Saturday 23 August 2014

The Beautifinous Safe Pregnancy Skincare/Beauty Guide!

When you discover that you are pregnant, it is natural to start asking questions about what we apply to our skin and whether or not they are safe for your unborn baby.

You probably have found yourself searching the Internet for answers, but usually there are different pages discussing different topics. I’ve been there, so I get it. Lots of different pages for lots of different topics can get a little annoying to keep track of. On top of that, during your pregnancy people will always be letting you know tidbits of information about this, that and the other and sometimes they conflict with each other.

For example, I was told by some people that hair dying during pregnancy isn’t allowed. Others tell me that it’s fine. This product isn’t safe some will say, others will tell you the opposite. Let’s be honest, it can be overwhelming to have such a wealth of information continuously being fed to you - especially when so much of it contradicts each other! On top of that, you have far more important things to be focusing on right now - that child inside of your tummy for one.

Because of this, I have tried my very best to do the hard work for you. I have spent a lot of time searching around for information regarding all varieties of skincare and beauty that may be of concern during pregnancy. I’ve tried to cover both sides of the arguments that exist and used lots of sources of information - all of which are linked for further reading if you want to find out more.

Hopefully this will help some people to have all of the info in one place instead of having to find individual sources of information for each topic yourself. 

Please note though that the information that I have sourced is from different areas of the Internet - medical websites like the NHS, Baby-related websites like Baby Center and dermatology websites with lots of skincare information such as Paula’s Choice. It is still wise though to take into consideration that the best advice will probably always come from your midwife or doctor, but this guide should still be informative enough for you to make up your mind on particular issues or flag up the issues that you want to discuss further with a medical professional.

Also, I am not a skincare professional and don’t claim to be. I am a beauty product enthusiast and I love to blog about beauty products, but I still don’t claim to be an expert. 

Click to expand each section!


I am starting off with the discussion regarding parabens due to the fact that they are contained in a variety of different types of beauty products and therefore fit under multiple categories on this list.

If you type into a search engine something to do with parabens and safety, you are going to enter a whole new debate that expands pregnancy skincare safety.

Parabens are a preservative that are commonly used in skincare products and have been used for over half a century, including in baby skincare products. They also occur naturally in some foods.

You can usually tell what ingredient is a paraben as it has the word paraben built into the word. Some common parabens are the following:

* methylparaben
* ethylparaben
* propylparaben
* butylparaben

Even though they have been used for so long, there have been reports regarding the safety of them.

It is actually a topic that I’m rather cautious talking about as I know how strongly some people feel about it. For clarification purposes though, I am not going to take a side in this post as it isn’t supposed to be an opinion piece. I’m going to mention points from both sides of the argument and it isn’t a reflection of my own thoughts or feelings on the topic.

It has been discovered that parabens mimic the female hormone oestrogen. Studies have been conducted and have concluded that when some parabens are internally ingested or injected into male animals that their reproductive systems can be affected. However, no human tests have been conducted meaning that it is uncertain whether humans are affected in the same way.

Parabens have been put through numerous safety assessments that have declared them safe when used at low levels as preservatives. Some parabens though are being re-assessed.

"Some parabens (propyl and butylparaben) are part of an ongoing safety assessment. This does not mean that they are unsafe. It just means that the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), which advises the EU, has asked for additional scientific data. This is to determine whether these parabens can be absorbed through the skin" Source - Baby Centre

Regardless of the safety tests, some people are still concerned due to different tests that have been conducted on parabens.

A study by the Environmental Working Group claims that has linked parabens with breast cancer. This has naturally raised a lot of worry about their use as does the information regarding fertility issues.

"In 2004, a study was published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology that made claim of detecting extremely low concentrations of parabens in breast tumors. Parabens were shown to have estrogen activity which is thought to be the reason they possibly contributed to the cancerous role. Researchers also believed that when pregnant women used products with parabens, it eventually reached the fetus thus putting it at risk for reproductive problems later in life.

