Personal Care Products and Cosmetic Use During Pregnancy

November 30, 2022

There is a lot to consider when you are pregnant, everything from the foods you eat to the environment you live and work in, and knowing which every day items are safe for you and your growing baby can be overwhelming.  Pregnancy can increase your susceptibility to environmental toxins and chemicals, including some that may be added to everyday personal care products, resulting in risks to both you and your baby’s health outcomes. Personal care products (including cosmetics) that pregnant people use everyday such as soap, hair care, toothpaste, lotion, and makeup may contain ingredients that can have harmful effects on pregnancy.  

Why it’s important to review ingredients in the products you use.

In the United States, personal care products do not undergo FDA approval prior to being sold in stores, and no additional safety precautions exist for pregnant people and their developing baby. In addition to the listed, known ingredients, there may be a number of unknown chemicals in these products. The term “fragrance” may refer to a complex mixture of several ingredients; in fact, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists more than 3,000 ingredients used as fragrance compounds.

Common added ingredients that may be harmful to you and your baby
  • Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) (phthalates, parabens, triclosan) – found in personal care products and fragrance additives, these can increase the odds of preterm birth, decreased gestational age at birth, birth weight, and body length.
  • Hydroquinones – used in hair color, hair bleaching and skin lightening products can cause cancer, DNA damage, and endocrine disruption (see above for potential EDC concerns).
  • Retinoids – often used in anti-aging products can cause reproductive and developmental toxicity.

*please note this is not a complete list of all potentially harmful ingredients

What you can do to reduce potential harmful exposures for you and your baby
  • Check ingredient lists in personal care products and discuss their safety with your provider.
  • Let your hairstylist or esthetician know you are pregnant prior to your appointments.
  • Consider using products free of added fragrances and chemicals that may have harmful effects during your pregnancy.
What can our government do to protect people from harmful chemicals?
  • Pass legislation like California’s SB312, The Cosmetic Fragrance And Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2020. This was the first law passed in the US requiring the reporting of potentially hazardous ingredients on the CA Safe Cosmetics Program’s website to make the information publicly available to consumers.
  • Pass legislation and initiatives focused on green chemistry and the development of safer ingredients.
  • Work with advocacy organizations to develop bills focused on protecting maternal and child health from cosmetic chemicals of concern.
Resources for Consumers
  • Black Women for Wellness Toxic Free Pocket Beauty Guide
  • Databases and phone apps to check the safety of products including Silent Spring’s Detox Me, Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database, CA Safe Cosmetics Program Product Database, Clearya, and Think Dirty.