There are plenty of myths out there about what’s safe and what’s not when it comes to your pregnancy beauty routine. As your belly grows, so does the list of things that are apparently harmful to you and your baby. Pedicures, hair dye, and perfumes are just a few of the things that pregnant women have been told to avoid before their due date.
While there are certain products you should avoid while pregnant, you don’t have to give up many of your favorite pampering pastimes. We’ve debunked some of the most common pregnancy beauty myths so you can feel confident treating yourself while keeping you and your baby safe.
As always, consult our OBGYN if you have more questions about whether something is safe for your baby.
MYTH: Manicures, pedicures, and nail polish are unsafe while pregnant
Manicures and pedicures are perfectly safe for both you and your baby! Your pregnancy hormones will cause your nails to grow longer and stronger, so why not take advantage? If you want to be extra cautious, look for nail polish brands that don’t contain dibutyl phthalate, toluene, or formaldehyde.
While traditional nail polish is considered safe during pregnancy, experts do suggest you avoid gel polishes and manicures. The effects of gel manicures during pregnancy hasn’t been widely studied, and the ultraviolet lights used to set the gel is something you want to avoid while pregnant.
If you’re visiting a nail salon, the fumes may be upsetting. Most pregnant women have a heightened sense of smell, which can make you more sensitive to the fumes from nail polish and removers than normal. Look for a salon that’s well ventilated or ask to sit next to an open window or door to help settle your stomach.
It’s also important to ensure that your nail salon properly sanitizes any equipment. You’re more prone to infections during this time, so sanitized manicure and pedicure tools are a must.
If you visit a salon that offers hand or foot massages as part of your treatment, be aware of pressure points that can trigger labor. The web between your thumb and pointer finger and certain points on your foot can promote labor, so you may want to forgo the massage portion of your manicure or pedicure.
MYTH: You should avoid perfumes and fragrances
Another common concern is perfume or fragrances. The good news is that perfumes or scented lotions aren’t harmful to you or your baby. The bad news is they may upset your already nauseous stomach, especially in the first trimester. Certain scents such as peppermint, ginger, cardamom, lavender, rose, chamomile, and citrus are not overpowering and can help alleviate nausea.
If you’re more sensitive to smells, you may opt for unscented products or lightly scented shampoos, lotions, or body mists instead of your usual spray.
While perfumes and scented products are safe, essential oils are different. You should avoid essential oils during your first trimester because they can potentially cause uterine contractions or adversely affect your baby. You should avoid aromatherapy products and treatments during this time since essential oils are the main ingredient used in aromatherapy.
It may be safe to use some essentials oils during your second and third trimester when your baby is further developed. However, it’s a good idea to check with your OBGYN. If you do use essential oils, stick with brands that are 100% pure and unadulterated and only use them externally as ingesting them can cause miscarriage, lead to preterm labor, or have other negative effects. If applying them to your skin, always dilute them first with olive oil or coconut oil. Click here for a full list of essential oils that are considered safe as well as those you should avoid in your second and third trimester.
MYTH: You can’t treat acne while pregnant
Your acne doesn’t have to go completely untreated while pregnant. The FDA considers over-the-counter cleansing creams and washes with less than 5% benzoyl peroxide or 2% salicylic acid safe for pregnant women.
For prescription medications, you’ll want to double-check with your dermatologist. Acne solutions that contain Accutane (isotretinoin), tetracycline, tazarotene, and spironolactone can cause serious birth defects and should be avoided. The American Academy of Dermatology provides a full list of acne treatments and whether they’re safe to use during pregnancy.
Pregnancy hormones can cause an overproduction of oils on your ace (called sebum) which can lead to breakouts. If you’re struggling with acne during pregnancy, avoid facial scrubs or masks as they can irritate you skin and worsen acne. Shampooing regularly and avoiding oil-based cosmetics (sunscreens, hair products, or concealers) can also help prevent breakouts. If you do have a blemish, avoid picking or squeezing it to prevent an infection.