Parabens have become a manufacturers pariah. After these clinical studies were made public, the consumers started demanding products be made without the added preservative." Source - Wellness Spa

This is very easy to see if you looks up paraben safety. It has caused a lot of genuine concern with customers who don’t want to use anything that can cause potential harm to themselves - and for pregnant women, it means that they also worry about their unborn child. In all honesty, why would you want to use harmful things on your skin?

"A 2004 study published in the quoteJournal of Applied Toxicologyquote detected parabens in the breast tumors of women with breast cancer. This is a concern because studies have shown that parabens have weak estrogen-like properties, and estrogen is known to play a role in breast cancer, reports the American Cancer Society. "While it has not been shown that parabens cause breast cancer, there’s a possibility that they could," says Baier-Anderson." Source - Live Strong

"The link between parabens (para-hydroxybenzoic acid) and cancer can no longer be ignored.

Widely used as a preservative, parabens are absorbed through your skin, blood and intestines. When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared parabens "generally safe for use" – the FDA based their findings on oral consumption of parabens – it did not take into account how much exposure you truly have to these compounds through your skin." Source - Underground Health Reporter

From this study, their has been a lot of outcry. There has also been a lot of debunking.

"The study that linked parabens with breast cancer has been dismissed because so many concerns have been raised about its validity:

* Only 20 people took part in the study.
* They did not test healthy breast tissue to see whether it also contained parabens.
* It was not known if the parabens in the breast tissue could have come from sources other than skin products (such as the drugs that the women were taking).

Also, finding parabens in the breast tissue of women with breast cancer does not mean that parabens caused the disease. Any link between breast cancer and the use of underarm deodorants containing parabens has been dismissed by regulatory agencies and the leading cancer charities." Source - Baby Centre

"A study first published in 2004 (Darbre, in the Journal of Applied Toxicology) detected parabens in breast tumours. However, the study was inconclusive failing to answer many of the questions raised. By way of example, this study did not demonstrate that parabens caused cancer, or even that they were harmful. In fact, the study did not review the possible levels of parabens in normal tissue." Source - Street Directory

There have also been statements against fertility issues:

"It is true that some studies show that parabens could affect the male reproductive system of animals. However, the oestrogen-mimicking effect of parabens is between 1,000 and one million times weaker than natural oestrogen. Therefore their impact on male fertility is thought to be very low. Also, in these studies animals were given parabens in their food or by injection. They were not applied to the skin in the same way as rinse-off products such as baby-bathing and shampoo products." Source - Baby Centre

The use of parabens in beauty products is likely to continue causing debate amongst consumers and professionals. Whilst most will claim that they are safe, a lot will say otherwise.

My best advice is that you make a personal decision on which side you agree with. Some of you will be likely to follow the notion that if the argument is still up in the air that it could be best to steer clear. That is fine.

Some of you though will probably listen to the science and the fact that particular tests are claimed to be poorly done.

The decision is truly down to you. The most important thing is that you go along with whatever puts your own mind at ease.

I have linked a whole bunch of links for further reading below - from both sides of the argument - if you want to look deeper into the matter.

Parabens - further reading links

Baby Centre
Underground Reporter
Live Strong
Wellness Spa
Baby Centre Community
Street Directory

Skincare in pregnancy can be a tricky one, but not purely for scientific safety reasons. Whilst there are certain things that are recommended to be avoided in skincare during pregnancy, your biggest struggle may be having to adjust to a slightly new routine.

For example, I am used to suffering with oily, blemish prone skin. When pregnant though, I have days where my skin is more combination, days where it is just dry, days where my skin feels continuously irritated, days of bad break outs, days of fantastically clear skin and pretty much through the entire pregnancy the continuous changes simply make me really irritated.

Some women may encounter none of these issues (I envy you!) but others may be nodding along in agreement. Some may just go from one skin extreme to another for the entire duration of the pregnancy, some may suffer from breakouts for the first time, but the chances are that something will happen. You may even be lucky enough to only encounter that pregnancy glow.

Because of these skin changes, you may start looking at new products, but then may question whether they are safe. Maybe you haven’t had any drastic skin changes but are simply curious as to whether the skincare that you usually use is safe. Either way, it’s best to check it out.

