Pregnancy and cosmetics: the ingredients to avoid

During pregnancy or breastfeeding, health professionals recommend women to avoid certain activities and strongly recommend to avoid consumption of a few products (tobacco, raw fish, alcoholic drinks, caffeine, fermented foods, etc.). Did you know that some ingredients frequently used in the cosmetic field are now on this list? Indeed, as we have discussed in previous articles, the skin acts like a sponge, and the components contained in the products that we apply to it, not always remain on the surface. Considering this is even more critical when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as these ingredients can enter on the blood stream, therefore cross the placental barrier and reach the fetus or end up in breast milk. This is the reason why some of these components should be avoided during this period.

The ingredients to avoid before, during and after pregnancy


On average, a woman uses up to 12 personal hygiene products per day, exposing herself to nearly 170 different components. Even if each compound taken individually presents little or no danger at the dose used, crossed-interaction between the ingredients of the same or several different products, can generate a cocktail of compounds whose effects are often unknown. The use of cosmetic products on a regular basis and over an extended period also results in direct and continuous exposure to these components, thereby increasing the dose to which an individual is exposed. Here are the ingredients to avoid if you plan to be pregnant, during pregnancy and when breastfeeding, as well as some tips to recognize them.

-Parabens, recognized endocrine disruptors

In the category of endocrine disruptors, parabens are the best known representatives. They are used as preservatives in certain foods, cosmetics and personal care products to increase their shelf life. They are also found in hair dyes. However, long chain parabens can cause medical problems. In fact, they disrupt the endocrine system, responsible for the production of hormones, and can harm the reproductive system and the development of infants. These compounds are absorbed through the skin, metabolized by the body, and then released into the urine and bile.

How to recognize them? Ingredients with names ending in -paraben or for example: methylparaben, ethylparaben, benzylparaben, propylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben (the last four are long chain, more problematic).

-Essential oils, not as innocent as it seems

Essential oils have interesting properties, but we must not forget that they come from a very concentrated and complex mixture that can contain up to 200 different molecules. This is why the risks of allergies or skin irritation, often called "contact dermatitis" or "skin sensibility", are higher. Since some essential oils are abortive or neurotoxic, the majority are prohibited during pregnancy, and some are even prohibited during breastfeeding, because their use is not recommended for young children. As these reach the bloodstream, they can cross the placental barrier or end up in breast milk.

How to recognize them? "Essential oil of". They may sometimes contain the following compounds, which are volatile cosmetic allergens listed by the European Commission: limonene, linalool, citronellol, citral, eugenol, methyleugenol, farnesol.

Synthetic perfumes and fragrances: phthalates in abundance

Synthetic fragrances often contain phthalates, other recognized endocrine disruptors that can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled due to their volatility. They end up inside our bodies, and pregnant women and newborns are no exception. Accused of disrupting the hormonal system, they are associated with abnormal reproductive development in male babies. In addition to fragrances, phthalates are also used in nail polishes and certain personal care products as a plasticizing agent.

How to recognize them? Butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), diocyl phthalate (DOP), or simply: fragrance, perfume, perfume…

-Retinol and retinoid: anti-aging and anti-acne, but when you are pregnant, you should be wary.

Retinol and retinoids are forms of vitamin A often used in anti-aging products and acne treatments. In fact, they are effective in reducing the signs of aging by stimulating cell renewal. To prevent acne, they can either be used on the skin (topical medication) or ingested (general-purpose medication). Used in too large a quantity, they can cause irritation of facial skin, which is often more sensitive and reactive during pregnancy. Vitamin A is lipo-soluble, so it accumulates in fat rather than being eliminated by the urine in case of excess. Ingestion of too much retinoids during gestation can therefore be toxic and cause developmental problems or malformations in the fetus.

How to recognize them? Retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde, vitamin A, vitamin A derivatives, vitamin A derivatives.

-Formaldehyde: its name is not the only thing that scares ...

In addition to containing phthalates, nail polishes are also formulated with formaldehyde, which is used as a hardening agent. It is classified as a proven carcinogen for humans (nasopharyngeal cancer by inhalation). It is also important to beware of formaldehyde liberators; ingredients added in order to be slowly converted into formaldehyde. These liberators play the role of antimicrobial preservative in certain cosmetics.

How to recognize them? Formaldehyde, benzylhemiformal, diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate (the last seven are formaldehyde liberators).

Why is Omy tailor-made care safe during pregnancy?

Omy personalized products are tailor-made, that is to say that they are specially formulated according to the needs of each person. Since they go straight from the laboratory to your home, without stopping on store shelves like most cosmetics, their shelf life is not the same. Indeed, standard cosmetics are formulated with chemical preservatives allowing them to last longer. At Omy, a completely safe prebiotic ferment called Lactobacillus is used as a natural preservative for several treatments. As these are already colonized by harmless bacteria, the growth of those which can prove harmful is dicreased. Some Omy products are even stored with ascorbic acid, a naturally occurring preservative.

To provide an anti-aging effect to tailor-made treatments, hyaluronic acid, in the form of sodium hyaluronate, is added to the customizable bases of day, night and serum creams. It is a molecule that is found naturally in our body and that captures water and keeps it on the surface of the skin. Its quantity decrease with age, is the cause of appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Adding this ingredient to skin care helps maintain healthy, hydrated and plumped-up skin. A lipo-peptide which is also found naturally in the skin, but whose synthesis decreases over time, can also be added to all personalized products. Indeed, the active ingredient Fe slows down the sagging of facial skin and gives it a firmer and smoother appearance, in addition to reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. These compounds pose no risk during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

Omy tailor-made treatments do not contain synthetic fragrances, artificial fragrances or essential oils. Their delicate smell comes from natural essences composed of plant extracts directly from the raw ingredients (rose, vanilla or mango). The scent of your personalized products is therefore less intense, because it is entirely natural.

We hope that this article has informed you about the ingredients to avoid before, during and after pregnancy, but that it has also reassured you about the safety of Omy tailor-made care. Containing no parabens, essential oils, synthetic or retinoid fragrances, they can be used safely by pregnant or breastfeeding women. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, we will answer them with the greatest pleasure!

Photo credit: Anne-Marie Turcotte

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