Pregnancy throws a lot of bodily changes our way. From a growing bump and compressed bladder through to darker spots or dryness. The hormones produced to create another life can play havoc with our skin. Even if you’re someone who’s had their skincare routine planned out for years, now may be the time to make some adjustments. Pregnancy changes the way in which our body functions and therefore, the impact of certain ingredients alters too. While many of us know to eliminate alcohol, raw meat and unpasteurised cheese from our diets, did you know that there are certain skincare ingredients to avoid when pregnant too?
How pregnancy impacts our skin
Pregnancy hormones are the cause of many changes in our bodies during these 10 months. They throw our normal skin balance entirely off-kilter, with the potential to change balanced skin into oily or combination into dry.
Alongside this, research shows that our platelet count increases progressively throughout normal pregnancy. Some studies claim that this increase can be as much as 50%, with levels rising by 1250ml by the time of birth. These increased blood levels cause increased blood flow. More blood passing by the surface of the skin causes absorption rates to be increased. And, therefore, the products we choose to apply to our skin are drawn into the body at a faster rate. Once they are inside, they can pass through the placenta and cause potential harm to the unborn baby.
The FDA categorises the safety of skincare ingredients using the letters of the alphabet. A is deemed the safest, while X indicates ingredients that should be avoided. Only those that fall within category A and B are considered fully safe for use during pregnancy.
Skincare ingredients to avoid when pregnant
Used to treat acne, these compounds are related to Vitamin A. While having good levels of Vitamin A is essential to support the development of baby’s heart, lungs and kidney, excessive levels have been linked to birth defects. Retinoids are known as teratogens which mean they can disturb the development of an embryo or fetus. Oral retinoids fall into the FDA X category due to their presence in cases of congenital heart defects or development abnormalities. While topical versions are much milder, they are still part of category C and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Another product used in acne treatment, salicylic acid once again falls into Category C of the FDA’s coding system. It is part of the aspirin family and used to reduce redness and inflammation. While many dermatologists claim it to be safe in small doses. It is advisable to avoid chemical feels that use high percentages. Check the labels of your skincare products and ensure the salicylic acid levels are under 2%. Normal skin will absorb very little into the bloodstream but, with heightened blood flow during pregnancy, the risk increases. Instead, opt for a topical product that contains azelaic acid.
One of the more controversial ingredients on our list, hydroquinone is a skin-lightener. It is used to fade dark spots and is hailed as being one of the best ingredients in hyperpigmentation products. Studies show that up to 45% of hydroquinone is absorbed through the skin after application. Banned for use in numerous countries including Japan and Australia, the FDA have issued an alert regarding their concern about the safety of hydroquinone. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid any skincare products including it within its ingredients.
This colourless and strong-smelling gas was once a common ingredient in nail varnishes and hair straightening products. The links between formaldehyde exposure and health complications are one of the key reasons why it is rarely used these days. For pregnant women, the risk increases significantly. Studies show that being exposed to airborne pollutants such as this has been linked to spontaneous abortion, congenital malformations and premature births. The risk is significantly increased during the first trimester. And it still presents itself after birth in environments where exposure levels are so high. Also, they have the potential to enter breast milk.
Parabens are used as preservatives to eliminate bacterial and mould growth. There is research to suggest that prolonged exposure can disrupt the hormonal balance in the body. It negatively impacts on fertility and cause birth defects. A study published in Nature Communications in 2020 has shown the link between paraben levels in expectant mothers and childhood obesity. It recognised a link between butylparaben and epigenetic changes that interfere with appetite regulation at a young age. Parabens have now become one ingredient avoided by many in their skincare routine. And this should be continued on during pregnancy.
How to care for your skin during pregnancy
While avoiding certain products is the best way to protect both you and your baby while pregnant. Skincare changes can cause both discomfort and unhappiness too. And caring for your skin is still entirely possible during this time too – with a bit of knowledge about what you may be lacking.
Drink plenty of water
To keep skin supple and glowing, it is essential that you have enough moisture in your body. The World Health Organisation recommends 1.5 – 2 litres of water a day, with this increasing by another 1 litre during pregnancy. This allows your body to support the growing life while rehydrating tissues and ensuring the epidermis has the moisture needed to provide a suitable, protective barrier.
Use antioxidant-based products
In the same way that they benefit the immune system and fight against free radicals. Antioxidants help to protect your skin and keep good levels of collagen. The Malée Verdure Moisturising Body Cream contains avocado oil (rich in Vitamin A, B and D), sweet almond oil (rich in Vitamin A, B1, B2 and B6) and wheat germ oil (Vitamin E) – perfect for use during pregnancy and to nourish dry or damaged skin.
Look for natural moisturisers
There are many natural ingredients that can help you maintain good levels of moisture for your skin. Shea butter in our Verdure Nourishing Hand Cream and coconut oil fatty acid in the Malée Verdure Moisturising Oil are two examples of highly nourishing skincare ingredients that will have you glowing during your pregnancy. Focusing on the power of natural active ingredients and using them to their full potential means you can enjoy the beauty of good skin throughout the entire 10 months.
During pregnancy, the general consensus is that it’s safer to avoid. While studies into many of these ingredients aren’t abundant, the ones that have been performed provide enough information to indicate that it’s best to cut them out during this period. However, it is still entirely possible to continue on with a nourishing and rewarding skincare routine while preparing to meet this new life. Here at Malée, we focus on the power of natural ingredients so that our products can be used all year round and by everyone.