Confused About Which Skin Care Products Are Pregnancy Safe?
We hear you! Let’s hash out pregnancy safety together.
Once the shock and excitement of learning I was pregnant subsided (a little bit), I started researching what foods were unsafe to consume while expecting. Although I found the answers I was looking for - and vowed to give up raw sushi, cold cuts, unpasteurized cheese, and wine for nine months - another article caught my eye on the same website. It discussed the skin care ingredients to avoid during pregnancy, listing a number of scary sounding chemicals and toxins that were apparently lurking in most products in my home. I felt slightly panicked and wondered which of my current personal care products were actually safe, and which did I need to replace? I was anxious to consult my OBGYN.
When I finally had my first prenatal doctor’s appointment, my OBGYN told me the only concern in skin care is retinols. Just to double check, I showed her a few of my go-to, conventional products (like my favorite serums, moisturizers, foundations, and hair products) and I was surprised when she said they were all fine to use for moms-to-be.
I left her office feeling both relieved and confused. Why was there a discrepancy between what my doctor recommended and what I had read online in several seemingly credible places? I trusted my doctor, but I was also skeptical.
This lead to a 90-minute Google spiral. Here’s what I discovered:
The reason for the discrepancy between what you read about online and what your doctor will advise is because not a lot of research has been done on the subject of skincare and beauty product safety during pregnancy. The fact is, no pregnant women want to be test subjects, and no doctors want to experiment on moms-to-be!
The topic is somewhat controversial. Some professionals recommend using more natural, non-toxic products in general - especially while pregnant - while other medical professionals believe there’s not enough scientific information available to warrant such concern.
There are some ingredients that seem to always make the “no no” list for pregnancy - like retinoids/retinols - while others remain completely split down the middle. (Those are the times you just have to decide for yourself whether or not to be concerned with the potential risk.)
There’s a huge green beauty movement going on outside of pregnancy, which fuels even more concern and confusion, but also gives us lots of other options as consumers (Ex: The Detox Market, Credo, Goop, and Follain).
As you can imagine, there are different levels of caution that different websites recommend. For your reference - and to save you the hassle doing the same internet deep dive - we've listed some popular pregnancy resources below along with a note about which specific ingredients they recommend avoiding. (Seeing double already? If you'd rather skip our list of Google search results below, just check out our cheat sheet that compiles all these potentially risky beauty ingredients into one list!)
Popular Online Sources With "Ingredients to Avoid While Pregnant" Lists
The Bump recommends limiting or avoiding retinoids/retinol, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide found in skincare, particularly in acne treatments; limiting exposure to chemicals found in many shampoos, and avoiding chemical sunscreens.
Fit Pregnancy also recommends avoiding retinoids/retinol and beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid found in skincare, and advises moms-to-be to refrain from using chemical sunscreens. In addition, the site provides more of a comprehensive list of 12 potentially harmful ingredients in other personal care products like parabens, phthlalates, formaldehyde, and other ingredients found in antiperspirants, spray tanners, nail polish, and hair and body products.
Baby Center suggests moms-to-be steer clear of retinoids/retinol, and leave-on acne gels, lotions or creams, and limit exposure to hydroxy acids like salicylic acid found in skincare. The site seems to have a more lenient approach when warning of other personal care ingredients, like those in chemical sunscreens and general cosmetics.
WebMD suggests moms-to-be avoid phthalates (found in hair spray and nail products), retinoids/retinol, teeth whitening products, lead (found in some conventional lipsticks), and botox.
Self suggests avoiding these top five risky ingredients while pregnant: retinoids/retinol, hydroquinone (used in salons for hair straightening and skin lightening), benzoyl peroxide (acne medication), formaldehyde (nail polish), and injections like Botox.
Confused and overwhelmed? That’s okay! You are not alone. (As mentioned above, we put together a helpful cheat sheet with all potentially risky beauty ingredients compiled into one list!)
Here’s our take on all of this:
At the end of the day, you have to trust your doctor. And, you have to take care of yourself in the way that feels right for you! So, if you are like us and you have some concerns about the ingredients and products you’re using, why not try more conservative, natural alternatives to find a little more peace of mind?
Lucky for you, we've spared you the grueling research and trial and error, curating our natural beauty and skin care Top 3's to help you find the top-rated, best-performing, pregnancy-safe products out there. Check them out and let us know what you think.
What's your opinion about personal care products during pregnancy? Go natural or stick to your conventional favorites? Leave a comment below!