Beauty and your baby
The first priority of pregnancy is obviously a healthy, happy bub. But that doesn't mean you want to stop giving yourself a little pampering and polish too. How do you know what's safe for you and baby? This week, Bh asks the experts some common questions about beauty products and being with child...
John Kerr - Qualified aromatherapist John Kerr has also studied botanical medicine and organic chemistry and is the author of Understanding Aromatherapy (Griffin Press, 2000).
Susan Cleary - President of the International Federation of Aromatherapists (Australia Branch)
Dr Gabrielle Caswell - Dermatologist, cosmetic physician and public relations officer at the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australia (CPSA)
Mark Pickett - Director of The Art of Beauty
Belinda Jeffreys - Leading hair colourist from La Boutique in Double Bay, Sydney
Susie Prichard-Casey - Qualified pre-natal masseuse from Stone Soul in Balmain, Sydney
Nicole Stansfield - Spa manager at Spa Chakra in Sydney in consultation with Helen Thomas, Spa Chakra's international training manager in North America
I know that oral vitamin A medications can cause birth defects. Should I avoid vitamin A in skin creams too?
"There isn't a lot of evidence that topically applied vitamin A is absorbed systemically and would affect an unborn baby, but I wouldn't prescribe it for a pregnant woman," says Dr Gabrielle Caswell. "It might be overcautious, but testing the safety is an experiment that doctors just can't do, so I'd say to avoid it," she explains.
That includes over-the-counter products too. "Women need to be aware that some non-prescription creams do contain [forms of vitamin A] retinol palmitate or retinol acetate, which are considered 'pre/pro-retins'," highlights Dr Caswell. "Cosmetic creams are able to have up to one per cent of these substances and should be avoided in pregnancy.
"It is important that you check the labels on all cosmetics if you are intending or expecting a pregnancy," she says.
I usually use vitamin A products to manage my acne or ageing concerns. What should I use instead?
Of course, every woman is different, but some find acne clears up during pregnancy. "You're not menstruating, so your hormones aren't fluctuating the same way," Dr Caswell explains.
But even if you do breakout while with baby, you do have options. "Alpha and beta acid products, for example, are safe," says Dr Caswell. "And because acne and pimples are the result of obstruction of the hair follicle, infection and inflammation, I find glycolic acids, which work to dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells and help clear the obstruction, can have great results."
Glycolic products can also help to lighten pigmentation like the chloasma 'pregnancy mask' and acne scarring.
Other fruit acids such as lactic acid also promote a brighter, fresher complexion, along with some anti-ageing benefits. "And, in addition to a fruit acid, you can still use products with vitamin C to boost collagen," reasons Dr Caswell.
Is it no to needles?
Injectable skin fillers, like Restylane or Juvederm, and muscle relaxants like Botox should be avoided while expecting, instructs Dr Caswell.
"Botox binds to the nerve-muscle communication channels, and over a two day period will be metabolised and excreted from your system, leaving the muscle relaxed to remediate wrinkles," she details. "It's not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding woman due to this excretion process."
"There is no direct evidence that dermal fillers constructed from hyaluronic acid (a natural, biodegradable body substance) [eg. Restylane] are detrimental to pregnant women," notes Dr Caswell. "But, again, caution is a better side of valour, and it is better to wait until after the lactation period.
"Women naturally make more hyaluronic acid during pregnancy anyway and this contributes to the 'glow' that many experience," she adds.
Your changing body
Can I use essential oils during pregnancy?
In his book Understanding Aromatherapy (Griffin Press, 2000), John Kerr says he has been "unable to find any cases where harm has been caused to the mother or unborn baby by rubbing diluted essential oil on the skin, or by inhaling the vapours of an essential oil, or by smelling an essential oil". Kerr clarifies that by "harm" he means a result more significant than a skin reaction or nausea provoked by a strong aroma. But he also acknowledges that not all aromatherapists will agree.
So some say nothing need be expressly avoided. Others definitely disagree. Rather than debate what's not safe, it can be easier to note what aromatherapists do agree upon. President of the International Federation of Aromatherapists Susan Cleary says that, as long as you follow directions of use, the following are generally considered safe to use while pregnant:
* bergamot * cypress * eucalyptus * frankincense * geranium * grapefruit * lavender (after 16 weeks) * lemon * lemongrass * may chang * sandalwood * tangerine * tea tree * ylang ylang
Is massage safe during pregnancy?
