Pregnant women need to know that anything they put in or on their bodies can affect their baby’s well-being. This goes for food, supplements, alcohol, cigarette smoke, and caffeine, as well as the lotions and creams they rub onto their skin. Basically everything a pregnant or nursing woman comes in contact with is of concern.
Some topical ingredients will get absorbed into the bloodstream, and dermatologists as well as OB/GYNs alike may warn you about certain prescription medications and potent ingredients to avoid. According to Beverly Hills Dermatologist Zein Obagi, MD, pregnant women should avoid applying any form of retinoids, including Avage, Differin, Renova, tretinoin, retinols, retinyl palmitate, Tazorac and any other variations. “Some pediatricians even recommend waiting at least 30 days after you discontinue use of retinoids to conceive. Pregnant women should not use hydroquinone for skin lightening and melasma.” He added that Tetracycline has been shown to cross the placenta, which can cause staining of the baby’s teeth and affect the way the skeleton develops so it should be avoided as well.
In general, salicylic acid peels are on the no fly list too. If in doubt about any product you are using, consult your obstetrician and/or dermatologist. If you have been using something that is not advisable, ask your doctor or pharmacist for a suitable alternative that is safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
According to New York Dermatologist Dr. Francesca Fusco, “When my pregnant patients ask me what is ‘safe’ to use while pregnant or breast feeding, I always advise them to check labels, and clear it with their OB or pediatrician (if breast feeding).”
Her go to list of products includes oils. “Almond is my favorite. Weleda Stretch Mark Massage Oil helps smooth tight skin and prevent stretch marks and smooth stretching skin as your stomach expands. It nourishes, smooths and maintains great hydration.” She also recommends products that are ideal for pregnant skin. “I look for products that are allergy-tested and free of parabens, fragrance, and harsh chemicals, and perfect for even the most sensitive skin. The First Aid Beauty line hits the mark on all the above. Their cult favorite Ultra Repair Cream, and best-selling Facial Cleanser and Daily Face Cream are wonderful. Many pregnant women get itchy due to changes in hormones and the Ultra Repair Cream is thoroughly soothing. I tell patients to keep one jar in a cool place and when the ‘pruritus of pregnancy’ strikes, slather don’t scratch!”
Fusco also recommends maintaining your hair and scalp. “A healthy scalp is the foundation for beautiful hair during any season Clear Scalp and Hair Beauty Therapy Mask with cactus is a deeply intensive hydrating mask that nourishes and gives hair resilience.”
As any mother knows, pregnancy can be a wild hormonal ride resulting in acne and even melasma, sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy.” Florida Dermatologist Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd says there are definitely topical options, even antibiotic ones, for treating unwanted acne while pregnant. “Topical antibiotics such as clindamycin and erythromycin fall into pregnancy category B, which means there are no proven risks in humans. Topical antibiotics can be safely used in pregnancy,” she says.
On the other hand, oral use of antibiotics may carry more risk and some studies show a weak association with certain birth defects. “Using oral antibiotics during pregnancy should be discussed with your physician and should be used when the benefits outweigh the risks,” Woolery-Lloyd advises.
She also recommends certain ingredients derived from natural substances for acne treatment. “Azelaic acid, derived from cereal grains, comes in a topical gel and cream formulas. This acne medication is also pregnancy category B,” she said.
Other natural ingredients that have been proven to be helpful in some acne studies and are safe to use during pregnancy are tea tree oil, a natural antibiotic; green tea, a popular natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory; and lactic acid, which occurs naturally in our bodies. “Specific Beauty Exfoliating Cleansing Cloths offer gentle exfoliation and have aloe and green tea for skin brightening,” says Woolery-Lloyd.
According to Wooldery-Lloyd, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur-based therapies, and glycolic, acid do not fall into FDA pregnancy category A or B, but most dermatologists feel comfortable prescribing these treatments, as no adverse affects during pregnancy have been reported. However, most dermatologists avoid glycolic acid peels during pregnancy.
When it comes to treating hyperpigmentation or melasma, Woolery-Lloyd says to save the big guns like hydroquinone for after baby arrives. Brightening ingredients that are safe to use during pregnancy include licorice extract, green tea, lactic acid, and niacinimide (vitamin B3).
As you can see, there is some controversy regarding what exactly is safe to use during pregnancy. “In general if is important to recognize that studies are not commonly done on pregnant women, which unfortunately leaves us in the dark with regard to product safety issues,” says New York Dermatologist Janet Prystowsky. “The products that I consider safe to use during pregnancy include: mineral oil, Vaseline, Aquaphor, Pond’s Cold Cream, sunscreen with only minerals in it such as Aveeno Mineralguard SPF 50.” Her go to for acne treatment during pregnancy includes benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid pads, and azeleic acid in prescription medications Finacea® and Azelex®. Also for acne, she likes Blu-U light. “For eczema, Aveeno baby eczema cream is fantastic and phototherapy (not tanning parlors) is safe. Small amounts of over the counter hydrocortisone for itches appears to be safe, but in general steroids should be avoided unless under a physician’s supervision,” she said.
Products and ingredients to avoid during pregnancy, according to Prystowsky, also include sunscreens that may be absorbed into the body, cosmeceuticals with peptides, salicylic acid, Rogaine® for hair loss, hydroquinone, and BOTOX®, though it has been used safely to treat pregnant women with migraines.
