I have been a beauty product junkie since I was a little girl. It began in the aisles of CVS, buying purple nail polish with glitter and press-on nails using my allowance money. Later it was eyeliner in every shade of the rainbow, at-home hair color and lipstick. Post-college I invested in self tanners, body shimmer and super-hold hairspray for nights on the town (see figure below, eek!).
These days, my beauty spending is less focused on maintaining a bronzed appearance with stiff hair and more on preservation. My bathroom drawers are filled with designer fragrances and my medicine cabinet is teeming with anti-aging serums, eye creams and midnight oils. Being pregnant for the second time in two years, I've started to notice that some products are better for expectant moms than others (and some products are MUCH safer for baby, too!) and I wanted to share some of my favorites with all of you.
Skincare for the Face
With raging and changing hormones, skin becomes unbalanced in a way that is unlike any other phase of life - and therefore requires special products. I (thankfully) never experienced any skincare issues in my life until pregnancy when my face began swelling, reddening and showing blemishes. In my first trimester with Daisy, my first instinct was to simply even out my complexion with the help of a light foundation but I soon learned I needed to actively treat and manage the condition of my skin for lasting relief. Spikes in hormone levels cause an actual increase in blood supply to your skin which can make it more sensitive and soaps or lotions you've used for years can suddenly cause irritation - and this can last the full nine months of pregnancy and beyond! So, moral of the story: invest in a few products to protect your skin. You've only got one epidermis!
Biologique Recherche P50 Lotion for Restoring Balance
I use this a few times a week to help balance the PH levels in my skin (which are often all over the place in pregnancy!), remove dead cells and impurities without exfoliating which can often be too harsh for hormonal skin. This is a special version of the cult favorite designed specifically for women trying to get pregnant, women who are pregnant and women who are breastfeeding.
Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask
This mask is a natural beta-hydroxy treatment which helps restore balance and refine your complexion with all-natural components. Formulated without parabens, sulfates or phthalates, this is a rare find for pregnant and nursing mamas - totally safe for you and baby. This is an Allure Beauty prize winner year after year.
Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate for Patches of Dry or Red Skin
I use this as both a spot treatment as-needed and an all-over facial treatment once a week before bed. Paraben-free and made from mostly natural ingredients, this serum is made from botanical oils that smell amazing (lavender before bed? yes please) and restore skin while you sleep. Great for the dry patches that crop up throughout pregnancy.
Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen
This broad-spectrum lotion is safe enough for even your brand-new baby's face and based on my research, dermatogoloists recommend sun protection products that contain physical blockers like titanium oxide for coverage from the sun. Non-spray products are always safest for pregnant and nursing mamas.
Skincare for the Body
More than ever, your body needs attention. An imbalance of skin oils due to hormones make it harder for skin to regenerate and fight back against environmental pollutants. The skin on your body from head to toe is more prone to aging and wrinkling because you're likely not drinking enough water: your body needs extra water during pregnancy to make up for that 50 percent increase in blood volume! So, hydration is key.
Manuka Doctor Body Care
This line of skin care essentials, produced out of New Zealand, came into the spotlight when the Kardashian sisters discovered them - and of course all the beauty magazines followed. Based on purified bee venom (obtained through a patented process!), these products contain a natural combination of enzymes, peptides and amino acids that work to protect and rejuvenate skin without harsh chemicals. The powerful concentrate in each body oil and cream is often referred to as "nature's botox" working on all levels of the skin to nurture cell turnover and support collagen synthesis.
Fighting Stretch Marks
Stretch marks vary from woman to woman - some moms have no stretch marks post-partum and some have them from their chest to their bum cheeks. Genetics seem to play a role so if the women in your family are prone to stretch marks, you'll probably get them too. You coul also be at risk if you carry an especially big baby or end up with extra amniotic fluid like I did with Daisy (4 liters people, 4 liters). There's nothing wrong with stretch marks - after all, they are remnants of the way your body changed to bring another human into the world! - so I personally believe we can and should wear them as badges of honor, but, if you're self-conscious, there are ways to prevent them.
Hatch Belly Mask
I've talked here about the Hatch Collection before - I'm a big fan of their maternity clothing but they also offer a handful of beauty products specifically designed for new or expectant moms. This belly mask helps hydrate skin on the belly and minimize the risk of stretch marks. Think of it as a facial - for your belly! Good for pre- and post-pregnancy.
Bump Gloss Stretchmark Oil
The Spoiled Mama makes a line of products specifically for health-conscious moms and moms-to-be and this is one of their best-selling products, a blend of ten cold-pressed oils that deliver hydration and add elasticity to the expanding skin on your belly. I am a huge fan of anything with shea butter and this is no exception!
What to Avoid
According to Harper's Bazaar, these are the key ingredients - both natural and synthetic - you should avoid in pregnancy:
Vitamin A/retinol. Some studies have linked retinol-based products to birth and child defects and therefore they are best avoided in pregnancy and during breastfeeding. James says another reason to avoid vitamin A-based products is because as they speed up cell turnover, they "also make the skin much more prone to sun damage and developing pigmentation".
Phthalates/formaldehyde/toluene. Look out for these chemicals in perfume and nail polishes. "Research is being carried out to assess a possible link with birth defects," James says. Look to nail polish brands such as Nailberry which are formulated to be "12 chemical free".
Ammonia. Found in some hair dyes, James points out that "it has carcinogenic properties, so steer clear". Your colourist will be able to advise you on ammonia-free options and whether it's safe to colour your hair once you've passed the first trimester of pregnancy.
Dihydroxyacetone. This is the (non-toxic) active ingredient in self-tanning products which doesn't travel beyond the outer layer of the skin and therefore isn't absorbed into the body, so you don't have to avoid it completely. However, the effects of inhalation are not known, so you may want to avoid spray tanning whilst pregnant.
Certain essential oils. James lists basil, rosemary, juniper berry, jasmine, cypress and chamomile blue as essential oils to avoid given their potential to over-stimulate and encourage menstruation.
Stay healthy and take care of yourselves, sweet mamas!