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Cosmetic & Skincare Products- What’s Safe and What’s Not in Pregnancy

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 by | 5 views
by Terri Babin

When I was pregnant, anything that made me feel “pretty” was especially appealing. With an expanding waistline and zebra like stretch marks, a new foundation or mascara can seem like a wonderful idea. But did you know many cosmetics and skincare products can be toxic to you, and pure poison to your baby?

I know, it sounds crazy. How can something like plain old foundation or a little lipstick really harm a fetus? Well, the skin is the body’s largest organ and it absorbs sixty percent of what we put on our bodies. Consider the effectiveness of the birth control or nicotine patch where active ingredients are absorbed by the skin and go directly into the bloodstream.

The FDA does not regulate the safety of most ingredients in cosmetics. Many cosmetic and skincare products contain toxic ingredients, often in the form of preservatives. Roughly ninety-nine percent of all cosmetics contain one or more parabens. The Cancer Prevention Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group has said “The cosmetic industry has been as reckless as the tobacco industry and the FDA has remained silent.” In addition to being linked to cancer, parabens are also believed to be large contributor to growing infertility rates.

Here is a list of ingredients to avoid during pregnancy, and why by “Natural Living For Women”

 ■Salicylic Acid (BHA or beta hydroxy acid)

This ingredient can be found in products used to treat acne, exfoliators and anti aging products. The reasoning behind this particular ingredient is that complications in pregnancy have arisen in women who have taken aspirin and since salicylic acid is a part of the aspirin family it is felt this is something best avoided. It is just not known if topical application will cause problems.

■Retinol A

This ingredient that is a form of Vitamin A is also used to treat acne and is used for exfoliation. High doses of Vitamin A have been proven to be harmful to a baby.

■Parabens (all types)

This ingredient is a very common preservative used in many of our skin care products. While it is an ingredient worth avoiding for all of us research is beginning to show a link from parabens to an adverse effect on the reproductive system of baby boys. Parabens have also been linked to cancer. Once again more research is needed but as a mom-to-be why risk it.


Could be listed as DBP (dibutyl phathalate) in products like nail polish. Phathalates can be found in skin care products with “fragrance” listed on the label. It can be found in any number of skin care or cosmetic products including nail polish, deodorant, hair spray or perfumes. It is an important ingredient to avoid during pregnancy. According to the book “Not Just a Pretty Face – The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry”, a 2005 study by Shanna Swan, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Rochester, has shown a “significant relationship” to the presence of higher quantities of phathalates present in a pregnant woman’s body and changes in the genitals of boy babies. More studies need to be done but why risk it when effective products are available that do not contain phathalates. Look for the many companies that offer phathalate free products, avoid products with “fragrance” on the label and find one of the new phathalate free nail polishes.

 ■Cream Hair Removers

There is the possibility the chemicals in these products can be absorbed into the skin making this something else that is best to avoid during pregnancy. Additionally, many of the more popular brands list “fragrance” which may contain phathalates. It is just plain safer to avoid using them. I know this might not be what some women want to hear especially since you may be finding yourself with more hair than usual but there is always shaving and waxing.

■Essential Oils

I hesitate to include essential oils in a list of ingredients to avoid during pregnancy because there are some essential oils that are particularly useful for pregnancy skin care. It is important though that you avoid certain oils altogether. The Garden of Eve has a great article on the benefits of using essential oils and which ones to use or to stay away from during pregnancy.

 ■Benzoyl Peroxide

According to Safe Fetus (a database that provides information on the safety of medications taken during pregnancy and while breast-feeding) benzoyl peroxide found in many products used to treat acne is rated a Category C meaning that:“Either studies in animals have revealed adverse effects on the fetus (teratogenic or embryocidal or other) and there are no controlled studies in women, or studies in women and animals are not available. Drugs should be given only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.”


This oral treatment for acne should not be used at all during pregnancy. There is great concern for putting the fetus at risk for serious birth defects and the possibility of fetal loss. Safe gives this a Category X, which means do not use.


This topical cream used for treating acne is believed to put the fetus at risk for birth defects and possible toxicity to the fetus but more studies are needed. Safe rates this as a Category C to be used with care. See benzoyl peroxide for complete definition.


Who would have thought that lead could be in any products we use, but a study completed by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics(do a search for lead in lipstick on the Safe Cosmetics site for more on this study) found lead in some brands of popular lipsticks.The amounts found are enough to be concerned about if you are pregnant. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says that “pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure because lead easily crosses the placenta and may enter the the fetal brain where it interferes with fetal development.”

