That Pregnancy Glow: What to Avoid During Pregnancy

MommyBeautyOnce that pregnancy test turns positive, mamas-to-be start worrying about what exercises are acceptable during pregnancy and what foods are no-nos. But the beauty regimen? You have to worry about that, too?!  It never ends. But have no fear. Today we’ve got experts to clue you in on all things beauty and pregnancy!

In the Clear: Acne During Pregnancy

Are your friends saying you have that pregnancy glow? It’s only one of many skin changes you may experience during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. Similar to an adolescent going through puberty, there are higher levels of hormones in the body when you are pregnant. These hormones cause an increase of oil production in the skin and can lead to breakouts. Typically, the surge of hormones occurs during the first trimester and starts to improve during the second trimester.

What acne treatments should you avoid? “Some acne medications, in particular, come with a high risk of birth defects to the developing fetus or a child that is being breastfed,” says Dr. Rebecca Baxt, a New Jersey/New York-based board-certified dermatologist. Baxt recommends avoiding isotretinoin. The birth defect risks are so high that women of childbearing age must be on two forms of birth control while on the treatment. Hormone therapy, such as estrogen and the anti-androgens flutamide and spironolactone should also be avoided, as should oral tetracyclines, such as antibiotics tetracycline, doxycycline and minocycline. Topical medications that should be avoided include Tretinoin (Retin-A), Adapalene (Differin), Tazarotene (Tazorac), and salcylic acid, which is found in many over-the-counter products.

Mommy Beauty: What to Avoid When You’re Expecting

When you get pregnant, your beauty regimen, like eating and exercising, takes on a whole different meaning. “Most women when pregnant, turn into health junkies and maintain the best lifestyle, diet and fitness routine to ensure a safe pregnancy,” says Dr. Nicole Mathis, a board-certified dermatologist in Austin, Texas. “Women easily give up on alcohol and smoking and anything else that might be harmful for their little bundle of joy. However, we generally forget that the beauty products we use also might affect pregnancy and the health of the baby.”

Research studies have shown that the effects of mother’s chemical exposure may permeate the placenta, affecting the chances of a healthy and normal baby, especially in the first trimester. Although there are no conclusive reports to isolate beauty products that might cause miscarriages or birth defects, it is always better to err on the side of caution.

Hair products, when applied on your scalp have a minimal risk of being absorbed into the skin. However, chemicals from hair products used in hair coloring, hair straightening and hair sprays may include p-phenylenediamine, whose high exposure has not only been linked to reproductive toxicity but it is also considered a neurotoxin.

Be aware of scented cosmetics and perfumes, too. Most cosmetic products use fragrances to hide the unpleasant smells of their chemical constituents. What the companies fail to tell us is that these fragrances use phthalates as carriers. Phthalates can imitate the hormones responsible for the growth and development of the fetus and unnatural levels of these hormones could be dangerous. Even if a perfume has a dangerous phthalate as its ingredient, it might not be listed on the label due to the laws, which protect the secret formulation of fragrances.

Anti-aging products like wrinkle control creams have retinoids as their ingredient, which helps the breakdown of collagen. Retinoids with vitamin A when used in large quantities can cause dangerous levels of vitamin A for the baby. Anti-aging products also contain parabens, which can disrupt the body’s hormone systems.

Although DHA (Dihydroxy Acetone) used in chemical tanning is approved and is considered safer than suntanning (which can cause cancer), it is still not clear whether inhalation of the spray particles is harmful or not. There are clinical studies to suggest that DHA might be mutagenic and cause DNA damage. Tanning beds are also a strict no-no as the elevated temperatures can cause fetal damage.

Many nail products like nail polishes, cuticle strengthener and polish removers have toluene and formaldehyde in their ingredient lists. Toluene is an industrial solvent, which poses reproductive toxicity and can cause brain cell damage. Formaldehyde is a preservative and hardener, which has been linked to cancer and developmental toxicity. Nail products can cause fetal damage because your hands come directly in contact with what you eat, which goes into your bloodstream.

Between the morning sickness and sleepless nights, there could be plenty to frown about during pregnancy—but should you get Botox to smooth out frown lines? The decision to undergo any cosmetic treatment while pregnant should always be made by your doctor, who must determine if the benefits outweigh any potential risks. “The decision to undergo any cosmetic treatment while pregnant should always be made by your doctor, who must determine if the benefits outweigh any potential risks,” says Dr. Richard Chaffoo, a triple board-certified plastic surgeon in San Diego. “Even though Botox is injected into specific targeted areas, general consensus is to stay away from Botox while pregnant, it is not worth the risk.”

A chemical peel involves different types of acids applied to the surface of your skin to exfoliate the top layers and to improve the tone and textures of the skin—but are they safe during pregnancy? “Superficial peels such as lactic and glycolic acid are very safe, but should not be done during pregnancy secondary to unknown risks regarding absorption of chemical products into the bloodstream and potential exposure to the baby,” advises Dr. Chaffoo. In addition, he suggests staying away from fillers until after pregnancy. “Restylane and Juvederm are localized injections of a natural hyaluronic acid fillers to smooth out deeper lines and furrows,” he says. “These are likely safe during pregnancy, but usually unnecessary as the face typically plumps up on its own while pregnant! Best to stay away from any injections during pregnancy as the safety has not been proven.”

Don’t stress about your normal beauty routine, but if you have concerns, do your research and ask your doc. I gave up coloring my hair during the first trimester, but I wasn’t about to go my whole pregnancy without a highlight! Did your beauty regimen change when you were pregnant? Or did you beautify on a case-by-case basis? —Erin

FTC disclosure: We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial. Affiliate links may be included. If you purchase something through one of those links we may receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!


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1 Comment
  1. Amanda says:

    Good article! Thanks for sharing a wonderful article. I am in the 6th month of my pregnancy and I am experiencing changes in skin and do not know how. After reading your article I have come to know and I will definitely escape all those factors that you have mentioned here. Thanks for this great article and please keep sharing.