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What’s hiding on your cosmetic shelf?

By Mindy Black
Licensed Esthetician and
CEO of Inner Beauty Skin Care


Pregnancy comes with a lot of do’s and don’ts. You know the basics – no alcohol, less caffeine and absolutely no smoking – but have you baby-proofed your cosmetic shelf? The ingredients list on the average beauty product probably looks like gibberish to you, which is why you need to know exactly which products to avoid.

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What’s hiding on your cosmetic shelf?

Experts agree that these ingredients are NOT safe to use while pregnant.

1. Retinoids

Normally, we’re all about retinoids, the powerful substances found in most anti-aging creams and moisturizers, because of how well they reduce wrinkles and improve skin tone. They do, however, contain a high dosage of Vitamin A, which some studies have shown can be harmful to an unborn baby. Retinoids come in a variety of names, so check for anything beginning with “retin” – as well as the ingredients differin and tazarotene.

2. Salicylic Acid

When you’re checking your beauty stash for ingredients, this is probably the one you’ll run into the most: salicylic acid. Found in everything from major acne treatments to even the most basic of toners, the acid is great for clearing pores – but it’s a big no-no during pregnancy. Since salicylic acid is in the aspirin family, high doses of it can cause pregnancy complications or even birth defects. Look out for products with salicylic acid, beta hydroxy acid or BHA on the label.

3. Phthalates

Often found in nail treatments and anti-aging products, phthalates are plasticizers that are commonly used to improve texture and keep product (mainly nail polish) from chipping. Some researchers believe phthalates are responsible for developmental issues, particularly in unborn boys. Check your labels for dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP).

4. Formaldehyde

Probably the most well-known ingredient of the four, formaldehyde is a controversial ingredient used as a preservative and hardener in a wide variety of cosmetic products – particularly hair color and nail treatments. Already heavily restricted in Japan and Canada, formaldehyde can pose a serious risk to you and your baby during pregnancy. It should be clearly marked on the label of any product you use.

With any new product, you should always consult with your physician. One of the most important things to keep in mind during this journey is there are so many unknowns, so what worked for your skin before may not work for you now. Even if you don’t physically see or feel changes, your skin will fluctuate constantly during pregnancy. Err on the side of caution – this isn’t a time to be experimenting with new products. Keep up with a routine. Less is best, from ingredients to steps. Focus on hydration (including serums!) and tons of SPF. You’ve got a lot to look forward to. Motherhood comes with concerns, but your skin shouldn’t be one of them. I’m on this journey with you – you’re not alone!



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