It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many warnings and old wives’ tales surrounding beauty products and pregnancy. You want to be on the safe side, but you don’t want to forgo all grooming for nine months. Plus, sticking to your beauty routine can be a source of comfort during pregnancy. “Your body goes through all these changes that you have no control over,” says Jolene Ali, owner of Sweet Momma, a spa in Edmonton that specializes in providing safe beauty treatments for expectant moms. “Feeling good about the way you look is a mental health boost.”
So what’s a careful mom-to-be to do? We take out the guesswork by getting the experts to weigh in on these common beauty products.
Green light: Enjoy without worry
Hair removal wax Professional quality wax is safe, especially since it doesn’t contain the chemical preservatives (like parabens) that most other beauty products do. “Our main concern is pain, especially since blood flow increases during pregnancy,” says Ali. “That’s why we use a cream wax, which is a bit more gentle.”
Sunscreen Keep slathering on that SPF, says Catherine Zip, a dermatologist in Calgary. “Because sunscreen use is so widespread, we would have been able to see by now if it caused any problems,” she says. If you want to be extra-safe, you can look for sunscreens that use physical, rather than chemical, blockers — just look for one with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
Amber light: Likely OK, but you may want to adjust for pregnancy
Hair dye This is the most common beauty product concern, says Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk Program at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. However, there’s little evidence to show that the dye actually affects fetuses. “If you’re still worried, I suggest waiting until the first trimester is over, since that’s the most sensitive time,” he says. Some women stick to highlights to minimize contact with the scalp.
Nail polish There’s no hard evidence that nail polish is dangerous during pregnancy, says Koren, citing a study that looked at pregnant beauticians working in salons. However, most nail polishes do contain potentially harmful chemicals, such as VOCs and formaldehyde, so Ali recommends looking for a natural nail polish option, such as Goya or Acquarella.
Red light: Steer clear until after the birth!
Accutane This prescription acne medication is highly dangerous to fetal development. “We now know that Accutane can cause brain and face malformations,” says Koren. The risk is so high that it’s recommended that those on the drug use two forms of contraception at all times. Zip advises expectant moms to use topical options instead, like small amounts of benzoyl peroxide.
Hydroquinone This ingredient is in many skin-brightening creams and is considered unsafe for pregnant women, says Zip. “An animal study showed some fetal development problems, so we just steer clear of it,” she says.
Vitamin A “It’s pretty clear that no Vitamin A beauty products should be used in pregnancy because there have been reports of birth defects in women with topical use alone,” says Zip. Vitamin A ingredients are present in many over-the-counter and prescription skin creams and go under such names as retinoid, retinol or tretinoin. Note, though, that normal amounts of dietary vitamin A are not a concern.