I’ve used clean beauty and personal care products for years. Once my partner and I decided to try to get pregnant with our first child, I committed to using clean products, including cleaning and other household products, exclusively. During my current pregnancy, I’ve gone a step further by educating myself and becoming more selective about what classifies as “clean.”
I love that brands like Sephora offer a clean label to make it easy to find safe products, but turns out, their standards aren’t always as discerning as I’d like. Instead, I now rely on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. It’s an incredible resource for finding out how clean your products actually are; you simply search for a product or brand, and the results include a 1 out of 10 overall rating as well as detailed categories for cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies, etc. It might sound like information overload, but it’s actually extremely user friendly. Look for the label EWG Verified which is their highest stamp of approval.
I’ve been so surprised by the results of my searches, and it’s really helped me make decisions about where to spend my money. (For the record, Beautycounter and Honest Beauty are the safest brands I’ve come across.)
Needless to say, I’ve been phasing out some of my old products in favor of cleaner replacements recently. As I’ve been reading labels on the new products, I noticed something that makes this process even more tricky: just because a product is clean, it’s not necessarily safe during pregnancy. For example, I ordered Honest Beauty’s Vitamin C Radiance Serum, which is EWG Verified, but after getting it in the mail and reading the packaging, I realized it contains Gallic Acid, which is considered unsafe during pregnancy.
I’ve written before about product categories and specific ingredients that are unsafe (or questionable) during pregnancy. From that list, I’ve found that two categories tend to be the most troublesome:
- Any products that are smoothing or brightening tend to contain either alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Most alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are considered unsafe during pregnancy, except for glycolic acid (7% concentration or lower) and lactic acid (5% concentration or lower). AHAs that shouldn’t be used during pregnancy are mandelic acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid. Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) is the category of acids that classifies salicylic acid, which you should avoid during pregnancy.
- Sunless tanner. Some sources say that sunless tanner sits on top of the skin and isn’t absorbed, so it’s safe. I’ve found other sources that say dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, could penetrate the skin. Most of the “cleanest” sunless tanners I’ve found contain DHA, so be on the lookout if that’s an ingredient you’re hoping to avoid.
Admittedly, finding conclusive information on this topic can be a confusing and frustrating process. When in doubt, look it up or check with a dermatologist or another expert you trust.