Toxic Ingredients to Avoid During Pregnancy in Beauty Routine


Retinoids are a derivative of Vitamin A and come from animal products and are used to treat skin conditions like acne and wrinkles. (Retinoid) Retinoids are often prescribed by doctors to treat various skin conditions but they can also be found in a variety of over the counter skin care products like Neutrogena Anti-Wrinkle Nigh Moisturizer, CosMedix Serum 16, Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer SPF 30, RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Facial Night Acne Cream, Keeva Anti-Ageing Lavender Night Cream, and Claridad Retinol Moisturizer with Vitamin E & Aloe Vera to name a few.

These products may work wonders on healthy adults, but retinoids can have negative effects on unborn children. Using retinoids during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, premature birth, cleft palate, congenital heart defects, microcephaly, ear problems, and eye problems. (March of Dimes)


Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas that is used as a preservative in many different products including cosmetics. (Formaldehyde) Some beauty products that contain formaldehyde include nail polish, nail polish removers, hair-styling products, and skincare products.

Using products that contain formaldehyde during pregnancy can have dire consequences including spontaneous abortions, stillbirth, premature birth, congenital malformations, and low birth weight. (NCBI)



Ammonia is a gas and is often dissolved in water creating Ammonium Hydroxide and is used as a pH adjuster in products like hair dye, shaving cream, hair bleaching, and other hair products. The benefits of Ammonium Hydroxide in hair products is that it has the ability to make sure dye properly diffuses into the shaft of the hair. (Cosmetics)

One of the most common ways a pregnant woman can be exposed to ammonia is through hair dye. To reduce the chance of harmful chemicals reaching your baby it is important to wait until the second trimester before coloring your hair and limit the number of fumes you inhale during the process. While it is still unsure what side effects ammonia may have on your developing child, it is always better to err on the side of caution and limit your exposure and limit any possible ill effects it can have on your baby.


Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is derived from plant sugars and is often the primary ingredient in sunless tanning products. DHA interacts with the amino acids contained in the body’s skin cells and causes a chemical reaction that causes the skin to look darker without damaging the skin. (Truth)

While the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of sunless tanning products that contain DHA, there are not enough studies to show the effects it has on the unborn baby. To err on the side of caution it is recommended that pregnant women refrain from using these products during the first trimester and it is advised to not use them at all until more research can be conducted.


Toluene is a solvent that is a clear liquid with a distinctive smell and is used in the production of many products and includes fingernail polish and fingernail polish remover. Toluene has been known to affect the nervous system and exposure can cause headaches, dizziness, and even unconsciousness. (CDC) Some products that contain toluene are Station 99, Dare to Wear, Paris Spicy, Sunshine Nail Lacquer, Golden Girl Topcoat, and Nail Art Top-N-Seal.

Toluene in high amounts when pregnant can have devastating effects on your unborn child. The problem with toluene is that exposure often occurs when it is inhaled and is mixed into the bloodstream, this means it can easily reach your unborn child. Some of the effects toluene has on a developing baby are growth retardation, premature birth, birth defects and malformations, and fetal toxicity. If you are pregnant and work in a salon it is important to wear a face mask when around nail polishes to prevent the inhalation of toluene. (babygaga)

Aluminum Chloride Hexahydrate

Aluminum Chloride Hexahydrate is a product that is used to help treat excessive sweating and is a topical treatment that can be applied to the scalp, hands, feet, and underarms. (U of M) While this medication is commonly prescribed by a doctor it is also found in some over the counter products including Mitchum Power Gel, Secret Clinical Strength, Gillette Clinical Strength, Certain Dri, Odaban, and Drysol.

Aluminum Chloride Hexahydrate should not be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding because the main ingredient Aluminum in large amounts is known to have harmful side effects that include anemia, bone disease, and memory impairment. Since Aluminum Chloride Hexahydrate is absorbed through the mother’s skin it can pass on to their developing baby. This is also true for mothers who are breastfeeding. Since it is unclear what amount of aluminum is being passed on to the fetus or baby it is important to avoid all products containing aluminum Chloride Hexahydrate until you give birth or are done breastfeeding. (Mommy)



Parabens are chemical preservatives that are used in beauty products to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold and can be found in a wide variety of beauty products including moisturizers, hair products, makeup, deodorants, and shaving products. (FDA)

Parabens are easily absorbed through the skin and new research is showing that they may actually be able to be absorbed through the placenta and because they are hormone disrupters they may cause complications to human growth and development. (Parabens)