While breast feeding, topical retinoids may be added back and A+D ointment, typically used for diaper rash, works wonders on cracked and sore nipples between feedings. “Otherwise, while nursing I would continue the rest of the pregnancy restrictions because of concerns that products may get into the milk and have an untoward effect on the baby,” she says.
With all of the things to worry about during pregnancy, keep your skincare regimen simple. Basic moisturizers and mineral based sunscreen will go far in maintaining that mother-to-be glow. After your child is weaned, discuss a new regimen with a qualified skin care professional.
It’s spring, at last, and time when young women’s minds turn to thoughts of renewed beauty. Personally, I gravitate towards the latest scientific-ingredient potions, but lately I’ve been giving all-natural skincare products a whirl. These luxurious all-natural formulas contain high-performance ingredients sourced from sustainable farms around the globe to smooth, brighten, restore, and battle the signs of aging, while also keeping the body and skin healthy. The brands below are free of parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals, and synthetic ingredients, and after trying some of them I may just abandon a few of my high-tech formulas and think you will, too.
Victoria Secret model Miranda Kerr was unhappy with organic skincare brands out on the market so she decided to create her own and launched KORA Organics, which debuted in the US in the fall of 2013. The line uses good-for-you ingredients such as noni, a fruit packed with nourishing anti-oxidants, as well as rosehip oil, sea buckthorn, green tea, lavender, and chamomile. The 21-product all-natural line consists of body and face products that feel gentle and good on the skin. One of my favorites is the calming lavender mist that gives skin an extra moisture boost with soothing essential oils and antioxidants. Products range from $25 to $160.
Vapour Beauty delivers on-trend colors and botanical-rich non-comedogenic formulas that look and feel great on the skin. The line contains everything you need to get a flawless look—foundation, lipstick, blush, and glossy nail polishes—all made with 70 percent of organic ingredients and 30 percent of vitamins and mineral pigments, plus the purest food-grade ingredients. Try the Mesmerize Eyeliner in Viper (a rich plum shade and part of the spring 2014 collection), containing anti-inflammatory chrysanthemum, eyebright, and horsetail herb. Prices range from $16-$90.
Products of the eco-certified luxury skincare brand Amala (means most pure in Sanskrit) are packed with active botanicals found in their purest state to fight the signs of aging. The eco-luxe line can be found at some of the country’s most high-end spas and boasts five collections each containing a key ingredient to target a specific skin concern. For spring, try the brightening face polish made with narcissus, raspberry seed, and algae extract to help diminish dark spots and give skin a healthy glow. Products range from $18 to $248.
John Masters Organics has been creating eco-friendly hair care since the ‘90s with over 49 products that now spans to skincare and pet care, all free of synthetics and harsh ingredients. Packed with organic oils and pure botanicals, the products smell fresh and vibrant while keeping hair and skin healthy and protected. Try the Green Tea & Calendula Leave-in Conditioning Mist containing broccoli seed oil and a slew of certified organic botanicals to make hair soft and shiny without weighing it down. Products range from $6 to $48.
Most of the ingredients in Tata Harper’s luxe organic products are grown on the 1,200-acre company farm in Vermont and manufactured in small batches in their own lab. Each product in the all-natural skincare line—serums, moisturizers, cleansers, toners, eye creams, masks, and lip products—contain nine to 29 powerful active ingredients with really beautiful natural scents. One of the newest products, Love Potion, an all-natural sensual perfume, is an aromatic blend of 10 aphrodisiac essential oils such as davana, ylang ylang, jasmine, and atlas cedarwood,which are said to boost mood and promote attractiveness. Products range from $24 to $365.
Not that we had any doubts, but a recent study confirms the honest to goodness aging effects caused by smoking.
In a twin study conducted in Twinsburg, Ohio, researchers verified that smokers show more premature aging, including wrinkles, nasolabial folds, and sagging upper eyelids. The study appears in the November issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
The study began with the researchers visiting the annual Twin Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. There, they identified 79 pairs of identical twins who had different smoking histories—either one twin smoked and the other didn’t, or one twin smoked at least 5 years longer. The twin’s average age was 48 years and 57 of the 79 pairs studied were women.
The goal of the study was to identify “specific components of facial aging: that were affected by smoking, according to the report published by ASPS Member Surgeon Bahman Guyuron, MD, professor and chairman, Department of Plastic Surgery, University Hospital and Case School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio.
Using close-up photographs, plastic surgeons analyzed the twins’ facial features, including grading of wrinkles, redundant skin around the eyes, and general sagging.
The study results showed that the effects of smoothing are most apparent in the lower two-thirds of the face. Smoking twins compared with their nonsmoking counterparts had worse scores for upper eyelid skin redundancy, lower lid bags, malar bags, nasolabial folds, upper lip wrinkles, lower lip vermillion wrinkles, and jowls. Smokers exhibited greater loss of elasticity in their skin, which accounts for the more pronounced wrinkles and sagging. The overall thickness of skin was greater in nonsmokers.
In nearly all cases, the evaluators were able to identify the smoking twin from the non-smoker from the photographs. While age related changes in the middle and lower face were worse in the smoking twins, there were fewer difference in the upper face, such as forehead wrinkles or crow’s feet.
”It is noteworthy that even among sets of twins where both are smokers, a difference in 5 years or more of smoking duration can cause visibly identifiable changes in facial aging,” wrote Dr. Guyron and his coauthors.