"The more powerful and targeted products get, the more we need to be careful about what we have in our skin-care regimens during pregnancy. While most commonly used products are completely safe, there's a handful of ingredients considered potentially harmful to a growing baby." Source - Baby Centre

As you’ll see with other things in this post, there hasn’t actually been many studies into what is and isn’t safe to apply to your skin during pregnancy. This can make things difficult to decide upon as sometimes it is just recommended that you ‘probably should avoid’ certain ingredients in skincare due to the lack of testing. There are a lot of unknowns and it can become quite frustrating, especially when you just want to do the right thing for your baby.

It is said that whilst most over the counter skincare products are generally considered safe, some prescribed medications are not. Let’s take a look at some common skincare issues and their ingredients…


Acne isn’t fun when you’re a teenager and it still isn’t fun when you are an adult. It is just as miserable when you’re pregnant and probably getting really irritated over small things - spots are just another thing to get irritated about.

When it comes to treating acne, a lot of ingredients are frequently used. These include salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and benzoyl peroxide amongst others.

It is said that in regards to salicylic acid, high doses have been found to cause birth defects. However, you are only usually exposed to these high levels when it is taken orally as medication. When applied to the skin, the levels in some products are considered safe, but not in all.

"Doctors are being cautious by recommending that pregnant women avoid the topical use of salicylic acid. Small amounts applied to the skin — such as a salicylic acid-containing toner used once or twice a day — are considered safe … But the concern is stronger about face and body peels containing salicylic acid." Source - Baby Centre

Face and body peels containing salicylic acid are considered not safe due to the extended period of time where the product can soak into the skin. Salicylic acid is part of the aspirin family, so the over-absorption is kind of like taking painkillers that you should be avoiding. If you decide to use salicylic acid, it is recommended to look for products that contain 2% or less of the ingredient as this is the level that is considered safe for use.

It is also recommended that you avoid benzoyl peroxide during pregnancy. There are no studies on either humans or animals that have taken place, so safety cannot be confirmed. Some people however consider benzoyl peroxide safe in doses of 5% or less.

AHA’s, azelaic acid (also used to treat rosacea) and glycolic acid are considered safe to use in pregnancy. You can also look into natural skincare as these tend to avoid the chemicals that are considered unsafe.


A common ingredient found in a anti-aging remedies are retinoids. I have expressed how I love the use of retinol in some of my skincare products, but in pregnancy this has to be switched up.

It is recommended that you avoid products that contain retinoids during pregnancy. This includes things such as retin-a, retinol, retinoid acid, differin and so on.

You should also be avoiding cosmetic procedures if they are your kind of thing. This includes botox, laser treatment and fillers of any kind.

On the flipside, vitamin C is considered safe and can be used to help with anti-aging, as are peptides and other cell-communicating ingredients.

Hydroquinone - dark spot correcting

Hydroquinone is considered not safe for use during pregnancy. This is an ingredient that is used in skin bleaching, dark spot correcting beauty products.

If you use skin bleaching products, check out the ingredients to see if it uses it.

Alternatively, to check out if your dark spot corrector is safe to use by not containing hydroquinone, check out this list here.

Skincare - further reading links

Baby Centre
Web MD
Paula’s Choice

A lot of people experience some great things with their hair during pregnancy. Hair can feel thicker and more beautiful than ever!

This isn’t because you are growing more hair though, it is because you are losing less.

My hairdresser once explained all of this to me whilst I was pregnant with my little man and told me to enjoy it whilst it lasted. After pregnancy, a lot of it broke free and my hair went back to normal. Boo!

With that said, some people may experience different issues with their hair, just like with their skin. Hormones are wreaking havoc with you and you may begin looking into different methods to tame your locks.

Even still, there are certain things that you should take into consideration with hair care, just like all other areas.

Firstly, it is recommended that you forget keratin hair-straightening treatments during pregnancy as they contain harmful formaldehyde.

Other than that, most hair care such as regular shampoos & conditioners are considered safe to use in pregnancy, unless you use a medicated dandruff shampoo that is prescribed by a doctor. In that case, definitely have a chat with your doc!

