Is Perfume Safe to Use During Pregnancy?

Before you spritz, read up on safety.
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Updated September 17, 2020
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A spritz of your favorite perfume can go a long way in making you feel pretty, sexy and more like your pre-pregnancy self—but is perfume safe to use during pregnancy? In general, yes, says Sara Twogood, MD, FACOG, assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Keck Medicine of USC. But there are a few considerations to keep in mind.

There’s some concern that perfumes and other fragrances may contain a class of ingredients called phthalates, which could be harmful for baby, say Melissa Schweiger and Annette Rubin, authors of Belli Beautiful: The Essential Guide to the Safest Health and Beauty Products for Pregnancy, Mom, and Baby. Some animal research suggests that exposure to certain phthalates may disrupt the development of male reproductive organs. Phthalates are often found in potent fragrances, like perfume, because they help the scent last longer—but it’s hard to know for sure which fragrances have them and at what levels, since manufacturers aren’t required to list the chemical compounds on their packages (fragrances are considered a trade secret).

The bottom line is that there’s no conclusive data on the safety of phthalates, one way or the other. “If a woman has been using perfume or products with fragrance during her pregnancy already, she shouldn’t be concerned about a problem with the baby,” Twogood says. “Because of these theoretical concerns, if a woman is worried, I would advise limiting the number of fragrant products she uses every day. If she loves her perfume, then continue using it, but potentially limit other fragranced products, such as lotions and deodorants.”

The more common problem with using perfume during pregnancy is that it can make your already unpleasant symptoms even worse—think: sensitivity to smells, headaches, dizzinessnausea and vomiting (like you need any more of that!).

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If you can’t imagine going fragrance-free, Schweiger and Rubin suggest using just a small spritz of essential oil. Try something citrusy—it’s been shown to be a mood-lifter. You can also switch to a trusted natural beauty brand: Twogood recommends CAP Beauty, Credo Beauty and Detox Market for phthalate-free beauty products.

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