Choose Safer Beauty Products
Which Ingredients To Avoid During Pregnancy



Choosing safer beauty products is easier when you learn which ingredients are best to avoid during pregnancy. A little knowledge is all you need.

It's not easy is it? Being pregnant I mean. Having gone through pregnancy twice I get it. We worry about stuff both big and small which is probably why you came to this page. You are wondering about skin care safety and I am hoping the info below will help make this one less thing to worry about.

The good news is that your body does a good job of protecting the fetus by filtering bacteria and germs through the placenta but it is believed that there are ingredients in some products that can make their way through to a developing fetus.

Unfortunately, very little research has been done in this area so any decisions you make should be made on what makes the most sense to you and your situation. The ingredients below that are suggested to avoid during pregnancy are commonly found in a variety of beauty products and are known or are suspected of being able to make their way through the placenta into the fetus.

Learn more about other skin care ingredients by checking out nontoxic skin care.

pregnant woman

Ingredients To Avoid During Pregnancy and Why

  • Salicylic Acid (BHA or beta hydroxy acid)

  • This ingredient can be found in products used to treat acne, exfoliators and anti aging products. The reasoning behind this particular ingredient is that complications in pregnancy have arisen in women who have taken aspirin and since salicylic acid is a part of the aspirin family it is felt this is something best avoided. It is just not known if topical application will cause problems.

  • Retinol A

  • This ingredient that is a form of Vitamin A is also used to treat acne and is used for exfoliation. High doses of Vitamin A have been proven to be harmful to a baby.

  • Parabens

  • This ingredient is a very common preservative used in many of our skin care products. While it is an ingredient worth avoiding for all of us research is beginning to show a link from parabens to an adverse effect on the reproductive system of baby boys. Once again more research is needed but as a mom-to-be why risk it.

    red painted toenails
  • Phthalates

  • Could be listed as DBP (dibutyl phathalate) in products like nail polish but often in most products in would not be listed. Phathalates may be in skin care products with "fragrance" listed on the label. It can be found in any number of skin care or cosmetic products including nail polish, deodorant, hair spray or perfumes. It is an important ingredient to avoid during pregnancy.

    According to the book "Not Just a Pretty Face - The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry", a 2005 study by Shanna Swan, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Rochester, has shown a "significant relationship" to the presence of higher quantities of phathalates present in a pregnant woman's body and changes in the genitals of boy babies.

    More studies need to be done but why risk it when effective products are available that do not contain phathalates. Look for the many companies that offer phathalate free products, avoid products with "fragrance" on the label and find one of the new phathalate free nail polishes. See my page on natural nail polish for suggestions.

  • Toulenes

  • While we are on the subject of nail products toulenes is another ingredient used in these products you might want to avoid during pregnancy. The issue here is from inhalation of the fumes. It is believed that it can cause developmental damage to the fetus. The greatest concern is for those who work in nail salons but even if you don't and only paint your nails occasionally consider safer choices. Check out natural nail polish above. The brands mentioned are safer and toulene free too.

  • Cream Hair Removers

  • There is the possibility the chemicals in these products can be absorbed into the skin making this something else that is best to avoid during pregnancy. Additionally, many of the more popular brands list "fragrance" which may contain phathalates. It is just plain safer to avoid using them. I know this might not be what some women want to hear especially since you may be finding yourself with more hair than usual (another fun pregnancy issue) but there is always shaving and waxing.

    newborn and mother

    Take extra precautions for your baby.

  • Essential Oils

  • I hesitate to include essential oils in a list of ingredients to avoid during pregnancy because there are some essential oils that are particularly useful for pregnancy skin care. It is important though that you avoid certain oils altogether. The Garden of Eve has a great article on the benefits of using essential oils and which ones to use or to stay away from. Check out their page on Pregnancy and Skin Care. They also offer some great products to use.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide

  • According to Safe Fetus (a database that provides information on the safety of medications taken during pregnancy and while breast feeding) benzoyl peroxide found in many products used to treat acne is rated a Category C meaning that:

    "Either studies in animals have revealed adverse effects on the fetus (teratogenic or embryocidal or other) and there are no controlled studies in women, or studies in women and animals are not available. Drugs should be given only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus."

  • Accutane

  • This oral treatment for acne should not be used at all during pregnancy. There is great concern for putting the fetus at risk for serious birth defects and the possibility of fetal loss. Safe Fetus.com gives this a Category X, which means do not use.

  • Hydrocortisone

  • This topical cream used for treating acne is believed to put the fetus at risk for birth defects and possible toxicity to the fetus but more studies are needed. Safe Fetus.com rates this as a Category C to be used with care. See benzoyl peroxide for complete definition.

    red lipstick
  • Lead

  • Who would have thought that lead could be in any products we use but a study completed by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (do a search for lead in lipstick on the Safe Cosmetics site for more on this study) found lead in some brands of popular lipsticks.

    The amounts found are enough to be concerned about if you are pregnant. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says that "pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure because lead easily crosses the placenta and may enter the the fetal brain where it interferes with fetal development."

    To avoid during pregnancy any concerns about lead in lipsticks by choosing from the many natural lipsticks available that will keep you looking pretty and feeling safe.

  • 1,4 Dioxane

  • This is not an ingredient you will find listed on any skin care products because it is a by product of other synthetic petroleum based ingredients. It has been found to cause cancer and little is known about it's effects on a developing fetus.

    It is present in many cleansing type products, hair products, moisturizers among other personal care products. Unfortunately, it has also been found in products claiming to be natural or organic.

    To learn more about it and how to identify it in your skin care products read this page on 1,4 dioxane.

    woman applying hair dye
  • Hair Dye: Something to Think About

  • This may be one worth considering to avoid during pregnancy. When we color our hair using any permanent hair color we are exposing ourselves to some toxic ingredients.

    After researching I really could not find anything that supports that these chemicals cause harm to the fetus. The belief is that very little of the troublesome ingredients are absorbed or passed on to your baby but it is easy to understand concerns over products that rely on so many chemicals.

    OTIS (Organization of Teratology Information Specialist), basically they study fetal development, says limited studies show that it is probably safe to use. For expectant moms wanting to avoid exposing her baby to unnecessary chemicals a better solution could be to use highlights in place of all over color at least during the first trimester. Also have plenty of ventilation to avoid breathing in fumes.

    For suggestions for safer hair color products check out this page on natural hair color products.



    Does it seem that practically every product you use has an ingredient that is best to avoid during pregnancy. If you are using products made by some of the major manufacturers this is probably true. The safety of ingredients used in our skin care products is being questioned and even less is known about the ability of these ingredients to make it through to the fetus or the effects they may have.

    Pregnancy is a time for extra precautions.

    Find a company and products you can trust. Use products that have been third party certified such as certified organic or BDIH certified to be sure you are using the safest ones. You will find some of them listed on this page for pregnancy skin care. These are companies that make it easier to avoid during pregnancy any unhealthy ingredients.

    Related Pages

    Baby Skin Care

    Ingredient Safety Around The Home

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