MYTH: Warm baths can cause birth defects
Increased body temperatures, called hyperthermia, are known to cause an increased risk of birth defects, especially during the first trimester. You should avoid hot tubs, steam rooms, and saunas for this reason since they’re typically set to 104° F. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warns that pregnant women should never let their core body temperature rise above 102° F, which can occur after only about 10 minutes in a hot tub, steam room, or sauna.
However, soaking in a warm bath to relax and relieve aches and pains is generally considered safe during pregnancy. In a bathtub, your upper body remains out of the water, making it less likely for you to overheat. Bath water will also cool over time, which further reduces your risk of overheating. If taking a bath while pregnant, make sure the water is between warm and hot, but not scalding, to avoid any negative effects to your baby.
If you’re worried about taking a bath but still want to ease the aches and pains of pregnancy, opt for a prenatal massage instead. Massages can decrease swelling around joints as well as ease nerve pain, especially sciatica. They’re also good for reducing stress and anxiety and can promote better sleep.
Most massage therapists will ask you to wait until you second or third trimester before getting a massage. During the massage, lie on your side with your weight on your hip or stomach (if a table with a hole cut out in the middle is available). You shouldn’t lie on your back as the weight of the uterus can press on your inferior vena cava, the vein that carries blood from your lower back to your heart.
MYTH: You can’t dye your hair during pregnancy
The main concern with hair dye is chemicals being absorbed through your scalp. However, studies haven’t found a direct link between dying your hair while pregnant and birth defects or childhood cancers. Most experts agree that dying your hair one to three times during pregnancy is generally safe, but that you should wait until your second or third trimester. This helps avoid any unnecessary exposure during your first trimester when your baby’s organs are forming.
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of hair dye, opt for highlights or semi-permanent dyes that don’t sit on your scalp.
As with nail salons, make sure your hair salon is well ventilated to help prevent any fumes from making you nauseous.
MYTH: Avoid wearing makeup while pregnant
The ingredients found in different makeup and cosmetic products are vast and wide ranging. If you have specific questions about the ingredients found in your favorite cosmetic brands, it might be best to talk to your OBGYN or dermatologist. In general, it’s completely safe to wear makeup while pregnant. But, because your skin is typically more sensitive during pregnancy, it might be best to avoid products containing parabens (found in foundation and lipsticks), fragrance, or alcohol as they’re known to cause irritation. If you’re struggling with pregnancy acne, opt for products that are oil-free or non-comedogenic as they can help keep your pores from becoming clogged.
Other common ingredients found in cosmetics that are good to avoid during pregnancy include:
- Triclosan – An antibacterial found in some toothpastes and soaps
- Retinol – A form of vitamin A found in foundations and lipsticks
- Bisphenol A (BPA) – Plastic polymers found in many cosmetic products
- Diethylphthalate (DEP) – Chemicals used in fragrances
- Preservatives – Stabilizing agents, such as phenoxyethanol and benzyl benzoate, which may aggravate your skin
- Artificial Dyes – Lipsticks containing artificial dyes may contain trace amounts of lead
- Aluminum powder – Used in eye shadow to make them shimmery
- Talc – Used in eye shadow to prevent caking. May contain small amounts of asbestos.
- Diazolidinyl urea – An antimicrobial preservative found in mascara that releases formaldehyde
MYTH: Self-tanning lotions are unsafe
Self-tanners and bronzers are considered one of the safest options for getting a sun-kissed glow during pregnancy. Unlike tanning beds or tanning outside, self-tanners will not increase your exposure to harmful UV rays, which can heighten your risk for skin cancer, hives, or chloasma.
Many self-tanners have minimal odor and can provide you with immediate color. However, the main chemical in self-tanners is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which can penetrate the skin. Although there is no link between DHA and birth defects, your OBGYN may recommend avoiding self-tanner until after your first trimester just to be safe.
It’s a good idea to test self-tanner on a small path of skin before applying it all over. Even if you’ve used it in the past, your skin is more sensitive and irritable during pregnancy.
Above All Else, Consult Your Doctor
As we mentioned above, if you have any questions about whether something is safe for you and your growing baby, consult your doctor or dermatologist. They can help recommend which products or beauty treatments are best for you and your unique situation. Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns your may have.