The main issues with pregnancy haircare are mainly the same as non-pregnancy issues. The main one being sulfates.

I have previously discussed the damage that can be caused by sulfates and how I have recently converted to no-poo (meaning no shampoo). This was a personal decision and isn’t one that you need to make yourself, but if you are interested in avoiding sulfate use then my guide is here.

Hair spray

Many hairsprays contain phthalates. These have been linked to sexual development issues in animals, but have not been linked to birth defects in humans. If you are concerned, you can always switch to mousse or gels.

Hair spray - further reading links

Web MD

Hair dye

Dying your hair in pregnancy is one of those things that you may hear conflicting arguments for and against. The chances are though that if you regularly dye your hair then the thought of having to go nine months without doing so may be tragic for you. So let’s work this out. It is said that the issue with hair dye during pregnancy isn’t the actual colour itself, but the fumes that are emitted during the process. Also, this is what the NHS have to say on the matter:

"The chemicals in permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes are not highly toxic. Most research, although limited, shows that it’s safe to colour your hair while pregnant." Source - NHS

Now before you reach for a bottle of dye or sprint to the hairdressers, let’s look at the topic in more detail.

It is likely that the chemicals included in hair dye can cause harm to an unborn child when they are high in dosage. Thankfully, the levels included in hair dye don’t reach the level considered to be dangerous. Even so, it is important to remember that tests have been very limited in regards to hair dye in pregnancy, so there are still certain precautions that you might want to consider:

* A lot of women avoid dying their hair in the first trimester
* Due to the lack of tests, it may be wiser and safer to use natural hair dying methods such as henna
* If you decide to dye your hair with regular dye, it is advised that you always wear gloves (if doing it yourself) and work in a well ventilated room to avoid inhaling the fumes as much as possible
* It may be wise to wait as long as you can between dyes. Dying your hair more than three-four times may be unsafe
* Stick to the minimum amount of time for keeping the dye on your hair and don’t go over the time limit

The most important thing to take into mind when it comes to dying your hair is this - are you comfortable with going ahead with it or are you likely to feel worried about it? If you are really unsure about whether or not to go ahead, then you probably shouldn’t. It is likely that by going ahead with it whilst you have conflicting feelings then it will only cause more worry and stress for you, and honestly, dying your hair isn’t worth that stress! Your child doesn’t need you to panic or worry about it, and nobody at all will ever judge you for it. So many of us dye our hair and no one will ever think anything bad of you for neglecting to do so during pregnancy. Never do something that you think that you will regret afterwards!

On the other hand, if you feel comfortable going ahead, then as long as you keep the things mentioned above in mind, you should be fine!

Hair dye - further reading links

Baby World
Baby Center US
Baby Centre UK

Makeup is something that we probably don’t question as strongly as other things. In all honesty, it’s all pretty much considered safe.


Some makeup actually contains certain ingredients that are also used in skincare and that aren’t considered to be safe. Salicylic acid and retinoids are examples of these types of ingredients and they usually crop up in anti-blemish makeup.

It’s a good idea to have a quick check of the products that you think may contain these ingredients and consider using a different type of the product for a while.

With that said, some take a much more cautious view.

The Bump recommends that you also avoid makeup that contains parabens and certain artificial colours.

"In color cosmetics, the artificial colors to try to cut out are CI 75470, Red 28 Lake Aluminum, Red 30 Lake Aluminum and Acid Yellow 23 Lake Aluminum. The main makeup product we avoided during pregnancy was red lipstick, since some were found to have traces of lead in their formulations." Source - The Bump

They also continue to explain that you should check whether your mascara includes the preservatives diazolidinyl urea as they release varying compounds of mercury.

In addition, they suggest not sharing makeup to avoid any possible infections during pregnancy.

Makeup - further reading links

Baby Center
The Bump

Nail Painting

Nail painting is generally considered safe to do during pregnancy. However, the chemicals formaldehyde and toluene can cause issues to your unborn baby. The best advice is to avoid any nail polish that contains these two ingredients.