Cleary considers gentle aromatherapy massage safe in all trimesters. "I have been an aromatherapist for 14 years and, during that time have massaged numerous pregnant women without any harmful effects," she says.
Most massage techniques can be tailored by a qualified professional to suit pregnant needs and Susie Prichard-Casey says that the only time she would avoid massage is when the woman has a history of complications or miscarriage. "Those people would have been advised against massage by their doctor anyway, but I would avoid any treatments until after at least the 20th week," she explains.
"And if you have something like PSD [pelvic dysfunction] it's vital that you only see a qualified and experienced pre-natal masseuse."
Should I avoid heat-based body treatments?
Prichard-Casey recommends that thermal treatments like body wraps, hot stones, hydrotherapy and steamrooms should be eschewed right throughout pregnancy. "A pregnant woman's system is already stressed trying to maintain temperature, so you shouldn't put it under any more pressure," she says.
Nicole Stanfield from Spa Chakra in Sydney also believes that therapies which increase a mother's body temperature can affect the development of a foetus and should ultimately be avoided.
Does massage bring on labour?
"Having a massage isn't going to make you go into labour instantly," confirms Prichard-Casey. There are certain reflexology and acupressure points, like the sides of your ankles (your uterus point) and the webbing between your thumb and index finger, that can be used for induction, "but it's certainly not accidental," she highlights.
"It involves pressing with really quite an unpleasant amount of pressure. It's intentional work to bring on labour - babies don't just fall out!"
So don't be afraid of a great foot or shoulder rub when you're feeling achy.
How can I deal with stretch marks?
Sadly, there's nothing that will make existing stretch marks completely disappear, but they are likely to fade in time. Some of the most effective topical treatments are available from dermatologists, but, because they contain vitamin A and its derivatives, they are a no-no for expectant and breastfeeding mums (see Dr Caswell's notes on vitamin A above). Light therapies like Omnilux or IPL and also peels have been found to effectively fade the marks.
While regular massage with moisturising, strengthening products like cocoa butter or rosehip oil can help improve your skin's general appearance, it's unlikely that they can literally prevent stretch marks forming. But many women insist it's worth a try.
Is it safe to colour my hair during pregnancy?
"I prefer not to put colour or bleach on the scalp as the chemicals can penetrate through," says specialist colourist Belinda Jeffrey. "I always recommend highlighting or foil/streaking as this technique means the colour does not touch the scalp. I also recommend waiting to colour your hair until after the first three months."
Can my nail polish affect my baby?
According to Mark Pickett, Director of Art of Beauty, the company behind Zoya nail polishes, it can. Formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) are the ingredients considered dangerous.
Pickett states: "The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org), the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association (www.ctfa.org), and the US National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) have issued cautions and warnings about their potential to cause leukaemia, brain cancer, liver damage, skin and respiratory irritation, and reproductive risks such as reduced foetal weight, bone deficiencies and deformities. Formaldehyde has been banned from cosmetic products in Sweden and Japan, while Toluene is tagged in the State of California (USA) as a 'reproductive toxin'.
"Reproductive effects, including an association between exposure to toluene and an increased incidence of spontaneous abortions, have also been noted. However, these studies are not conclusive due to many confounding variables."
Perhaps because of these "variables", not every healthcare professional is convinced of the potential dangers of nail varnish. And many women continue to polish throughout pregnancy without concern.
If you'd prefer to avoid the ingredients in question, all Zoya Professional Lacquers are free from DBP, toluene and formaldehyde. Popular brand OPI is formaldehyde free and also eliminated DBP from its polishes as of 2006. In early 2007, the brand also deleted toluene from its nail colours. Two 'clean' OPI collections to look for are Night Brights and Psychedelic Summer.
"Take whatever you've got in to your doctor and ask what's safe," says Dr Caswell. And don't forget that natural remedies should be cleared by your doctor too. For a comprehensive list of the products that should be avoided during pregnancy, Dr Caswell recommends The Pregnancy Schedule, a booklet that your doctor will be able to consult on your behalf.