Phthalates are chemicals that are used in many products including cosmetics because of their ability promote flexibility and reduce brittleness. Phthalates are used in nail polish to reduce cracking, hairspray to create a flexible film to hold hair in place, and as a solvent in fragrances. Some products that contain Phthalates are:
• Nail Polish- Sally Hansen, Hard Candy, Revlon, Maybelline, LA Colors, Cover Girl
• Skin Cream and Lotion- Dove Deep Moisture, Eucerin, Aveeno, Vaseline, Palmers, Jergens, Ponds
• Fragrance- Jovan Island Gardenia, Dove Go Fresh Body Mist, Axe Instinct Body Spray, Cotton Candy Body Spray Prince, English Leather, Canoe, Barbasol After Shave
• Hair Products- Garnier Fructis, TRESemme No Frizz, Suave Professionals, White Rain Extra Hold Hair Spray, Johnson’s No More Tangles, Aussi Catch the Wave
• Body Wash- Caress Daily Silk, Olay Body Ultra Moisture, Suave Naturals, White Rain All Day Moisturizing, Natural Concepts, Avon Naturals, St. Ives
• Nipple Cream- Gerber Breast Therapy Moisturizing Balm, Lansinoh HPA Lanolin for Breastfeeding Mothers
• Shampoo- Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, Pantene Pro-V, Garnier Fructis, Dove Intense Damage Therapy Shampoo, VO5 Norma Balancing Shampoo, Herbal Essences, Advance Techniques Color Reviving Shampoo, Big Sexy Hair Big Volume Shampoo. (FDA)

Women who are pregnant are urged to avoid products containing phthalates as they have been shown to have harmful effects on both the mother and the unborn baby. Phthalate is a hormone-disrupting chemical and pregnant mothers who use products containing phthalate are at a greater risk of gestational diabetes, miscarriage, and excessive weight gain. (Harvard)


Oxybenzone is a derivative of benzophenone and is used in sunscreens and other beauty products because it is able to absorb UVB and UVA rays decrease their impacts on human skin and help prevent damage to the skin. (Oxybenzone) Some products that contain Oxybenzone include Banana Boat, Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic, Neutrogena, Panama Jack, Ocean Potion, and Australian Gold to name a few.

Pregnant women are cautioned to limit their exposure to ultraviolet rays because their hormones are increased due to their pregnancy, this may cause the skin to be more susceptible to harmful sun rays. If you choose to go out in the sun when pregnant it is important to choose a sunscreen that does not contain Oxybenzone as it has been linked to causing low birth weight and other birth defects. Oxybenzone can also be found in lotions, lip balms, and lipstick so be sure to check for Oxybenzone and avoid using products containing it while pregnant. (BabyMed)


Lead is a naturally occurring element and while it has beneficial uses it is highly toxic to animals and humans and can cause serious health problems. Since lead can be found naturally in our environment including air and water, the FDA closely monitors products including beauty products to ensure that they do not contain dangerous amounts of lead. Unfortunately, beauty products like eyeliner, lipstick, lip glosses, blushes, eyeshadows etc., that are manufactured in other parts of the world may contain lead as they are not as closely monitored as those produced in the United States. (FDA)

Lead is harmful and can have serious consequences for pregnant women and their babies that include high blood pressure, spontaneous abortion, brain damage, and low birth size. If you choose to use beauty products while pregnant it is important to know where they come from, any products from outside the United States may contain harmful levels of lead and should not be used. If you are pregnant and have concerns you can have your blood tested for lead to see if you are at a safe level of 5 micrograms or less. (Lead)

Pregnancy can be one of the most joyful times in your life. Preparing for your little ones arrival and making sure they have all the clothing, furniture, and baby care products they need can be fun and exciting. Pregnancy is going to bring changes to your house, lifestyle, and daily routines as you prepare for your babies arrival. Pregnancy is also going to bring changes to your body beyond those associated with a growing baby and can include acne, dry skin, stretch marks, changes to your hair, and even itching. You may find yourself reaching for your usual products to combat these side effects, but you need to be careful and read the ingredients because they may contain toxins that are harmful to your unborn child.

While you may not be able to avoid all the toxins listed above completely, you can definitely limit your exposure to them and therefore limit your baby’s exposure as well. Luckily there are many beauty products on the market today that are organic and natural and are free from the toxins listed above. The cosmetic industry has made great strides in trying to eliminate harmful toxins from their products and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been vigilant in their oversight of cosmetic companies and the ingredients in their products. Beauty products sold in the United States must be properly labeled and their ingredients properly listed. If you choose to use beauty products manufactured outside of the United States you will need to be careful as they do not have the same standards or requirements that products manufactured in the United States do.

With a little vigilance and careful inspection of ingredients listed on your beauty products, you can still enjoy using cosmetics and creams to help you look and feel better during your pregnancy and have the confidence and security that they will not cause any harm to your baby.

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