BabyMed recommends that you undergo the following procedures when painting your nails whilst pregnant:

* Apply the polish in a well-ventilated room. Maybe stay next to an open window or door. The less you smell it, the less exposure you likely have.
* Try to apply only one coat, not several different ones.
* When you dry the polish, don't blow on it and inhale the fumes. Keep your hands far away and stay in a well-ventilated area.
* The same precautions as in polishing apply when removing the polish.
After removing the polish, wash your hands well with soap to remove any residual polish and polish remover.

Source - Baby Med

Nail polish removers are also generally considered to be safe. Removers usually contain acetone which is an ingredient that can be found all over the place, including naturally occurring in our bodies and environments. If you still want to avoid acetone though, there are acetone-free removers available.

Nail painting - further reading links

Emma’s Diary
Baby Med

Wearing perfume during pregnancy is okay. However, if you are suffering from sickness, you may find that perfume can trigger your nausea.

If you are troubled with severe pregnancy sickness, not only is it a good idea to generally avoid wearing perfume, but it can be a good idea to politely request that significant others, family and friends and so on refrain from wearing fragrance (especially heavy scents) around you until you feel better.

Trust me, it isn’t an unreasonable thing to ask, but in all honesty people tend to avoid things like that for those very reasons anyway!

On the flip side, you may find that a perfume or particular type of scent helps you with nausea! It’s unlikely, but if you find something that works then stick with it!

Alternatively, you may prefer scented body sprays or mists for a lighter alternative.

Perfume safety - further reading links

Women’s Health
American Pregnancy
Essential Oils

Essential Oils are generally considered to be safe to use in pregnancy as long as you avoid certain oils and strictly follow essential oil safety guidelines.

However, it is still unknown how the absorption of essential oils molecules into the body can affect an unborn human child. So far there have only been scientific tests on animals that have provided varying results (please note that personally I am against animal testing).

"Once inside your body, essential oils work in the same way as drugs or medicines. Because essential oil molecules are very small, there is a possibility that they may cross the placenta and reach your growing baby's circulation." Source - Baby Centre

With that said, there are numerous reasons why mothers-to-be may want to use essential oils. Backache, for example, is a huge pain (pun intended) during pregnancy. Stretch marks, swollen ankles, runny noses, itching, fatigue and stress are just a few other situations where aromatherapy could help. Certain essential oils are also known to help ease nausea.

If you decide to go ahead with aromatherapy, there are additional things to consider along with the usual essential oil safety guidelines:

*  It is recommended to avoid using essential oils during the first trimester
*  Try to mix up the oils you use - avoid the use of a particular oil for daily use
*  Use as little of an oil as possible
*  If you are adding oils to a bath, try not to add more than four drops and use them with a carrier oil
*  Make sure that you are purchasing your oils from a reputable seller and do not confuse fragrance oils for essential oils.

The safest method of using essential oils is by diluting them in water and burning them in an oil burner.

It is also a good idea to take the following into consideration:

"If you have a history of miscarriage, epilepsy, heart problems, diabetes, liver, thyroid or kidney disease or blood clotting problems we suggest giving essential oils a miss during pregnancy." Source - Belly Belly

For a list of oils that are safe to use during pregnancy with a little explanation about potential uses for each one, check out this website here for some great info!

Essential Oil links:

Belly Belly
Fit Pregnancy
Net Mums
Baby Centre
Body Care

The main issue you will probably encounter in regards to body skincare is a glaringly obvious one - your bump.

As the bump grows, your skin is going to stretch. This can cause various issues such as the obvious stretch marks, itching and general discomfort and sensitivity. You will likely also encounter discomfort with your legs. Your legs may begin to swell due to the fact that your body retains more fluid during pregnancy.

Due to these issues, you will probably be introduced to new product types such a bump butters and cooling leg gels. These products are designed for use during pregnancy and if you are signed up for things such as Bounty then the chances are that you’ll even be provided with some samples of particular products too!

So ignoring the products that are specifically designed for pregnancy and the particular pregnancy-related body issues (it’s best for another discussion!), let’s stick with more universal products.

