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Beauty Products and Pregnancy

There’s a debate going on regarding beauty products’ effects on pregnancy. This controversy began when a study linked high levels of phthalates to the lack of proper development of reproductive systems in male babies. This led to questioning the safety of using beauty products during pregnancy, as various products contain phthalates and several other potentially harmful chemicals.

Potentially harmful chemicals

There are several beauty product chemicals which are considered to be potentially harmful at higher levels during pregnancy due to the uncertainty of their effects. These chemicals are: Benzoyl Peroxide, Hydrocortisone, parabens, phthalates, the entire retinoid family, and salicylic acid (also known as BHA or beta hydroxy acid), lead, 1, 4 Dioxane, and some essential oils. Due to the nature of the harmful chemicals, it’s believed that they may be able to enter the bloodstream and penetrate the placenta. This penetration of the placenta may lead to birth defects or hamper the baby’s development, especially during the first trimester.

Cause of debate

The debate arises from the fact that no one knows for sure how high levels of exposure may be acquired or which chemicals are harmful. Little research has been conducted in the area of chemicals used in beauty products and their effects on humans, let alone their effects on pregnancy. So no one knows for certain exactly what level of chemicals may be absorbed through the skin or inhaled as vapours. Nor is there enough research to be certain under what conditions the chemicals may affect the foetus or the expectant mother.

Owing to pressure from safety-of-cosmetic product campaigns, manufacturers have reformulated the majority of their products. Most products now contain only low-levels of the chemicals that are known to be potentially harmful. So many people think that beauty products are fairly safe to use during pregnancy.

However, this reformulation hasn’t completely ended the controversy. This is because there’s still not enough adequate research to prove that even these low levels are safe for pregnant women. No one has proven the chemicals couldn’t be built up in the woman’s bloodstream through multiple use of a single product. Nor have the manufacturers proven that higher levels of chemicals can’t be acquired by using multiple products containing low-levels of the harmful chemicals. Nor has it been proven that every combination of beauty product chemicals is safe during each pregnancy.

It has been estimated that the average woman uses 12-15 different beauty and personal care products per day. All 12-15 products may contain low-levels of the same harmful chemicals. Thus, even if the products were safe to use individually, they may not be safe when combined. Since each pregnancy is different, even for the same woman, it’s impossible to predict how each chemical combination will interact with the woman’s body and the foetus. People also question the safety of all the new chemicals being added to the products, since they too haven’t been adequately researched.

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to conduct adequate research on the effects of beauty product chemicals on human pregnancy. Very few human test subjects can be utilised for this type of research. The manufacturers mostly have to rely on feedback from the professionals and other customers who use the products.

Importance of debate

This debate is highly important to members of the beauty and personal care industries. Hairdressers, beauticians, and nail technicians are legally obligated to protect the expectant mothers and their unborn children from harm caused by beauty products. Not only does the law hold these professionals liable, their customers also rely on them to provide this protection. Pregnant employees also expect their employers to provide safe products and a safe environment to work in.

However, it may not be easy to provide this protection. In most cases, the potentially harmful chemicals are not labelled as ingredients. For instance, phthalates may simply be labelled as “fragrance” and 1, 4 Dioxane is actually a by-product of other ingredients. The best option is to use fragrance-free products and to avoid using sprayed on products. Also avoid using products that must remain in contact with the skin for long periods of time or that are known to chemically interact with hormones. It’s wise to ask a pregnant client which beauty products she’s using, and try to avoid using products that may increase her body’s absorption of the same chemicals. It’s also wise to carry lots of professional and product liability cover. Even experts don’t know what beauty products’ effects on pregnancy may be, so it’s better to play it safe rather than be sorry later.