11 Beauty Ingredients You Should Watch Out for During Pregnancy

By Jenn Sinrich | Originally Published Jul 28, 2018 on Total Beauty. | Featuring Dr. Sherry Ross

Bringing a life into this world is an incredibly beautiful thing, but it’s also an enormous responsibility. From the second conception occurs, everything a mom-to-be inhales, ingests, aborbs and is exposed to can affect her developing baby. We all know to avoid drinking alcohol, eat healthy and stop smoking, but you also need to take a close look at the beauty and skin care products you’re using.

“Any beauty products used on the skin during pregnancy can be absorbed into the bloodstream and travel to the baby,” says Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. For this reason, it’s important to avoid any potentially harmful ingredient, which, unfortunately, includes the ingredients contained in many of our beloved beauty products.

To help ensure you keep yourself and your developing baby out of harm’s way, we asked experts to list the top beauty ingredients to avoid during pregnancy.

mage via MyChelle Dermaceuticals


If you look at the ingredient list for most of your beauty products, from your face wash and lotion to your shampoo and conditioner, you’re likely to see something labeled “fragrance.” While it might sound harmless, Dr. Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York, explains that they’re usually made up of other harmful chemicals, like parabens, benzene derivatives, aldehydes and more, which are linked to cancer and nervous system issues. Short term, they can cause irritation and redness on the applied area. According to Engelman, avoid ingredients labeled parfum, perfume, linalool, limonene, eugenol, citronellol, geraniol or cinnamal, which indicate that fragrance is added. “Fragrance-free products are mostly labeled as so,” she adds. If you’re looking for a fragrance-free skin care line that is mom-to-be-safe, check out Belli Skin Care and MyChelle Dermaceuticals.

Image via Getty


BPA, or bisphenol A, has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s but is becoming increasingly unpopular in recent years due to its negative health implications. It’s often used in the packaging of various beauty products, which can be potentially hazardous for anyone using such products. “BPA is a highly unstable chemical that can infiltrate into whatever is being contained by it,” Engelman warns. “It disrupts the endocrine system, leading to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, heart disease, diabetes, etc.” It’s especially not recommended for pregnant women, as fetal exposure has been linked to a myriad of developmental issues and behavioral problems,

Image via Jin Soon


You’ve probably heard of this ingredient, which is commonly found in household products, but it’s also lurking in your beauty products. It’s used as a preservative in everything from hair dyes and relaxers to hair removers to smoothers. “This chemical has been linked to cancer, as well as other nervous system issues, like chest pain, coughing, trouble breathing and respiratory irritations,” Engelman says. Especially during pregnancy, she recommends looking for nail polishes labeled 3-Free or 5-Free, such as Jin Soon or Butter London, which do not use this chemical.

Image via Love Beauty and Planet


Look on the ingredient list of many of your beauty products and you’ll likely find a slew of chemicals that end in -paraben, such as methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, etc. These are all preservatives that prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in everything from lotions to mascara. However, Anate Brauer, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Greenwich Fertility and IVF Centers and assistant professor of OB/GYN at NYU School of Medicine, says that these chemicals have weakly estrogenic properties that have been linked to potential growth issues in male fetuses. “While it’s almost impossible to completely avoid parabens altogether throughout pregnancy, it’s reasonable to limit them,” she says. “Since controversy over the preservative has increased in recent years, many products, which are ‘paraben-free’ are now labeled as such.”

Image via @bareminerals


This ingredient, mainly found in beauty products and used to help stabilize the formula, has been linked to everything from liver, kidney and lung conditions to reproductive issues, says Engelman. It’s best to avoid phthalates when possible, especially during pregnancy, since they have also been linked to undescended testicles and hypospadias, birth defects and lifelong reproductive problems in both male and female babies, according to Ross.
BareMinerals, Korres and Tarte are some makeup and skin care lines that are phthalate-free.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Look on the back of every shampoo and body wash you own and you’ll likely find this unsuspecting chemical, which acts as a foaming agent in many soaps and washes. According to Engelman, the issue with sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, is the level of concentration — it can be too irritating by cosmetic standards. “Our body is not able to break this chemical down and with prolonged exposure, it can cause issues with the nervous system and kidney and liver function,” she says. “If ingested, it can cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.” Some SLS-free shampoos to use through pregnancy include Ouai Repair Shampoo, $28, Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo, $11.49 and Aveeno Pure Renewal, $5.99.

Image via Paula’s Choice


These impressive, topical anti-wrinkle agents, which are vitamers of vitamin A, are widely used in skin care products of all sorts, however, they are not recommended for use during pregnancy. In fact, pregnant women should avoid anything with vitamin A derivatives, such as Retin A (tretinoin), retinol or retinoic acid, according to Anna Guanche, MD, dermatologist and founder of the Bella Skin Institute, as studies have shown it may be harmful to the developing fetus. “This also includes the oral form, isotretinoin (formally known as Accutane), which is known to cause birth defects in pregnant women,” she adds

Image via The Ordinary

Hydroxy Acids

Beta hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid and alpha hydroxy acids, are commonly found in topical preparations for acne and anti-aging. They should not be used during pregnancy, according to Brauer since salicylic acid in its oral form has been shown to cause potential birth defects and pregnancy complications. “While using low dose salicylic acid preparations sparingly is likely not harmful to a pregnancy, most doctors recommend avoiding it all together since its use is elective and for cosmetic reason,” she adds.

Image via Coola

Chemical Sunscreen

Yep — you can expect that you’ll probably have to switch out your regular sunscreen once you’re pregnant. “Prolonged, direct sun exposure should be avoided in pregnancy for both health and cosmetic reasons, but if you must be out in the sun it is extremely important to wear sunscreen,” Brauer says. “It’s recommended that pregnant woman, as well as infants and kids, stick with a physical sunscreen, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, as opposed to chemical sunscreens, which can be absorbed into the bloodstream and has been linked to potential pregnancy complications and birth defects.”

Image via Crest


If you frequently whiten your teeth, you’ll have to postpone your next session until after baby’s due date. “There have not been enough reliable studies to show that peroxide, the main ingredient in whitening kits, is safe during pregnancy,” explains Ross. You may also want to postpone your regular teeth cleaning, since pregnant women experience increased blood flow to the mouth and gums which can cause increased sensitivity and bleeding. “Daily teeth cleaning and flossing is best for mouth and teeth hygiene during pregnancy,” Ross says. “Cosmetic dental procedures should wait until after pregnancy.”

Image via Getty

Minimally Invasive Skin Procedures

Most minimally invasive skin procedures, such as botox, dermal fillers, laser facials or peels, which are often used to prevent wrinkles in the face, should be avoided during pregnancy, Ross says. “There is not enough research done on these potential harmful cosmetic products.”

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