Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The big fat list of pregnancy no-nos: BEAUTY EDITION

Like I mentioned in the food edition post of pregnancy no-nos, there are so many things out there that are considered unsafe for pregnant women, and that now includes beauty products too.  Just like with the food edition, I knew even before I was pregnant, that there were a couple of beauty products to be avoided whilst pregnant but I was honestly  quite surprised by  how many there were. As with all things pregnancy related, there were so many different opinions out there, it was hard sometimes to know who to listen to, but I followed my doctors advise and stayed on the side of caution.

Skin Care: Salicylic Acid

Skin care products containing salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is often used as a topical acne medication, and is commonly found in many facial scrubs, washes, lotions, astringents and moisturizers.  In fact you would be be hard pressed to find an acne fighting product that doesn't contain salicylic acid, I know this because I've tried. Although there are no conclusive studies saying exactly what the risks are of using salicylic acid during pregnancy, the American Pregnancy Association as well as many other medical experts believe it is best to avoid these products while pregnant, because small amounts of the chemicals in the product are absorbed by the skin and can have adverse effects on the baby.  Some experts believe that its okay to use salicylic acid products that do not linger on skin, such as face washes that are rinsed off,  but not okay to use face creams that remain on the skin all day long.

This wasn't very reassuring to me, especially since pretty much all the products I used on my face contained salicylic acid. I felt a bit uneasy continuing to use all those products on a regular basis.  My doctor took a moderate approach as usual and said I should avoid them if I could, but not to lose sleep over it.  So I started looking for more natural alternatives and paying much more attention to the ingredients of all my products. This led me to discover that even my good old Carmex lip balm contained salicylic acid too!  I use that lip balm constantly so I really didn't want to stop using it, but I worried about how much of if I was ingesting. I decided to just err on the side of caution and switch to something more natural for the rest of the pregnancy. I ended up replacing the products shown above with the ones shown in the photo below

 Yes to Carrots tinted lip balm,  Burt's Bees beeswax lip balm,
 Moisture Rescue face gel by Garnier, Sensitive skin foaming cleanser  by Clean & Clear

Hair care: Dyes, Perms and Relaxers

My doctor specifically told me to avoid any hair dyes during the first trimester and there after to avoid any hair dyes containing ammonia because of the dangerous effect of the fumes. I didn't pay too much attention to this because I never dye my hair anyway, so it wasn't really applicable to me. I know that many beauticians claim that curly perms and hair dyes are safe during pregnancy, but I'm sure you will forgive me if I'm not 100% convinced? Of course the beautician or hair stylist will assure you that its safe, because they want your business! They don't want you to stop dying your hair for nine months!   I know many people do dye their hair with ammonia-free dye and don't suffer any adverse effects, but as always I prefer to err on the side of caution. I don't think its the end of the world if you wear your hair in its natural color for nine months. You can give yourself a natural ombre effect!  But maybe I don't have enough perspective on this since I don't dye my hair.

 However when my doctor spoke to me about the hair dye issue, it brought my attention to the chemically relaxed state that my hair was in. Chemical relaxers contain a mixture of very strong ingredients that ideally should be avoided during pregnancy for two main reasons. Firstly because small amounts of any product that touches the hair and scalp are absorbed by the skin, and secondly because of exposure to the fumes from the product can directly affect the baby too.

 I have noticed that opinions of this vary widely by culture, and location. In some social circles it is an absolute given that women will stop putting chemical relaxers in their hair whilst pregnant, whilst in other areas everyone seems to take a very relaxed approach and don't see anything wrong with it. I guess it all depends on the individual and their comfort level with the ingredients of the product? I like to make informed decisions on the products I use and not just follow the crowd. For me it was an easy decision, I've never really liked hair relaxers anyway, they are a terribly harsh product regardless of the brand or the promise on the box and they really do not provide a single positive thing for my hair or body. So I decided to stop using it for the duration of the pregnancy and reevaluate once the baby was born.

Hair removal creams & procedures
My doctor advised to me avoid permanent and semi-permanent hair removal procedures like laser treatments and electrolysis, since there is no evidence proving that these are safe during pregnancy. I wasn't too worried because I don't use either of those methods for hair removal. She also mentioned that just to be cautious I should avoid or limit the use of hair removal creams like Nair.   On the Nair website they claim that their product can be safely used by pregnant women, but the APA states that there are no studies to verify that the product truly is safe to be used during pregnancy or not.

Anti perspirant & deodorants
These are a necessary evil, and for the most part we really can't do without them. The world wouldn't be much fun if everyone decided not to use anti perspirants  but the majority of them contain medium to high doses of aluminum which can have adverse effects on pregnant or nursing mothers.   Most experts agree that women who are pregnant and or nursing should avoid large quantities of aluminum where possible, but I'll be the first to admit its pretty darn hard to find a good aluminum free anti perspirant that actually works!