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Beauty Products to Avoid While Pregnant

Beauty Products to Avoid While Pregnant

Brie Cadman | DivineCaroline

November 16, 2010

Pregnant women often hear advice on what they should and shouldn’t be putting into their bodies. However, rarely do they consider that what they’re putting on their bodies may also pose a risk. It is estimated that women use, on average, twelve different beauty and body products a day, and many of these products contain chemicals that may harm a fetus.

While certainly a woman shouldn’t have to eschew her beauty routine just because she’s pregnant, there are some products better avoided. I asked Tristen Markey, a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), what products to watch out for and alternatives to them. Here’s a list of the top offenders:


Phthalates are compounds used in plastic processing; they are also among the most common fragrance ingredients in cosmetics and lotions. At high doses, they have been linked to reproductive problems in animals, but it is unclear whether they cause health damage in humans. After surveying the evidence, an expert panel from the National Toxicology Program concluded, “reproductive risks from exposure to phthalate esters were minimal to negligible in most cases.” However, because the risks may not be fully understood, pregnant women may want to avoid them.

I asked Tristen what beauty products contain phthalates. He said that phthalates are not usually listed on consumer products; however, almost anything that is heavily scented contains phthalates. His advice was to look for products that are not heavily fragranced, and instead choose products that are fragrance and scent free.

Alternatives: You can find a list of phthalate-free beauty products on the EWG’s Skin Deep Web site. Some companies list their products as being phthalate free; Burt’s Bees and Kiss My Face are examples. Look for products that are unscented.

Hair Treatments

Not much is known about the relation between hair dying and birth defects. It is probable that the chemicals used in dying, perming, and treating hair are absorbed into the scalp; just how much and whether or not they reach the fetus is unknown. However, it seems smart to avoid them and the fumes associated with them. Tristan notes that certain hair dyes have been linked to cancers and localized irritations.

Alternatives: Because highlights and hair painting do not touch the scalp, they present a lower risk; henna is a natural dye that poses much less risk; and au natural is no risk.

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