There are some chemicals your doc will tell you to completely avoid in skincare products, such as Accutane, tetracycline, topical salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. If you’re unsure about anything you use, check it with your OB.
Some experts believe a chemical found in certain nail polishes, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), may be harmful to your fetus. You’ll also want to avoid formaldehyde and toluene. Luckily, there are major brands that don’t have those ingredients.
Beyond those biggies, your doc will probably tell you that you don’t have to limit yourself, since there aren’t a lot of skincare ingredients proven to cause health problems in unborn babies. But many moms-to-be do try to avoid products with weird chemicals or additives. Remember, what goes on your skin can eventually go into your body and bloodstream. Think of it the same way you do avoiding junk food during pregnancy — it’s because you want baby exposed to good, healthy things and nothing too icky. “Big ingredients to avoid are parabens, fragrances and petroleum,” says Kim Walls, CEO of Episencial, a natural skincare company. Your skin may also be more sensitive than it was pre-pregnancy, and the fewer chemicals you’re exposed to, the less likely you are to have a reaction.
About that pregnancy glow thing, well — “It just isn’t so for all mamas,” says Walls. Pregnancy hormones can cause blotchy, red skin, acne or puffiness. But trust us, more foundation is not the answer. Not only can it irritate your skin more, it usually looks like you’re trying to cover up something (not well). Instead, try using powder or a light, oil-free tinted moisturizer. Keep in mind that skin tone can change during pregnancy, so you might need to go a shade darker or lighter.
If you’re looking puffy or feeling fat (even though you are, of course, supposed to be getting bigger!), you definitely want to highlight the parts you’re feeling good about, whether it’s your lips or your eyes. Now’s the time to try a fun, new lip color or eye shadow.
Plenty of moms-to-be complain about their face looking fuller during pregnancy. Try giving your face a slim-down with this tricky blush technique: Highlight your cheekbones by using a darker shade of blush right under them. Apply a lighter shade to the apples of your cheeks, dusting it along your cheekbones.
Coloring your hair during pregnancy is generally considered safe, although there aren't any scientific studies that have conclusively determined this. Doctors often recommend avoiding coloring your hair during your first trimester, since baby is more vulnerable during that period. Later in pregnancy, you might want to go with highlights, which don’t come as close to your scalp as other dyes, or opt for something with less ammonia or peroxide. You could also choose an all-natural dye, like indigo or black walnut hull powder.
If you're aching for a manicure or facial during pregnancy, go for it! But you definitely want to tell your stylist you’re pregnant, even if you’re not telling other people yet. That way, she can choose products without harsh or potentially harmful acids and chemicals. When you’re at the salon, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated room—you definitely don’t want to breathe in the hair dye or polish fumes, because it may be harmful to your lungs and baby’s developing body. You'll also want to make sure your nail technician is using sterilized tools to prevent infections. If you don’t know what kind of nail polish your salon uses, consider bringing along your own bottle of 3-free polish (that doesn't has dibutyl phthalate, toluene or formaldehyde) for your mani-pedi.
Trying to keep your extreme skin issues under control? If you have oily skin, switch to oil-free products, use blotting papers and change your facial cleanser to one that’s for oily skin types (but you’ll want to avoid ones with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or retinoids). For dry skin, exfoliate, moisturize and use a mild face cleanser. You’ll also want to avoid chlorinated water because it dries out skin easily.
Ever heard of the mask of pregnancy? It’s when moms-to-be develop dark spots on their skin, and sun exposure can trigger it. So be sure to minimize sun exposure and maximize your use of SPF.
If you do get dark splotches, know that they’ll likely go away after your pregnancy. In the meantime, you can cover them up with some makeup. Definitely mention it to your doctor, though, so she can check it to make sure it’s not some other skin problem. She may also recommend another treatment.