(You might also be interested in Beauty and pregnancy (part 1): your hair – what is safe and what is not? and Beauty and Pregnancy (part 2): your face – what is safe and what is not?)
1. General body care: body wash, body scrub, body lotion, oil and cream
The majority: In the majority’s view, exposure to general personal care products is unlikely to be harmful to your unborn babies. According to them, yes, certain products do pose a chemical risk, especially if they contain the so-called ‘toxic’ chemicals (like the foaming agent SLS, which is often found in shower gels and bubble baths), but there’s simply not enough evidence to suggest that these chemicals are a risk to your health. They say that as long as you don’t wrap yourself in bubbles, there’s really no need to worry. In fact, the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association’s spokesman, Dr Chris Flower, says, “All cosmetic products are assessed for safety before they are allowed on the market. That assessment is by qualified experts who understand cosmetics may be used by women who are pregnant, or who might not be aware they are pregnant at the time. Unless cosmetics are safe for use in pregnancy, they would not be placed on the market. It really is that simple.
The minority: The minority advices pregnant women to take extra caution when it comes to choosing their personal care products, even though the risks associated with the so-called ‘toxic’ chemicals are minimal, precisely because “there’s simply not enough evidence to suggest whether or not they’re safe”. They say that expectant mums should avoid using chemical-laden shower gels, bubble baths, body lotions, etc, etc, and opt for more natural products instead.
My opinion: Interestingly, when I read about general hair care products, the opinions of the majority and minority are completely different from the above – the majority says: take extra caution; whilst the minority says: there’s really no need to worry (Beauty and pregnancy (part 1): your hair – what is safe and what is not?). Confusing, isn’t it? Well, I’ve said it before that I’m still using my usual shampoos and conditioners, and I’ll tell you right now that I’m still using my usual shower gels and scrubs (although I’ve stopped taking bubble baths and I’m using organic sweet almond oil for my body instead of the usual lotion or cream). I suppose, it’s good to change your lifestyle and stay closer to nature, but organic products can be quite expensive and may not be accessible to a lot of people. So, I think we should all use our common sense and not be unnecessarily stressed about using non-organic personal care products. After all, stress itself is unhealthy and may be more harmful to your unborn babies than lathering your body with your favourite shower gel for a few minutes.
2. Shaving and waxing
The majority and minority: According to everyone, it’s safe to shave or get waxed during pregnancy – there’s no studies to suggest that hair removal products are unsafe. But due to all the hormonal changes in your body, your skin may be more sensitive; so getting a wax and the regrowth of hair itself are likely to be more painful than usual.
My opinion: This is good news, isn’t it? Just make sure you go to a reputable salon and tell your therapist that you’re pregnant. I’m definitely getting a bikini wax before labour!
3. Deodorant and antiperspirant
The majority and minority: When it comes to deodorant and antiperspirant, both camps agree that you should steer clear of those products that contain aluminium-based compounds (which keep you from sweating), Parabens, PEG 20, Propylene Glycol, Triclosan, Sodium Benzoate and Synthetic Fragrance. They say that repeated exposure to these chemicals may cause hormone disruption, damage to the foetus and birth defect. Even for non-pregnant women, these chemicals have been linked to breast cancer and alzheimer disease. If you must use deodorant or antiperspirant during pregnancy, they suggest that you go for the natural and aluminium-free brands.
My opinion: I’m afraid I can’t be of much help here. Personally, I’m not a fan of deodorant and antiperspirant. I’ve tried using them, but they’re too sticky for me; I could actually feel them under my arms and I don’t like it. I also don’t like their smell – I think it just interferes with my perfume. I usually just dust a bit of baby powder under my arms when I sweat and it works.
4. Tanning and bronzing
The majority: According to the majority, fake tan products are generally safe to use during pregnancy. This is because, the ingredients used in fake tans only react to the cells in the outer layer of your skin (thus, changing its colour) and are not absorbed into the body, so they can’t harm your unborn baby. They do, however, suggest that you avoid spray tans as the effects of inhaling the spray are unknown. Also, since your skin is more sensitive, you might want to do a patch test first in case it causes an allergic reaction.
The minority: In the minority’s view, since the effect of self-tanners on pregnant women hasn’t been studied much, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution before bronzing yourself during pregnancy. They say that using fake tan products occasionally may be less harmful than baking yourself under the sun or the tanning beds, but still, you probably shouldn’t overdo it.
My opinion: There you go again, the famous phrase ‘don’t overdo it’. Until today, I still don’t know what it means. I personally have never used fake tan products before – I don’t have pale skin and I suppose I’m blessed in that regard. I think you can survive without bronzing yourself for 9 months, but if you must do it, then perhaps once or twice wouldn’t do any harm?
The majority: Since perfume is made up of combinations of natural and chemical compounds, the majority’s view is that pregnant women should avoid using it directly on the skin at least during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. There’s a study which links perfume usage during the first trimester to fetal male development (that is, it could render a baby boy infertile); the tests were, of course, carried out on rats, but hey, better be safe than sorry. They also say that since your sense of smell is probably heightened by now, you might find that some scents make you dizzy, nauseated, more prone to headaches, etc.
The minority: According to the minority, it’s completely safe to use perfume during pregnancy. But they agree that due your heightened sense of smell, certain scents may make you feel uncomfortable, so you just have to choose one that suits you.
My opinion: I’m quite lucky in the sense that I don’t have that ‘heightened sense of smell’ they talked about, so I can still wear all my favourite perfumes. I’m far beyond my first trimester now and I know that I have a baby girl, but I still try not to spray it directly on my skin (it’s just a habit, really). There’s no conclusive evidence that the chemicals used in perfumes will harm your unborn baby in any way, but if you’re feeling anxious, then you might want to avoid wearing them during your first trimester.
6. Manicure and pedicure
The majority and minority: Both the majority and minority agree that getting your nails done during pregnancy is safe since chemicals aren’t absorbed through your nails. They do, however, say that some nail varnishes contain Phthalates, which may be harmful to your unborn baby, but as long as you polish your nails in a well-ventilated area, you should be okay. If you’re not convinced, then they suggest that you use Phthalate-free nail varnishes, which are widely available. They also say that nail varnish removers are safe to use when pregnant; they usually contain Acetone, and if you’re worried, you can always buy Acetone-free removers.
My opinion: I agree with the above. I rarely polish my nails, but I don’t see why you couldn’t do it when you’re pregnant.
7. Spa and other professional treatments
The majority and minority: Everyone agrees that when you’re pregnant, you should avoid heat treatments which raise your core body temperature (like, body wraps, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, etc) since there’s no way of knowing how much heat is making its way to your unborn baby. But a dip in a warm bath or hydrotherapy pool is okay as long as the water temperature is no higher than 35 degrees C.
My opinion: I’m not going to say anything. All those things above, they’re my favourite spa treatments!