Body washing

Once again, a lot of people claim that the main things to avoid in all skincare whilst pregnant is parabens. In addition to this, synthetic fragrance and rosemary are also on the ’should probably avoid’ list.

Also, during pregnancy your skin may be feeling more sensitive than normal. It can be a good idea therefore to avoid harsh soaps, too.

So what are you left with? Well, you still have lots of options!

A lot of women prefer switching to natural and organic skincare during pregnancy (which to be honest is something great whilst not pregnant, too!), but if you look around you will also find body washes and bath products that are designed for pregnant women.

Body wash - further reading links

The Bump
Baby Centre

Fake tan

Due to pregnancy causing sensitive skin, it is not recommended by some that you go ahead with fake tan due to allergic reactions.

The NHS suggest that you avoid spray tans as the effects of inhaling the chemicals are unknown, but other types of fake tan are considered okay.

If you do decide to go ahead with fake tan, always try a patch test (even if you’ve done it before) to make sure that your pregnancy skin will tolerate it.

The use of a sun bed is also cautioned against. Whilst there are no known effects of a sun bed on an unborn baby, there are connections with UV rays and folic acid deficiency as the rays break down the acid. Folic acid is needed by the child for neural development.

In addition to this, due to skin sensitivity in pregnancy, you are more likely to have a bad skin reaction to the exposure of UV rays.

Fake tan - further reading links

Emma’s Diary

Hair removal

Shaving is completely safe to do during pregnancy, but the chances are that after a while it will become more difficult as your bump grows. Trying to reach around the bump becomes more of a mission when you get to the point where you can’t even see your feet when you stand up!

If you want to consider other methods of hair removal during pregnancy, then you are in luck.

Hair removal creams are considered safe and are only discouraged against if you have reacted to them badly in the past. Allergic reactions can occur with hair removal creams so if you have ever had a bad reaction, it’s probably best not to try them again.

However, there is again some conflicting arguments against hair removal creams. For example, Fit Pregnancy states to not use them as there is a risk of chemical absorption. On the other side of the argument, Baby Centre states that these types of creams aren’t absorbed into the bloodstream so they are completely safe.

If you decide to avoid hair removal creams, there are still other methods.

As explained, shaving is okay. The only advice with this one is to be careful how you go about it. Maybe try laying down to shave to help with balance or ask your partner to do it for you. Just make sure that however you go about it, you don’t put yourself at risk of topping over!

Waxing is also fine as long as you follow regular safety cautions (don’t wax over varicose veins, warts, moles or super sensitive areas!) or unless pregnancy has made your skin super sensitive!

Laser removal and electrolysis are deemed safe by some, but not by all. For this one I would recommend having a chat with your doctor if you want to go ahead with these types of treatments.

It’s quite difficult to find information about whether the use of an epilator is safe during pregnancy as no matter how you search for it you tend to come up with dozens of forum posts rather than any articles. Whilst I can probably imagine it to be safe as waxing is okay, this may be something to bring up with either your midwife or doctor.

Hair removal - further reading links

Fit Pregnancy
Baby Centre
What to Expect


Some people will first advise you to simply cover up during pregnancy to avoid sunburn and then advise you to wear sun blockers like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to avoid the use of chemical sunscreens.

With that said, other people explain that sunscreen is safe to use during pregnancy and daily use is recommended for everybody.

"Despite fears incorrectly promoted in the media by a few fringe groups, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has not found any of the alleged fears about sunscreen ingredients substantiated by medical research." Source - Paula’s Choice

To be fully safe in the Sun, the best idea is really to avoid the Sun during the hottest hours, wear hats and sunglasses and to wear sunscreen!

Sunscreen - further reading links

Baby Centre
Paula’s Choice
Skin Tour

For extra, brief information on what you are able to do during pregnancy (including non-beauty related topics), Emma’s Diary have a great list of all sorts of FAQs including beauty and skincare related issues.

What are your pregnancy skincare/beauty no-nos? Are there any other topics that you would like to see covered in this post?
Let me know in the comments below!

Zoe. @Beautifinous

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