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Which beauty treatments are safe during pregnancy?

Published 30th June 2021 | Dr Ujwala Parashar

Women who are planning pregnancy and those who are pregnant often ask what beauty treatments are safe, and what should be discontinued. We’ve covered some of the most common questions and treatments in this article.

Skincare and makeup during pregnancy

Your skin will undergo many changes during pregnancy due to shifting hormone levels.

There are a myriad of skincare and makeup products on the market now; many with active ingredients, and your body absorbs about 60-70% of what you place on your skin. Unfortunately, the testing of skincare and makeup products to a large enough group of pregnant women for a definitive certification of what is” pregnancy safe” and the effect of absorption is not feasible as it may place the unborn baby at risk. 

As a rule of thumb, the more powerful and targeted the product, the greater the chance of it containing a potentially harmful ingredient. As a starting point, check the product ingredient list and avoid products that contain Vitamin A, retinol and retinoids.  

The products of main concern are those that contain retinoids which are a Vitamin A derivative. Both oral and topical use retinoids should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding due to a known link to birth defects. An example of this is Accutane, a medication used to treat acne.

The use of skin lightening creams should also be ceased during pregnancy and breast feeding as they contain Hydroquinone which reduces melanin. This is easily absorbed through the skin and is now banned in Australia, Japan and Europe.

If you are unsure, speak to your obstetrician about your skincare and makeup and ask if it is safe for use while you are pregnant.

Sunscreen

It is safe to continue with sunscreen protection during your pregnancy if you opt for mineral-based formulas containing zinc and titanium dioxide. These are a better choice as they sit on the skin to reflect UV light.

 

Facials 

Facials can be a great way to relax during pregnancy, however your pregnancy hormones will alter the structure of your skin and hair which can result in greater sensitivity and risk of allergy. When attending with your beauty therapist, advise that you are pregnant and ask them to use retinoid free, sensitive skin products.

Injectables

Many women today have a regular regime for injectables including BOTOX and dermal fillers. Due to the potential risks, there have been few studies undertaken on injectable products during pregnancy and there is not enough evidence available regarding possible risks. For safety reasons, Dr Parashar’s advice is to discontinue injectable treatments during pregnancy.

Fake tanning when pregnant

In most instances fake tan in the form of a mousse, cream or wipe is safe for pregnant women – just be sure to check the ingredient list. Spray tanning is less safe as it can mean you are inhaling the product and you should consider switching to another method during your pregnancy.

Teeth whitening

There have not been studies undertaken about the possible adverse effects of teeth whitening during pregnancy, so for safety reasons Dr Parashar’s advice is to not undertake this while you are pregnant.

Hair colouring and other hair treatments

There are some hair treatments that are safe during pregnancy and some that should be discontinued.

Hair colour – this is a safe treatment during pregnancy as the dye is mainly applied to the hair end with a minimal amount to the scalp.

Chemical straightening and keratin treatments should be discontinued during pregnancy.

Anti-dandruff and medical shampoos can include ingredients that are harmful during pregnancy. Check the product list and if you are unsure, check with your obstetrician.

Hair growth products that contain Minoxidil should be avoided in pregnancy. There are minimal studies on it, and it has been associated with a baby born with multiple birth defects.

Hair removal during pregnancy

Most women find that the hair on their head improves during pregnancy due to hormone changes, but many pregnant women will also have increased hair growth on their body. 

Waxing during pregnancy is completely safe and most depilatory creams, mousses and gels are considered risk free. As with all skin care during pregnancy, check the ingredients list and if you’re not sure, check with your obstetrician.

Laser hair removal

Laser hair removal is considered safe in pregnancy. Laser for hair removal is limited to the outer skin and is unlikely to cause problems to your baby. This has been determined by Mothersafe – an Australian pregnancy organisation providing counselling services to women and healthcare providers related to exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

However, it is recommended to avoid laser treatment to the abdomen and bikini area due to a lack of clinical trials on pregnant women. You will find that most laser clinicians will avoid these areas on pregnant women due to a loss of efficacy and increased sensitivity as a result of pregnancy hormones.  

Manicure and pedicures

It is safe to continue with acrylic nails and gel manicures and pedicures while pregnant but be careful to choose a salon with good hygiene and sterilisation practices.

Massage during pregnancy

Although massage therapy during pregnancy has shown benefits, there are massage techniques and trigger points that can result in contractions and even premature labour. In addition to this, massage uses essential oils or lotions some of which are not considered safe during pregnancy.

Some massage therapists have undertaken additional training in pre-natal massage which involves advanced education around safe techniques for pregnant women. If you are considering a massage during pregnancy, ask your provider if they have had training in pre-natal massage.

We also recommend you do not undertake massage in your first trimester, or if you have any of the following medical conditions or medical history:

·      High blood pressure that is not controlled by medication

·      High risk pregnancy concerns including congenital heart disease or preeclampsia

·      Recent injury or surgery

Beauty from within

Perhaps the best beauty treatment we can undertake during pregnancy is to relax and anticipate the joys of our new family. Keeping good activity levels, eating healthfully and getting enough rest and sleep are the best beauty tools we have at our disposal at all times –especially when you are pregnant!

Dr Ujwala Parashar, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist

Sam Samant

Dr Ujwala Parashar is a highly trained female obstetrician and gynaecologist with over 12 years of experience, practicing in Sydney's North Shore and Barangaroo. If you would like more information on conception, or if you are seeking obstetric options and advice, please contact us or call 1300 811 827 to arrange a consultation with her.