Skincare during pregnancy can be a worrisome thing. The science is often contradictory and convoluted; certain ingredients are safe in some forms but not others, and sometimes it’s a mere matter of dosage. So what can you use when you have a bun in the oven? Skincare specialist and medical aesthetician Giselle Curcio DiSanto (pictured on the left with her adorable one-year-old son, Adrian!) plays traffic cop by rating common skincare ingredients so you know which ones get the go ahead and which ones you need to yield to with caution.
Avoid using these while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Stay away from from this beta hydroxy acid (BHA) while pregnant or breastfeeding. Found in topical exfoliants, this popular acid is mainly used to treat acne, and you can find it in a number of skin products, such as cleansers and toners. It is oil soluble, meaning it can penetrate facial oils to get deep into pores and clean out dead skin cells. Salicylic acid is in the aspirin family, so it can also help reduce inflammation or redness.
Although salicylic acid is a powerful and results-driven ingredient that people generally really enjoy using, it’s a big no-no for pregnant women. Studies have linked the oral use of this acid to certain birth defects. The biggest concern is when the skin is saturated or treated with salicylic acid, much like with a peel. The more a product is used, means the more absorption into the skin and into the bloodstream.
The second big no-no for pregnant women is retinoids, or any type of retinoid derivative. It’s an animal form of vitamin A that speeds up cell division, making it a very popular addition to everything from exfoliants to wrinkle creams and also acne products to resurface the skin. While some vitamin A is necessary for fetal development, excess can be harmful to your unborn child. Obstetricians will always advise to stay away. Some retinoid derivatives include: Retin-A, Renova (tretinoin), Accutane, Retinoic acid, Retinol, Retinyl linoleate, Retinyl palmitate.
Essential oils are sometimes considered one of the most effective “natural” weapons against acne, amongst other treatable skin conditions. Topical use of a few specific essential oils can be the first line defense against the bacteria that cause pimples to form. Some essential oils are known to provide a keratolytic effect, decongesting the pores and getting rid of acne-causing congestion.
Although essential oils may have wonderful benefits, it’s important to use them with caution, as they are volatile in nature. Improper use of essential oils can lead to headaches, nausea, and even burn the skin. It’s imperative to know and understand the proper dilutions of essential oils to execute safe, effective treatments during pregnancy.
Tea tree, lavender and lemongrass essential oils are all antibacterial solutions to help rid the skin of acne and/or inflammation, however caution must be taken. Tea tree, for example must never be taken orally, as it is known to cause diarrhea and nausea.
Lavendar is one of the safest essential oils to use, as it’s calming and rids the skin of irritations; it accelerates healing and is often used to treat burns or wounds, even acne lesions.
Lemongrass has a pleasant lemon scent and is great for oily skin since it acts as a natural astringent without over drying the skin. Lemongrass is also antibacterial and antimicrobial, which is an excellent synergy with its astringent properties, therefore a great choice for acne.
That being said, pregnancy is a time in your life when so many things are happening to your body, you may notice that some of your favourite foods completely turn you off, smells bother you, and you can become more intolerant. With essential oils, keep in mind that they are more potent. They are more of a natural remedy, which means they have not been tested as much either. Ask your health care provider before administering any essential oils to yourself, or to your bath water as there are potential risks involved, including miscarriage or pregnancy implications down the road. Those with high or low blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid or kidney problems and asthma, will most likely be directed to stay away from essential oils completely.
These are safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Soy and AHA’s
Many women have breakouts in the first trimester because of soaring estrogen levels, even if they’ve always had great skin. If you’re dealing with pregnancy-induced acne, try active-soy based products. Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid and others AHA’s or alpha-hydroxy acids are safe to use during pregnancy, and will help keep the skin smooth, refined and hydrated. Just beware, of BHA additives, as they are sometimes combined in the same product.
Being one of the fastest acting remedies in treating acne, benzoyl peroxide really is a superstar ingredient. Like most peroxides, it is considered an organic compound and known to work quickly. Its antibacterial properties are fierce, and acne bacteria doesn’t stand a chance. BP is used in a vast array of products for its powerful bleaching properties, including hair dyes, teeth whitening products, and is even found in white flour.
Most women with acne do not have severe nodular acne, and their skin problems often respond to safe topical (applied to the skin) or oral medications. As you know, during pregnancy brings on many changes, and one is limited to choices of remedies. Topical preparations such as is benzoyl peroxide is a compound that has been given the green light by OBs and physicians in treating acne during pregnancy for many years. It has helped many women rid their skin of imperfections, and reveal that beautiful pregnancy glow.
Benzoyl Peroxide of 2.5% or 5% strength is safe because only a small percentage is absorbed into the skin. From there, the product is further broken down and has no effect of your baby. Some doctors or OBs will even prescribe a higher percentage if the acne becomes cystic, or worsens. Three in 10 women suffered from worsened acne during pregnancy, but the good news is that it’s considered by doctors to be very safe. Though there have been no studies, no case reports indicated risk to an unborn child. (It’s considered unethical to perform scientific studies on pregnant women.)
You’re in the clear these common ingredients found in sun protection products:
Avobenzone (Parsol 1789)
Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC)
Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
Just because you are pregnant, doesn’t mean that you have to hide indoors or under the shade, covered up. The sun is full of vitamin D, which is not only the sunshine vitamin, but it’s known as the happy vitamin as well. For many years, exposure to sunlight has been linked to a more positive mood. In fact, research suggests a strong link between vitamin D status and basic cognitive function, mood and overall mental health. Now in saying all of this, it is always important to enjoy the sun in a smart way. Sunscreen is so crucial in maintaining good skin health, and it’s reassuring to know that even while pregnant or breastfeeding, there is no harm in applying the adequate sun protection. Even the penetrative ingredients found in sunscreen used to filter the sun’s rays are safe. This is because those that do travel deep within the layers of the skin, are extremely light molecules and therefore less concentrated. Some women prefer to use the physical sun blocks that reflect the rays off the skin, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, as they do not penetrate the skin as all and are quite powerful skin protectors. None the less, it is always advisable to take protective measures like to stay out of the sun when UVB (burning rays) are at their peak, between 10am-2pm, and always remember to re-apply every 2 hours. Remember that the effects of UVA (aging rays), may not show right away on your skin as those of UVB rays, but they do account for 95% of the rays emitted from the sun and are chronic and cumulative, and cause serious damage to the deeper layers of the skin, specifically targeting our skin’s natural fillers: collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. Not to mention the textural component and hyperpigmentation. Protect your skin!
Depilatory products for hair removal
Lotions and topical creams are considered risk-free, and are a dream for keeping your legs silky smooth, especially if at this point you can barely reach. They are not absorbed into the bloodstream, but you must always use depilatory products as directed to prevent an allergic reaction to occur due to sensitivity toward a specific ingredient, or a combination of ingredients. Luckily, these pose no threat or risk to you or your baby, but if you have had an allergic reaction to them in the past, it’s best advised to stay away for your own good and comfort, as sometimes women tend to become ultra-sensitive while pregnant. If you’re not sure, a patch test is always advisable. Take a small amount of product and apply it to either the thinner skin behind your knees or down by your ankles and leave it on for about 12 hours. This will allow the sufficient time for any potential allergen to present itself.
As a final note, if you have come into contact with any of our “red-light” ingredients, don’t panic. Simply speak to your health care provider to let them know. Keep in mind that anything applied to less than 10% of the body, generally doesn’t pose any serious threats. However, it’s always safe to ask. Have a wonderful pregnancy, and enjoy every moment of it!