Pregnancy is a good time to assess your beauty products—as well as the shampoos, lotions and diaper creams you plan to put on your baby—simply because our skin absorbs much of what we put on it.

What’s in Your Makeup Bag?

The average woman uses 12 different personal care products daily, and is exposed to more than 125 different chemical ingredients. These chemicals can include mercury in mascara and lead in lipstick—both known neurotoxins. In fact, one study found lead in more than 60% of lipsticks!

Natural? Not So Fast

But before you restock your makeup bag, remember that just because it says “natural” on the label, that doesn’t mean the product is chemical free. Until beauty gets better regulated, you still need to do a little bit of homework to make sure your products are safe—by your standards. Labels can be confusing, so here’s my short list of what to avoid:

1. PARABENS are a common preservative found in conventional personal care products from moisturizer to sunscreen; look for them prefaced by “methyl,” “ethyl,” “propyl,” “butyl” and “isobutyl.” Parabens have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive disorders, according to the Breast Cancer Fund.

2. PHTHALATES are reproductive toxins which can affect the development of children yet are so prevalent that repeated studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found phthalates in the urine of nearly every subject they tested. If you see the word FRAGRANCE on a label, you can be pretty sure the product also includes phthalates.

3. ANTIBACTERIALS such as TRICLOSAN in personal care products can compromise the immune system (ah, the irony) and may make bacteria resistant to antibiotics. According to the FDA, hot water and soap work just as well to kill bacteria.

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4. 1,4-DIOXANE and SODIUM LAURYL/LAURETH SULFATE are found in things that suds up like shampoos, baby wash, bubble bath, toothpaste and liquid soaps. 1,4 dioxane is a human and animal carcinogenic and a nasty byproduct of processing harsh chemicals with ethylene oxide to make them less harsh. Got sodium lauryl sulfate? Ethyoxylate it and you get sodium laureth—the “eth” indicates the process–but you also get 1,4 dioxane.

5. FORMALDEHYDE causes cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. It can be produced from the breakdown of DIAZOLIDINYL UREA, IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA and QUATERNIUM compounds, so avoid those as well.


6. PROPYLENE GLYCOL and ETHYLENE GLYCOL, also found in brake fluid and antifreeze, have been linked to asthma and allergies. Look for products made with naturally derived softeners.

7. CHEMICAL SUNSCREENS like OXYBENZONE are linked to hormone disruption and skin allergies; RETINYL PALMITATE in sunscreen can increase skin cancer risk, according to EWG. I like zinc, which provides a physical barrier to the sun, and no longer leaves you with big white splotches on your nose.

Better Beauty Shortcut

You could also take my favorite shortcut to finding truly natural beauty: Look for “USDA Certified Organic” and “ECOCERT,” which means a product is government certified as 95 percent food-grade organic—virtually no chemicals or synthetics in its manufacturing or ingredients—in America and Europe, respectively.

Curious about your favorite brands? Look them up on the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database—you can even get it as an app on your phone. And if they contain suspect ingredients, consider switching to those that are safer.

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It’s a good time to do it—you’ve already got that pregnancy glow!

by Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff,

Featured on “TODAY” and “CNN Headline News,” among others, Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff is a journalist, consultant and sustainability advocate. The former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, Rachel was the co-founder of the online magazine EcoStiletto and authored a spinoff book, The Big List of Things That Suck. Today, she publishes and is a partner at Give + Take Swap Boutique in Santa Monica, CA. This piece is adapted from her forthcoming eBook, The Mommy Greenest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond.

 DISCLAIMER:  The opinions expressed by Rachel Sarnoff, Mommy Greenest, and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Pregnancy Awareness Month (PAM) or any employee thereof. PAM is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Rachel Sarnoff or Mommy Greenest.  Consult with your own medical provider regarding your individual health questions or concerns.

chemically free beauty products, Environmental Working Group, EWG, mommy greenest, parabens and pregnancy, Pregnancy Awareness Month, rachel sarnoff, Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database, toxic make-up

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