Crib Notes: The Do’s and Don’t’s of Beauty During Pregnancy
Being pregnant means giving up a lot of things that you would usually enjoy without thinking twice – sipping a cocktail, going skiing, even grabbing a ham sandwich for lunch. While most of us have a general idea of how our diet and recreational activities need to change once we get pregnant, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding our beauty regimens, which for many of us are just as prevalent in our day-to-day lives as our diet is. Beyond the long-held belief that hair dye is a no-no (which – surprise! – isn’t actually something you have to give up!), what exactly can you do safely during pregnancy and what should you give up? Here’s my handy-dandy list of the do’s and don’t’s of beauty during pregnancy:
Dyes: OK. Unlike hair dyes of decades past, many of which contained oxidative dying agents that are linked to cancer and other illnesses, today’s hair dyes generally contain chemicals that are only dangerous in extremely high doses. Because hair dye is minimally absorbed through the scalp, dying your hair 3 to 4 times during pregnancy is not considered to be a big risk. You can eliminate that risk even further by sticking to semi-permanent or natural dyes or skipping the full-head dye for highlights, where the scalp is more protected.
Straightening: OK. Similar to dyes, doctors believe that the limited
exposure to chemicals used during the straightening process doesn’t pose a risk to a fetus. However, a small number of salons may use harsh chemicals like formaldehyde during “Japanese” or “Brazilian Hair Straightening” procedures, so always be sure to check the ingredient list before signing up.
Hairspray: AVOID. Many hairsprays contain phthalates, an endocrine-disrupting chemical which is related to issues with sexual development in male babies. While most of these cases were associated with people exposed to more than day-to-day doses, it’s best to avoid any products containing phthalates (for a list of phthalate-free beauty options, see Refinery 29’s great article here). Stick with mousse or gel instead.
Waxing: OK. But be careful! Although the wax itself doesn’t contain anything that should cause concern, the standard concern of skin irritation is heightened with the skin sensitivity associated with pregnancy. Also make sure that your technician isn’t reusing sticks to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Hair Removers (Depilatories): OK. Surprisingly, the only concern with these products are allergic reactions because of the increased sensitivity of pregnant skin.
Moisturizers, Cleansers and Acne Treatments: CHOOSE WISELY. To be on the safe side, avoid products that contain benzoyl peroxide, retinoids (which should never be taken orally) and salicylic acid – even though topical use hasn’t been fully shown to cause problems. If you have darkening of your skin (melasma), also avoid soy-based products. And ALWAYS avoid contact with Accutane, even if you are just handling someone else’s prescription. Feel free to use products that contain glycolic acid or alpha hydroxy acids.
Makeup: CHOOSE WISELY. Avoid makeup that contains phthalates, and lipstick that contains lead (which is still allowed by the FDA, since
lipstick isn’t ingested – in theory!).
Sunscreen: CHOOSE WISELY. Use products containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which work by covering the skin, rather than chemicals that are absorbed by the skin.
Tanning Beds: AVOID. First of all, tanning beds have been shown to dramatically increase your risk of skin cancer, so they should be avoided even if you aren’t pregnant. Although there haven’t been any studies to suggest that there is specific harm to the fetus from tanning beds, doctors always avoid overheating and virtually all doctors would say you should avoid tanning beds during pregnancy.
Tanning Creams: PROCEED WITH CAUTION. Although there haven’t been any negative associations with the use of self-tanning creams during pregnancy, many doctors err on the side of caution and suggest avoiding these products. Speak with your doctor to determine if you can go for the glow – or embrace a paler look for 9 months.
Spray Tan: AVOID. Because of the increased risks of inhaling the product during application, avoid getting spray tans while pregnant.
Botox: AVOID. This should be obvious, but injecting Botox during pregnancy is definitely something that should be skipped.
Nail Polish and Nail Polish Remover: CHOOSE WISELY. Again, avoid nail products that contain phthalates. Instead, choose one of the lovely non-toxic options offered by Priti or Scotch.
Acrylic Nails: OK. But know that inhaling the products can be dangerous and should be avoided.
Whiteners: CHOOSE WISELY. Peroxide-based products are A-OK, but avoid other whiteners and teeth bleachers that haven’t been fully tested.