Beauty and pregnancy (part 2): your face – what is safe and what is not?

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(You might also be interested in Beauty and pregnancy (part 1): your hair – what is safe and what is not?)

1. General skin care: face wash, toner, serum, face oil, moisturiser, eye cream

The majority: When it comes to your regular skin care routine, the majority suggests that, whenever possible, you should only use the most natural and chemical-free products. This is because, what you choose to put on your skin may be absorbed into your bloodstream, and thus, could potentially reach your unborn baby. If you don’t want to go all organic, that’s fine, but you should at least avoid products that contain these ingredients: Retinoids (Vitamin A), Salicylic Acid or Beta Hydroxy Acid, Benzoyl Peroxide, Sulfates, Parabens, and Phthalates – all of which have been linked to birth defects and other pregnancy complications, such as, miscarriage and impaired growth.

The minority: According to the minority, yes, you should avoid taking any form of oral Vitamin A and Salicylic Acid when pregnant, but there’s simply not enough data to prove that they carry the same risks when applied topically. The minority thinks that doctors are just being extra cautious, and in their opinion, a small amount of Retinoids, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide (say, 2%) is considered safe.

My opinion: I think, as long as the jury is still out there with regards to topical Retinoids, Salicylic Acid, and Benzoyl Peroxide, it’s probably best to avoid products that contain these ingredients during pregnancy. After all, it’s not that difficult to find alternative, safer products to use; it’s not even that difficult to switch to entirely natural and organic products, which may even be cheaper to buy. You could, for example, ditch your commercial facial cleanser and use organic oatmeal or sweet almond oil to wash your face instead, or replace your chemical-laden toner with organic floral water – if you need some ideas, read my post on the “3 natural and organic beauty products every girl should own”.

2. Sunscreens

The majority: We all know that it’s very important to wear sun protection before you… well… go out and play in the sun. And in the opinion of the majority, it’s even more important to wear sun protection while you’re pregnant because your pregnancy hormones cause your pigment-producing skin cells to react more strongly to the sunlight; without sun protection, you could end up with dark-brown patches on your skin (officially known as chloasma or melasma, but commonly called ‘the mask of pregnancy’). Having said that, the majority suggests that pregnant women should choose sunscreens that don’t contain Retinyl Palmitate (that is, a topical form of Vitamin A) – (I’ve written about Vitamin A when discussing general skin care above, so I’m not going to repeat it here). Other ingredients to avoid include: Oxybenzone, Homosalate, 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor, Octocrylene, Para-Aminobenzoic Acid, and nano-sized ingredients (as they can be easily inhaled – I’ll write more about nanoparticles below in the make-up section). They say that you should use physical or mineral blocks made with either Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide instead as they don’t penetrate the skin.

The minority: The minority agrees with the majority with regards to the potential effects the ingredients mentioned above has on fetal development. But, they say, even though your body absorbs them, they’re only absorbed in such small concentrations that it’s hardly a cause for concern. So, all sunscreens are perfectly safe to use during pregnancy. If you’re not convinced, then use sunscreens that are made of Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide – they should put your mind at ease because (as you already know) they don’t penetrate the skin.

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that there’s one article online which question both the majority and minority’s views with regards to Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. It says that there is research to show that: (i) these ingredients have reproductive and developmental effects in animals if they’re nano-enginereed; and (ii) doubts exist as to whether they’re actually absorbed into the skin or not.

My opinion: Honestly, I don’t know what to say. I mean, if you had to avoid all the ingredients mentioned above (including Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide), then you’d be left with very little choice when it comes to sunscreens. I suppose, you could use sunscreens for babies? I personally think that Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide in cream or lotion form is okay; you should be concern with nanoparticles only when using sunscreens in powdered form (as only then they can be easily inhaled). I might have to ditch my BareMinerals SPF 30 Natural Sunscreen for a while – not only is it in powdered form, it also contains Retinyl Palmitate! Blimey!

3. Make-up

The majority and minority: I’m combining their views here because they basically say the same thing when it comes to make-up (yes, they finally agreed on something). According to them, make-up products that are non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic are safe to use during pregnancy; but you should avoid cosmetics that contain Retinoids, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide (you know why). They also say that if you want to be super careful, then you might want to try minerals-only make-up as these products use ingredients that don’t get absorbed into the skin. Also, be careful with lipsticks that contain lead; the risk of getting lead poisoning from lipstick is unknown (and probably very small), but it’s perhaps best to use one of the many lead-free lipsticks that are out there.

My opinion: I agree with the above, but that’s probably because I have to use non-comedogenic products anyway. As far as mineral make-up is concerned, well, I’ve heard of the benefits: they provide better coverage, they look more natural, they feel weightless and are more comfortable to wear, and they’re also kinder to the skin; but to be honest, I have yet to try any of them. Many of the mineral make-up that are currently out in the market come in powdered form, and so, may contain nanoparticles. They’re basically finer particles of minerals like Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which (because of their form) become airborne when they’re applied and thus can be easily inhaled. Rumour has it that they have similar effects as asbestos and can cause lung cancer! But of course, not all mineral make-up manufacturers use nanoparticles in their productions – the question is, which one doesn’t? I’ll look into this in more detail as I think they warrant a separate post, and I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, I’m sticking to liquid and compact foundation.

4. Spots treatment

The majority and minority: The two groups, again, agreed when it comes to spots treatment. They say that prescription oral acne medications, such as Accutane and Retin-A are dangerous during pregnancy and can cause birth defects. Okay, so they differ a little when it comes to topical acne creams that contain Retinoids, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide – which most of them do. The majority says that you should avoid using these products completely, while the minority says that products containing not more than 2% of these ingredients are safe to use.

My opinion: Erm… avoid? And use tea tree oil instead? I think it’s less irritating to the skin anyway than those commercial acne creams.

5. Facial and other cosmetic treatments

The majority and minority: The reason why I’m combining both views once more is because the only thing they differ on is (again) whether you should avoid products which contain Retinoids, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide completely or not (remember that some of the products your aesthetician used in the course of your facial treatment may contain these ingredients). Other than that, they agree that as long as you tell your aesthetician in advance that you’re pregnant, you can totally get a basic facial done during pregnancy. You should, however, avoid treatments which involve electric currents, such as chemical peels or light therapies. With regards to other cosmetic treatments (those that are more invasive, like, botox, etc), they say that it’s best to skip them when you’re pregnant.

My opinion: I have to agree with the above. I don’t see why you can’t get a basic facial done during pregnancy. I mean, you’re practically just deep cleansing your face – only done professionally. As long as you tell your aesthetician that you’re pregnant and you’re cautious over the products used, go on and indulge yourself with some relaxing facial.


  1. Beauty and pregnancy: your body - what is safe and what is not? | London-Based Beauty, Fashion, Lifestyle & Mummy Blog | Angélique Lee - […] (You might also be interested in Beauty and pregnancy (part 1): your hair – what is safe and what…

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