Beauty products to use throughout your pregnancy. (Photo: Getty Images)
Pregnancy is a beautiful thing: there’s the glowing skin, the shiny hair, the flushed cheeks…And yet: Due to the change in hormones, there’s a host of beauty issues that arise throughout the nine months, from swelling feet to extra beauty marks to chronically itchy skin. However, as we all know, the products that make us look beautiful and healthy can also contain lots of chemicals. The problem is that we don’t always know the effects of certain chemicals, especially on our unborn children. So what’s a mama-to-be to do?
“Reading labels is a must in pregnancy. Most products carry warnings for pregnant and nursing women,” says Dr. David E. Bank of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery. “When in doubt, contact your OB or Gyn.” Thankfully, there’s a burgeoning industry of skincare, hair, makeup and cosmetic products that avoid chemicals that could disrupt hormones or cause allergic reactions. During my just-finished pregnancy, I had a growing belly, and list of symptoms that made me very motivated to try dozens of products out. Here are my finds:
Reducing stretch marks: Let’s face it – the one thing you hear about most during pregnancy are the stretch marks, and it’s never too early in pregnancy to work on preventing them. Mustela features a whole line just for this, including Stretch Mark Care Oil, Intensive Action and Double Action containing Elastoregulator (soy peptide derivative), Avocado Peptides and Lupeol combined with nourishing oils preserve skin while reinforcing elasticity and suppleness, as well as the patented ingredient Arabinogalactane, which helps skin withstand stretching to prevent new stretch marks. It can be used from the beginning of pregnancy until three months after. Aden + Anais, best known for its swaddles, also has an odor-free stretch mark reducing cream with shea butter, sweet almond oil, cacao seed butter and sunflower oil that is lovely.
Tackling swollen feet: I was lucky to be one of the 25% of women who don’t experience morning sickness. But one of my earliest problems during pregnancy was my feet. My legs and feet started swelling in my late second trimester—cankles anyone? Basq’s Energizing Body does indeed soothe swelling, and it’s free of parabens, phthalates and animal testing. Although I was partial to Deep Steep’s peppermint candy cane-scented Organic Foot Cream with Shea Butter, which smelled like Christmas, the scent may be too overpowering for some pregnant women (See note on perfumes below).
Healing breasts: My biggest worry in pregnancy was not my stomach, but my breasts. Double Ds before pregnancy, the extra padding has taken its toll on them with veiny stretch marks. Bras can only do so much in giving them extra support, so I’ve been using Mama Mio’s Pregnancy Boob Tube which protects, cools and soothes pregnant (and new mama) boobs. It is rich in organic omega oils to hydrate and elasticize, while natural firmers and antioxidants strengthen skin to help stop sagging. I’ll continue to use this when I nurse, since it contains extract of cabbage – one of the natural nursing soothers, but their version is thankfully much less smelly.
For glowing skin: When it comes to beauty, I’m more of a drugstore girl, using Ivory Soap and Aveeno moisturizer. That’s why I liked the clean-smelling, easy-to-use Belli’s products made for pregnant women. I loved their creamsicle-scented Healthy Glow Facial Hydrator, moisturizing Eye Brightening Cream (with Vitamin K and B3) and their very effective Tinted Sunscreen. For those who suffer acne – and really must give up Acutane (a no-no during pregnancy), there’s also an Anti-Blemish cream.
Products that work for a heightened sense of smell: When you’re pregnant, your sense of smell is enhanced (especially toward your husband’s morning breath, but that’s a different story). Everyday scents can add to your nausea, or cause dizziness or headaches. Not to mention a possible link between perfume use and birth defects in the first trimester. (In I.V.F., they ask you not to wear any perfume or deodorant during an embryo transfer). One good all-natural perfume is Vera Essence, free of chemicals, toxins, petrochemicals, solvents, alcohol and glutens. I liked their Gratitude Pure Perfume, which had a hint of vanilla sweetness (and better smelling than my morning husband).
Natural makeup that works: Ecco Bella’s FlowerColor makeup, using nutraceuticals from ethical (non-animal testing) providers, is infused with flower wax (“the same delicate coating that protects flower petals from the elements) and is non-drying, too. Try the FlowerColor Natural Mascara and the Good For You Gloss for a simple, understated look.
Chemical-free haircare: Nine Naturals makes special pregnancy hair care products – I liked the citrus and mint flavors—although I suspect they’ll be more useful after, when the hormone that currently makes my hair so thick and lustrous will be gone and I’ll need supplementation.
Combating itchy skin: In my third trimester, I was beset by a drive-me-mad itchiness, which is often the sign of dangerous bile-rising levels (so go get tested!), but with me, thankfully was not. I tried Aura Cacia’s lavender Milk & Oat Bath, and it provided temporary relief. I also went through every product now crowding my shelves, with their chamomile/lemon/safflower/primrose oils or milk thistle and hibiscus, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit the answer was much simpler, something I’ve had all along: coconut oil. Kelapo makes a cold-pressed, organic, fair trade-certified extra virgin one that is great for cooking but oh-so-soothing for my skin crawling problem. Not to mention moisturizing as well.
The coconut oil solution made me wonder: Do we really need pregnancy products at all? Science only weighs in on a few subjects like hair dyes (not in the first trimester), chemical processes like perms and straightening (not at all) and heavy-duty chemicals like acne medicine (forbidden). “This is not a topic of tremendous interest to doctors,” says Emily Oster, author of “Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong—and What You Really Need to Know.” Oster investigated nearly every study pertaining to pregnancy, about whether we can drink wine, eat sushi, go in hot tubs, eat deli meats and take pharmaceuticals. But she didn’t find much research on hair and skin-care products. Still, though, for someone like me, with a high-risk pregnancy, I’m glad I erred on the side of caution. Why not? Plus, I found some products I loved so much I will keep using them, pregnant or not.