■1,4 Dioxane

This is not an ingredient you will find listed on any skin care products because it is a by product of other synthetic petroleum based ingredients. It has been found to cause cancer and little is known about it’s effects on a developing fetus.It is present in many cleansing type products, hair products, moisturizers among other personal care products. Unfortunately, it has also been found in products claiming to be natural or organic.

 It’s a good idea to to look through all your cosmetics for “suspect” ingredients when you’re expecting, since, as you now know, if you’re putting it on, you’re putting it in! Any colors listed as FD&C and D&C are also known as “coal-tar colors” made from bituminous coal, and are common ingredients in most cosmetics with color. Both FD&C and D&C colors are listed by the EPA as a “possible human carcinogen”. Be especially careful with lipsticks, since what goes on your lips ends up in your mouth. Many glosses are made with petroleum derivatives a sort of gasoline! Also, FD &C  colors that give lipsticks and glosses their tints can travel through your mouth, and some cross the placenta. I thought for sure that “mineral” make-up would be a good choice, but in fact they are best avoided during pregnancy. Minerals are metals, and the jury is still out on how these metals may affect babies in utero.

The good news is there are still many ways you can safely pamper yourself, and feel good about the way you look when you’re pregnant. There are quite a few safe, natural beauty and skincare products available, and if you’re ever in question the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database is a great place to go for answers . Health food stores are my favorite place to shop for cosmetic and skincare products, and there are many reputable online retailers of natural products as well. Best of all, Mother Earth can provide us with everything we need to pamper and care for our skin safely, and without breaking the bank. Olive oil (yes, the kind you use in the kitchen)is an amazing moisturizer for both mom and baby! Simply add some olive oil to a spray bottle and use it in the shower (or bath) and as a lotion anytime. Argan oil is also a fantastic, natural oil with many cosmetic benefits.

Here is a list of my favorite places to shop online for safe, natural cosmetic and skincare products…




■Burt’s Bees

■Kimberly Sawyer

■Zia Natural Skincare

■Earth Mama Angel Baby

*I am not affiliated with any of the above companies, nor did I receive any compensation for this post.

I also want to share some of my favorite natural spa and skincare recipes I love to whip up for my doula clients you can treat yourself to at home…

Ginger Massage Oil

■2-inch knob of ginger, coarsely chopped

■1/2 cup grapeseed or olive oil

Blend at high speed until liquefied, strain into glass container w/tight lid and refrigerate to keep fresh.


Grapefruit Sugar Scrub

■1 1/2 cups of organic white sugar

 ■8 drops grapefruit essential oil

■1/4 cup jojoba oil

■1/4 cup liquid castile soap (I like Dr. Bronners)

First add sugar to a large bowl and stir to break up any clumps. Then add remaining ingredients a little at a time and mix well until fully combined. To use, stand in shower and scrub onto skin from head to toe.


Banana Mask For Oily or Acne Prone Skin

■1 ripe banana

■1 tablespoon honey

■1 lemon

Mix banana and honey together until most of the lumps are gone, then add a few drops of fresh lemon juice and mix again. Smooth mixture over face, rinse with steaming washcloth after 15-20 minutes.


Cucumber Eye Gel

■1/4 large cucumber

■1 oz. aloe vera gel

Puree cucumber in blender, then strain into glass bowl until you have at least 2 oz. Spoon in a tad of the pulp from the strainer, add aloe vera gel, mix and store in an air-tight sterile container. After cleansing, stir mixture, apply under eyes and over eyelids with a cotton ball. Store in refrigerator in-between uses and use within 2-4 days.


Lip Balm

■3 tablespoons grated, un-bleached beeswax

■5 teaspoons castor oil

■6 or 7 drops of your favorite essential oil (mint, tangerine etc.)

Melt beeswax and castor oil together in the top of a double boiler, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, add honey and essential oil, mixing well so honey does not clump. Pour into containers, let stand for 20 minutes before covering or moving. *To add color add a small amount of your favorite lipstick when you add the essential oil and honey.

 When you’re expecting, it’s important to embrace your beauty, whatever that means to you! What’s important is not what anyone else thinks, but how you feel. The truth is, many women really do “glow” when pregnant due to improved blood circulation and natural weight gain. This means pregnancy is your time to shine, pamper yourself and care for your amazing body that’s creating a wonderful new life within!

 Terri Babin is an eco-crazy, pr-friendly blogging mom of four who is on a quest to raise her children in a natural, nurturing way that respects Mother Earth.  Visit her at

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