may annoy you, but avoid chemical skin lighteners at all costs! Skin lighteners often contain a chemical called hydroquinone, which is a hormone disruptor and is also linked to cancer and organ toxicity.
4. Chemical Fragrances
Artificial fragrances (fakegrances!) contain a whirlpool of plasticizing chemicals called phthalates that are added to perfumes to make them stick to the skin. Say “no” to these chemicals that may cause birth defects and disrupt the endocrine system.
Instead, use a drop or two of pure, therapeutic grade essential oils diluted in a carrier oil of your choice. We’ll tap into which essential oils are considered safe later on. Ah, aromatherapy!
5. Hair Dye
Hair dye contains a cocktail of carcinogenic ingredients. These dyes sit on the scalp for a moderate length of time—enough to absorb through our skin. Arylamines are a family of chemicals that are common in hair dyes. They 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. Don’t be fooled, ditch the dye!
Another no-no for the embryo. Parabens (methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl) are found in a variety of self-care products including: shampoo, facial cleansers, body washes, lotions, foundations, etc. They are endocrine (hormone) disruptors, mimicking estrogen in our bodies.
We like to refer to them as ParaBANS, because they should be banned in the U.S. like they are in other countries, including all of the E.U. (Europe is always 10 steps ahead in cosmetic safety!) Make sure to read labels thoroughly before coating your skin with this harmful ingredient.
7. Chemical Sunscreen
Oxybenzone is the culprit here, often hidden under its alias: benzophenone. This chemical is found in conventional and even “natural” sunscreens. It is linked to developmental toxicity and hormonal disruptions with high exposure. Since sun protection is encouraged every day, make sure to look into mineral based sunscreens like zinc oxide.
8. Salicylic Acid and Retinoids
Both of these compounds, generally used for exfoliation, anti aging, and acne treatments, are considered unsafe for pregnancy. Salicylic used in high doses have been shown to cause birth defects and pregnancy complications.
Same goes for retinoids, as they have been linked directly to miscarriages and birth defects. Look for and avoid other names such as beta hydroxy acids or BHA, which are all salicylic acid. Retinoids are commonly listed as: retinol, tretinoin (retinoic acid, retin-A), isotretinoin, and alitretinoin.
Safe Beauty Rituals for Pregnancy
Now that we’ve covered the don'ts, let’s highlight the dos. All of these tips are not only safe, but highly encouraged throughout your pregnancy to make sure that you and your little one are getting all the primp and pamper you deserve!
For Reducing the Appearance of Stretch Marks:
As your belly bump and breasts grow, stretch marks are likely to form. To help reduce the appearance of these marks, stay hydrated, eat a nutrient-rich diet, incorporate dry brushing, and keep your skin moisturized throughout the day, preventing these nuisances from leaving their mark.
We love recommending our Radiant Skin Silk Body Lotion, a silky rich blend of deeply moisturizing oils. We also love our Coconut Body Oil, best slathered on right after the shower, when your skin is still damp. The healthy saturated fats in coconut oil help.
For Oily Skin:
When it comes to pregnancy, every woman’s skin reacts differently. You may get that pregnancy glow or you may develop more oily skin. Not to fear, Annmarie Skin Care is here!
For oily skin types, our line contains active, supportive, and balanced formulas. Our Citrus Mint Facial Cleanser is an excellent first step to removing oils and impurities on the skin. Next, our Rosemary Toning Mist offers a refreshing and medicinal spritz for the face. Rosemary is naturally purifying and cleansing.
For a moisturizer, we recommend topping this skin care routine off with our Herbal Facial Oil for Oily Skin. This targeted facial oil contains cleansing herbs to help control oily skin and prevents pores from clogging.
Essential oils are somewhat of a controversial subject. Most essential oils are generally safe to use while pregnant. They are not recommended for use undiluted directly on the skin, however. They are very powerful plant extracts, so we suggest speaking to your midwife or health care professional if you are unsure about essential oils.
Pregnancy safe skin care options:
There are several pregnancy-safe options, including: lavender, neroli, eucalyptus, sandalwood, patchouli, geranium, frankincense, bergamot, tea tree oil (not in labor), and spearmint.
Those that are not considered safe are those that are emmenagogues (menstruation promoters), including: cedarwood, chamomile, clary sage, ginger, jasmine, juniper, marjoram, myrrh, peppermint, rose, and cinnamon.
Essential oils are wonderful diluted in a nice, warm bath. Doesn’t that sound heavenly?
Are Annmarie Skin Care Products Safe During Pregnancy?
Yes, our products are safe to use during pregnancy.
Common questions we’ve received from our customers are either regarding the white willow bark in our Herbal Facial Oil for Oily Skin or the use of essential oils throughout.
Willow bark and salicylic acid
Willow bark is a natural source of salicylic acid. We use willow bark as one of the herbs included in the herb/oil infusion, but our infusions are kept at such low temperatures that it would require a temperature above 95 degrees fahrenheit to extract the active components of salicylic acid to release into the oil infusion.
Even if there were actives released into the oil, it would still be a minute amount given the actual amount of herb that is in the overall oil for diffusion. (These are very large batches!)
As for essential oils, some herbalists usually recommend pregnant women stay away from pure essential oils (on their own), but it's a different story when they're blended because you're not inhaling that particular “harmful” oil directly, nor are you putting a significant amount on your skin.
Also, to help set your mind at ease, many of the toxicological studies done on herbs are looking for a toxic ceiling—not the minute amount we have in our products.
We hope this pregnancy-safe guide helps you make honest choices for you and your baby! Always do your research and look into ingredient lists to make sure you are avoiding any unsafe chemicals. There are many greenwashed beauty products out there that are misleading. Check your labels and don’t buy into false marketing!
Pham HN, DeMarini DM, Brockmann HE. Mutagenicity of skin tanning lotions. J Environ Pathol Toxicol. 1979 Dec;3(1-2):227-31. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/121138
Bouchez, Colette. Your Perfectly Pampered Pregnancy: Beauty, Health, and Lifestyle Advice for the Modern Mother-to-Be. Harmony (Feb 10, 2004)
Sherman, Kathy. The Dangers in Hair Coloring and Safer Alternatives. February 1, 2008.
Sources: EWG Skin Deep Database, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, David Suzuki Foundation
Abby Stoecker is a Licensed Esthetician with 9 years of experience in the beauty industry. Her journey has led her to experience first hand the entire cycle of the esthetics industry—first working as a practitioner, then as an Account Manager/ Brand Evangelist at a skin care product company (ASC), and previously as an Educator at Cinta Aveda Institute where she originally studied for her Esthetics License almost 10 years ago. Currently, she is freelancing with start up skin care brands in the green beauty space. Her objective is simple—spread awareness, educate and make people feel their best when it comes to the decisions they make for their wellness and beauty. Abby finds immense joy in navigating clients through the world of skin, helping each person craft their own at-home rituals to achieve balance, inside and out. You can find her on most mornings with a face mask on, coffee in hand, listening to “The Daily” podcast.