After answering thousands of questions from readers about pregnancy beauty, I’ve noticed that there are a few questions that come up over and over. I’ll answer them here, which will likely give you a more detailed and patient answer than me answering in post comments.
What about X ingredient in this product??
I get this question in a few different instances. First, when it is an ingredient you’re worried about but I am not. Second, when something that I usually screen out shows up in an ingredient list.
When I’m not worried but you are
There are a lot of ingredients that fall under this category, and I get asked about more all the time. You can learn more about the specific ingredients I am worried about during pregnancy and during nursing. While I labeled those posts as skincare, I look for the same ingredients in all products.
Often I am asked about ingredients someone read about “somewhere online” or that are confusing, such as hyaluronic acid, which isn’t really an acid. Note that I’m pretty conservative in what I include in my “to avoid” lists, but I try to be practical.
The skin is a barrier, it tries to keep most things out. Frequently I am asked about different herbs and extracts from things that are edible. The amount of an ingredient that you’ll find in skincare is much less than you would be exposed to if that same ingredient was a food. So if the ingredient you’re asking about is something you can eat, but haven’t been warned to avoid eating…. should be ok to put on your skin.
When an ingredient is in a list, and you know I said to worry about it
I’m at the mercy of online ingredient lists, which sometimes are wrong, get changed or updated. I’m also human, and I fully admit I may have made a mistake and overlooked something! For this reason you should always check your own ingredient lists. Please nicely let me know about it so I can fix the mistake.
Why does X Brand say this product is safe but you don’t think it is safe?
Or vice versa.
I have different standards for pregnancy safety than brands do, and my standards are pretty conservative. It is up to you to decide whose opinion you want to listen to.
You’ve been using a product with a “bad” ingredient
First, many women don’t realize that they should be avoiding some ingredients with their makeup and skincare. Retinoids are the worst ingredient, with the most evidence behind potential birth defects. But most ingredients that are recommended to avoid just have potential effects. We think something could happen, or we know something is easily absorbed… and that concerns us.
I get asked a lot if I know what the immediate effects of using a product are, or if something will show up in a scan. Unfortunately that isn’t information we have, and likely we never will. Doing the studies to really know exactly which ingredients are dangerous, how much exposure you need and what happens as a result… those will never be done. They are not ethical to do.
So, we talk a lot about ingredients we are really concerned about, that may or may not have an effect on your baby. And you’re already ahead of the game by thinking about it. I’d swap to a product that you know is safe and not worry about it too much. A lot of women don’t change out their beauty products during pregnancy and there are no issues.
What about if I only used this once or twice a week?
It is important to know that in the US, pregnancy risks and safety are viewed as absolutes. If there’s a risk of an issue due to an ingredient we think is absorbed into the body, in the US “we” (aka- physicians. I’m using this rather inclusively as I’m a pediatrician and not an OB, but I am referring to the medical establishment) say to avoid it completely. We don’t logic our way into saying it is ok if you only use X amount, or X frequency… simply because we don’t have data to back up the statement that something is safe to do that with. We have very little safety data from pregnancy, and it would be much too difficult to even conduct a study that would be able to tease out that you can use your favorite face mask 1-2x a week still. Instead, if we have concerns about a specific ingredient you’ll just be told we think you should be avoiding it.
What about by trimester? Is this ok to use in 2nd or 3rd? What if you are trying to conceive?
Similar to what I just commented on above, we don’t have safety data regarding trimesters. That’s data we will never have, those studies on pregnant women are unethical to perform. Even if we had specific timing concerns with an ingredient and a specific time of the baby’s development, there could very likely be other effects on other parts of development that we haven’t thought of. If something should be avoided during pregnancy, that is for the entire pregnancy.
Many women don’t realize they are pregnant for weeks after they are actually pregnant. If you’re actively trying to conceive, it is recommended that you assume you are in your first trimester and avoid the risky behaviors that you would while pregnant.