Beauty products you must avoid during pregnancy

By:Ariba Khaliq, Onlymyhealth Editorial Team,Date:Nov 25, 2016

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Many pregnant women might not know what they put on their bodies which is just as important as what they are putting in their bodies. See our guide to know what NOT to look for when shopping the beauty aisle.
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    Should you or shouldn’t you?

    Decades ago, when chemists were churning out new discoveries and industry was making "better living through chemistry," the belief was widely held that chemicals do not cross the placenta. We now know that mother's chemical exposure can affect her baby's chances for a normal, healthy life, especially in early pregnancy when a foetus' growth is being carefully regulated by a host of natural chemical messengers in the womb. Should you worry? Yes, you could use a little dose of facts to protect your little one as much as you can. Here are 7 beauty products you must avoid during pregnancy.

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    Luxury bath products

    This is good news for women who do not want to waste money buying expensive organic products for themselves during pregnancy: Tests by German green consumer magazine Öko-Test (Eco-Test) found that cheap shower creams were composed of safer ingredients. The high-end products used more exotic ingredients, frequently including chemicals that can cause allergies, even roaming into riskier territory such as cancer-causing ingredients. So leave the stuff with the fancy names on the shelf and stick with a classic low-end soap for the shower.

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    Nail care

    Working in a nail salon made Time magazine's list of the worst jobs in America. Anecdotes about health problems experienced by workers include stillbirths, birth defects, and developmental issues -- although no studies have been published on birth defects among nail workers. A North Carolina study did find an increased risk of spontaneous abortion among nail salon employees. Consumer campaigns prompted by these concerns have forced suppliers to reformulate and reduce the "toxic trio:" dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde and toluene. But nail products continue to include many ingredients that are inadequately tested or which have raised concerns about reproductive toxicity. If you are just having your nails done once every couple of weeks, is that a "safe dose?" The fact is, no one knows. Better safe than sorry.

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    Chemical hair removal

    The active ingredient in hair removal products is usually some form of thioglycolic acid. There are no studies showing that this chemical is unsafe on the skin during pregnancy. But there are also no studies showing it is safe. The EU limits the ingredient to a maximum of 5% (as thioglycolic acid) in depilatories (hair removal products). In the US, independent panel the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) found it to be safe up to levels of 15.2% (as thioglycolic acid). The thioglycolic acid reacts chemically with disulfide bonds in hair. Because these ingredients are aggressive enough to react chemically, and no studies have been done to detect potential reprotoxic effects, we recommend the precautionary principle: Leave these on the shelf until after the pregnancy.

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    Heavy fragrances

    Many fragrances contain phthalates as carriers. There are a wide range of phthalates, some of which are less harmful than others. But these ingredients are rarely disclosed on labels, hiding behind the general descriptor fragrance. If you are not certain the product is free of phthalates with potential for reproductive toxicity, it is better to avoid it during pregnancy. Phthalates can imitate natural hormones in the body responsible for the proper growth and development of a fetus. Because growth is very sensitive to small concentrations of these hormones, it is considered dangerous to have even low levels of exposure during pregnancy.

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    Prescription acne medicines

    Your doctor probably already told you this when you got your prescription, but if you use the acne treatments like isotretinoin, tretinoin, and tetracycline, then you should not get pregnant. Unlike the low-level exposure to chemicals in other beauty products, these drugs are taken at doses intended to cause changes in your body....changes that ultimately reduce acne outbreaks. For this reason, birth defects related to use of Accutane are not merely anecdotal. Fully 25-35% of babies born to mothers using Accutane in the first trimester have some pattern of birth defects. Less information is available on Retin-A, but it can be expected to be similar to Accutane due to its molecular structure. Tetracycline, an antibiotic, causes gray teeth.

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    Sunscreens

    Some sunscreens include oxybenzone; one recent study linked its absorption to low birth weight in baby girls. But this research didn't prove that sunscreen was to blame. Sunscreen is extremely important because pregnancy hormones can make the skin more sensitive than normal. If you're concerned about its use, consider one of these options:  (1) Use a non-chemical sunscreen and wear a hat and other protective clothing while out in the sun. (2) Use sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide instead. These ingredients filter out UV rays by sitting on top of the skin -- meaning they're not absorbed.

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    Highlights and dyes

    Researchers haven't examined the effects of hair dye on pregnant women, so some doctors recommend avoiding them. Other doctors are more lenient. It's thought that only a small amount of hair-treatment chemicals are absorbed into women's skin and this isn't enough to cause problems to the foetus. Highlights that aren't applied to the scalp may be fine. As a conservative measure, avoid hair treatment during your first trimester, because that's when your developing baby is the most susceptible.

    Image: Getty

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