Ingredients lists on makeup and cosmetic products are baffling! Whilst pregnant women know to avoid wine, soft cheeses and sushi, what products to stop putting on your skin can be daunting. Here are some tips for cosmetic ingredients that are best avoided.
- Salicylic acid
Salicylic acid is the ingredient that is often used in skincare products, especially for acne-prone skin. High doses of the acid in its oral form have been shown in studies to cause birth defects and various pregnancy complications, however, doctors are cautious about recommending that pregnant women avoid the topical use of salicylic acid altogether. The concern is greater however about face and body peels containing salicylic acid. The bottom line is that these products are probably best to avoid. Also check for 3-hydroxypropionic acid, trethocanic acid and tropic acid.
These are found in some anti-aging moisturisers as they are used to help reduce wrinkles and improve skin tone. Retinoids are a type of vitamin A that speeds up cell division and many experts recommend that expectant moms stay away from them. Some studies have shown that high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy can be harmful to an unborn child. Oral retinoids, such as isotretinoin (Accutane, an acne treatment), are known to cause birth defects. However, topical retinoids have not been shown to cause problems in pregnant women. Look out for Vitamin A, retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde, adapalene, tretinoin, tazarotene and isotretinoin.
- Aluminium chloride hexahydrate
Aluminium chloride hexahydrate is an antiperspirant that works by affecting the cells that produce sweat. Classified as FDA pregnancy category C, it is therefore not known whether aluminium chloride hexahydrate will harm an unborn baby but the risks cannot be ruled out. Also check for aluminium chloride hexahydrate and aluminium chlorohydrate.
Make sure your sunscreen doesn't list oxybenzone on the back. The chemical readily absorbs into your skin and has been linked to low birth weights. It's also known to interfere with the body's hormones that may cause developmental problems in unborn babies. Look for avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, oxybenzone, oxtinoxate, menthyl anthranilate and oxtocrylene.
- Dihydroxyacetone (DHA)
This is found in spray self-tanners and it reacts with cells in the outer layer of skin and leads to a change in pigment. The DHA isn’t thought to be absorbed into the body so can’t harm the baby. Whilst fake tan products are generally safe to use during pregnancy, as the skin of pregnant women is more sensitive, always do a patch test first to check for an allergic reaction. Fake tan contains Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). The NHS recommends that it may be better to avoid spray tans as the effects of breathing in the spray are unknown.
- Diethanolamine (DEA)
This is found in hair and body products and is primarily used in shampoos and lotions to provide lather. It has already been restricted in the European Union and The Skin Deep database for cosmetic safety even gives DEA a score of 7, or very toxic and hazardous. Stay clear of diethanolamine, oleamide DEA, lauramide DEA and cocamide DEA.
Parabens are utilised in preventing the growth of bacteria in a wide range of consumer products. In the EU, there are strict limits on the amount of parabens that can be used in cosmetic products, therefore, the levels of parabens in cosmetics in the EU are considered to be safe. However more recent studies have shown that parabens are oestrogenic, meaning they mimic the effects of oestrogen in the body. Although parabens are not yet proven to be a danger to health, whilst pregnant it may be better to avoid. Keep away from propyl, butyl, isopropyl, isobutyl and methyl parabens.
These are found in products with synthetic fragrances and in nail polishes. Two phthalates often used in cosmetics have been banned in the European Union. Unfortunately, phthalates are still found in some nail polishes according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Avoid diethyl and dibutyl especially.
More still needs to be learnt about many chemicals that are found in cosmetics and their effects on pregnant women. Having said that, it is generally considered that being over cautious is no bad thing when it comes to choosing what to put on your skin.