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5 Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid During Pregnancy

When we finally see those two pink lines appear on our pregnancy test, we automatically know to steer clear of alcohol, tobacco, and say hasta la vista to our beloved sushi. What about those not so obvious things that we may overlook, and we assume that are safe - like our beauty products, for instance?

The skin is our largest organ, and while some products are designed to stay on the surface of the skin, the skin is still highly absorbent, and some substances do make their way into our bloodstream. For this reason, and if you’re not already doing so, pregnancy is probably the next best time to be more mindful of the product ingredients you apply to your skin!

Here are a few ingredients to avoid using in your cosmetics and skin care products during pregnancy and while breastfeeding:


Retinol is a man-made synthetic form of Vitamin A. This particular drug therapy is typically used to treat cystic acne and other skin conditions, and it can lead to various birth defects in infants, also known as Fetal Retinoid Syndrome. The use of Retinoids during pregnancy has the potential to cause abnormalities in fetal development such as craniofacial and cardiovascular abnormalities, skeletal malformations, and vision loss to just name a few.


Toluene can be found in nail polish, paint, and paint thinners, as well as other industrial solvents. This can be hazardous to a developing fetus if abused, or if one is chronically exposed to this chemical. According to this study, Toluene can be detrimental to a fetus’ birth weight, skeletal development and cognitive development.

Diethanolamine (DEA):

DEA is commonly found in cosmetics, shampoos, body soaps, and sunscreens. Through some studies, DEA has been found to block the mother’s body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients necessary for a growing fetus. Also, in this study, DEA has been found to interfere with the brain development in fetuses, is linked to tumour growth on kidneys and liver, and has caused other fatal outcomes.


Phthalates are commonly found in fragrances, nail polishes and plastics. According to the findings from this study done at Harvard, exposure to phthalates during pregnancy can result in problems with motor skills and language development in children.

Aluminum Chloride Hexahydrate:

Aluminum is commonly found in antiperspirants, which is the magic ingredient that keeps you from getting all sweaty. Unfortunately, aluminium is a known neurotoxin and carcinogen. Even though some may argue that the aluminium content is low in some of these products, such as antiperspirants, according to this study, even low concentrations pose health problems for a growing fetus. Studies have shown that aluminium has adverse health effects in babies that have been exposed to the metal during pregnancy, and may cause babies to suffer from bone-health issues, cognitive impairment, and other health issues such as anemia.

You can still look and feel your best during this important time in your life by seeking out products that use more simple and natural ingredients. If going simple and natural is not your thing, just be conscious of the ingredient list on your favourite products. I've only acquainted you with a short list of harmful ingredients, however, there are a number of additional harmful ingredients to be wary of (not only when pregnant, but just in general). Here is a handy short list of ingredients to have on hand for those long 9 months and afterward!

Photos by: Shave Ravel


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