Chemicals are present in our everyday life, and we can unknowingly expose ourselves just going about our day. We created this handy guide for you to use to help you select the healthiest products and minimize your environmental exposure to endocrine disruptors and other known environmental toxins.
As parents, we all strive to help our children reach their fullest potential. We send them to the best schools, feed them with the most wholesome ingredients, and foster their passions in the areas they choose. However, there is an additional way to ensure our kids stay happy and healthy, and it starts in the womb.
Chemical exposure and pregnancy
Although there’s still limited research in the field, some evidence shows that chemicals found in plastics and other manmade goods are linked to health risks in fetuses and infants. Two of these are called phthalates (pronounced “tha-leits”) and bisphenols. You might have heard of one type of bisphenol, BPA, which is the hard plastic that some reusable water bottles are made of (plastic #7).
While it’s true pregnant women would never knowingly expose their babies to harmful toxic chemicals, many of them are present in our everyday life, and we can unknowingly expose ourselves just going about our day. We created this handy guide for you to use to help you select the healthiest products and minimize your environmental exposure to endocrine disruptors and other known environmental toxins.
Skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy
It’s not uncommon to experience changes in your skin during pregnancy. But before you go reaching for a skincare product, make sure it doesn’t contain the following ingredients:
- Retin-a, retinol, and retinyl palmitate: Commonly used in acne products, topical retinols can be absorbed into the skin, and in a few cases, have caused birth defects. This is pretty rare, but it’s still not recommended for pregnant women to use these products. Read more about pregnancy and acne here.
- Hydroquinone: It might be tempting to use this common skin lightener during pregnancy to combat melasma or a pigmentation of the skin also called the “mask of pregnancy,” but it should be avoided. The FDA lists hydroquinone under category C because it has a higher absorption rate than other topical chemicals, which makes it more likely for larger amounts to enter your bloodstream and affect your baby.
Hair product ingredients to avoid when pregnant
What you put in your hair should be free of synthetic preservatives, surfactants, emulsifiers, and chemical anti-chelating agents. Look for products free from:
- Sodium benzoate can interfere with reproductive functions when combined with the common pairing, ascorbic acid. It has also been found to alter the brain with or without ascorbic acid.
- Sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate has been shown to produce eye and/or skin irritation in experimental animals and in some human test subjects.
- Petroleum can be contaminated with suspected carcinogens if not refined properly. Avoid products with petrolatum, unless it clearly indicates petrolatum is fully refined as white petrolatum.
Lotion ingredients to look out for when pregnant
Look for body oils and lotions that are free from synthetic preservatives, emollients, humectants, and surfactants. Many of these harmful chemicals are added to these products to ensure even application, smooth texture, and smooth, shiny appearance without feeling ‘sticky.’ The best products in this category should be free of these chemicals:
- BHT and BHA are synthetic antioxidants used to extend shelf life. They are carcinogenic, disrupt hormones, and can cause liver damage.
- Phenoxyethanol is a preservative and severe allergen.
- Ethylhexylglycerin is a skin conditioner that is classified as a skin irritant.
- Propylene glycol is a penetration enhancer and surfactant that is classified as a skin irritant.
Our Cooling Cream is pregnancy safe and contains no parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, or sulfates.
Some studies have shown conflicting data on the use of aluminium containing deodorant and breast cancer. No clear link has been proven yet, but if you’re wanting to stay on the safe side,
find natural deodorants that only use natural oils, waxes, clays, minerals, and astringents to help fight odor and reduce underarm moisture. In order to fight odor-producing bacteria, try a natural deodorant that employs probiotics, baking soda, magnesium, zinc, and/or charcoal.
Soap ingredients to avoid when pregnant
Soaps and body washes should not contain harsh detergents, chemical preservatives, toxic pesticides, or synthetic surfactants. Common soap ingredients to avoid include:
- Cocamidopropyl betaine: a synthetic detergent and surfactant that is possibly a toxicant
- Sodium hydroxide: a detergent that can be caustic when wet
- Triclosan: an antibacterial chemical that is toxic and disrupts hormones
- Formaldehyde: an antimicrobial preservative that has been linked to cancer, allergic reactions, and brain toxicity
- Methylisothiazolinone: a chemical preservative that causes skin irritation and allergies
Pay close attention to the ingredients in your lubricant, and make sure to use one that is paraben-free. Parabens are preservatives that also mimic estrogen and have been linked to cancer. Banned in Europe and California, they can accumulate in the body over time and cross the placenta.
Sunscreen ingredients to avoid when pregnant
Common sunscreens not only contain chemicals specifically engineered to combat UV radiation, but also chemicals that plague many commercial lotions for smooth application. Look for a sunscreen option that is free of:
- MEA/DEA/TEA are linked to hormone disruption and inhibited fetal brain development.
- Octyl methoxycinnamate or ‘octinoxate’ is a sun blocking agent that is a potential hormone disruptor.
- Benzophenone is a fragrance ingredient that prevents UV light from damaging scents and colors, but is linked to cancer and hormone disruption.
- Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA) can alter thyroid activity.
Pregnancy-safe lip balms
Compared to other personal care products, lip balms do not need many chemical additives in order to do its job. Simple moisturizers and conditioners, such as coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax, work effectively as lip treatments. For this reason, most lip balms marketed as ‘natural’ are less likely to be contaminated with chemicals such as parabens or parfum/fragrance.
Hair styling product ingredients to avoid
Hair styling products (gels, mousses, etc.) should be free from chemicals used to synthetically preserve, thicken, foam, create softness, or add fragrance. Avoid these ingredients:
- Triclosan: an antibacterial chemical that is toxic and disrupts hormones
- Cyclopentasiloxane: a silicone lubricant solvent that cannot biodegrade and disrupts the hormone system
- Dimethicone: a silicone-based lubricant that cannot biodegrade
- PVP/VA Copolymer: a synthetic vinyl polymer used as a binder, it is a toxic chemical derived from petroleum
- Polyethylene glycol (PEGs): a silicone thickening agent classified as a toxicant that may interfere with fetal growth
Safe toothpaste and mouthwash for pregnancy
Toothpastes/powders and mouthwashes should not contain fluoride, artificial sweeteners, coloring agents, harsh abrasives, thickeners, or surfactants. The packaging tubes and bottles should also be BPA free. When looking for a toothbrush, make sure it does not contain BPA or phthalates in either the bristles nor the handle. Overall, these are the ingredients to avoid in oral care products:
- Sorbitol is an artificial sweetener that keeps toothpaste from drying out, but is also a laxative.
- Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical that is toxic and disrupts hormones.
- Carrageenan can cause gastrointestinal inflammation, ulcerations and lesions.
- Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate is a synthetic surfactant that can break down into cancer causing chemicals, such as nitrosamines.
- Hydrated Silica are abrasive particles added to toothpaste to polish and whiten the teeth; the same particles are commonly found in “Do Not Eat” packets.
Toxins are all around us, and we’re just really beginning to understand the impact they have on human health. Pregnancy is a great time to begin a cleaner, healthier routine. We hope this list of ingredients to look out for is helpful on your journey!
This article was developed with help from our friends and experts at MillionMarker.