When it comes to what to avoid in pregnancy, food tends to be well-documented—but what about your beauty products? Historically, many chemicals in beauty products have been labeled as carcinogenic (cancer-causing) which leads many people to wonder which products (if any) can safely be used during pregnancy. Do you regularly dye your hair or go for treatments like Botox or facials? What’s safe to continue and what should you put on hold until further notice?
Learn More About Behaviours and Foods to Avoid While Pregnant →
Can I dye my hair or use straightening products during pregnancy
Chemical ingredients in hair dyes can enter the body by through inhalation of the fumes and contact through skin. One study found an increased risk of developing childhood leukemia, under the age of two, when the mother was exposed to any hair dye or chemical straightening products during the first trimester. Some ingredients linked to leukemia include persulphates (like ammonia salts and bleaching products) and butylparaben ester.
In a Japanese study, there was a significant link between occupational hairdressers who were regularly exposed to hair dye in their second and third trimesters and an increased risk of stillbirth. Meanwhile in a North American study, the use of any hair dye in the month before or during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of neuroblastoma, another childhood cancer.
To be safe, opting to stop dying your hair during pregnancy may be the best bet.
Can I get my nails done during pregnancy?
Any beauty treatments that use chemical-based products should be assessed—including that nail appointment. In general, most nail polishes contain harmful chemicals such as phthalates, toluene and formaldehyde. There are three different ways these chemicals can get into your system: contact with your skin, through the nail bed and by inhaling the fumes.
The formaldehyde resins in nail polish is a carcinogenic preservative, meaning potentially cancer-causing. The European Commission also reports it as a suspected hormone disruptor, and Environment Canada lists it as being harmful or toxic. Benzophenone may also be found in salon and retail nail polishes as a UV filter, but it is currently being investigated for explicit concerns of its hormone-disrupting properties, and this one can easily cross the skin barrier.
Best practice: If you absolutely need a dose of color on those nails, use a non-toxic, phthalate-, toluene- and formaldehyde-free nail polish.
Can I use Retinol and Vitamin A during pregnancy?
High levels of Vitamin A during pregnancy can be problematic but, when you apply Vitamin A-containing products to your skin (typically retinol or tretinoin), you absorb a relatively small amount. A few studies have concluded that retinol likely doesn’t affect embryo development, but the prevailing advice is still to avoid retinoid-containing products to be on the safe side.
Can I use sunscreen while pregnant?
SPF is important to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer—even if you’re pregnant. But you may want to skip the chemical filters (which are absorbed into the skin, convert harmful rays into heat and release them from the body) and opt for physical or mineral ones instead (which sit on top of the skin and reflect harmful rays). Look for Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide (but not in spray form) and continue to opt for SPF30 or above—and don’t forget to reapply every two hours or when you finish swimming or sweating.
Can I get Botox or filler during pregnancy?
Botox can be used cosmetically to reduce wrinkles, but it’s also used medically to treat migraine headaches, eyelid twitching and other unwanted muscle spasms. Medical and cosmetic Botox is made from the purified toxin of the Clostridium botulinum bacterium. This bacteria can cause botulism when contaminated foods are consumed. Botox can stay in your system for about four to six months, but unlike a botulism infection, Botox hasn’t been reported to get into the bloodstream, and the size of the molecule makes it unable to cross the placenta.
One study collected data on women who were using Botox to medically treat migraines. They were told to report any pregnancy during treatment use and pregnancy outcome data was collected. Over a nine-year period, 45 patients reported becoming pregnant, 32 of whom continued treatment during pregnancy. One miscarriage occurred, but the remaining women gave birth to healthy full-term babies without any birth defects.
Another study gathered data from The Allergan Global Safety Database on women who used Botox three months or less preconception or during pregnancy. In this 24-year review, they reported the presence of birth defects to be about 2.7 percent—similar to that of the general population (the CDC reports an overall 3 percent rate of major fetal defects). About 15 percent of pregnancies ended in miscarriage, most of which were in women older than 35 years, which is consistent with the rate in the general population in Canada and the US.
If medically necessary, talk to your doctor about your treatments and determine when and if you’ll continue them during or after pregnancy.
The use of fillers however is another story. Fillers are commonly composed of hyaluronic acid mixed with lignocaine. Injection of fillers causes local inflammation followed by the remodelling of collagen. Compared to research on Botox in pregnancy, we have even less data on the use of fillers in pregnancy. To err on the side of caution, it’s not recommended to have this cosmetic procedure done during pregnancy.