Pregnancy-safe skincare brands for mums-to-be and for new mums too

Discover the skincare brands that have new and future mums in mind.

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The process of becoming a parent is an exciting one, but it can also wreak havoc on your skin. Worse still, as the pregnancy and breastfeeding stages are very sensitive times for both mum and bub, there are plenty of ingredients in popular skincare brands that you may want to avoid.

To help cure your skincare woes and avoid any nasties, we've rounded up the brands with sensitive skin philosophies that cater to pregnancy, new mums and general women's skincare.

We've also provided a list of ingredients that doctors recommend avoiding during pregnancy, and we've had Dr Hayley Dickinson answer all of our pregnancy-safe skincare questions to help you make an informed decision about which beauty products are best for you at this time.

1. Endota Spa

Endota Mum and Baby gift pack

Australian luxury day spa Endota has created a Mum To Be range that is suitable for both pre- and postnatal mothers. The products have been years in the making, as the endota team sought to create a range of dermatologically tested, certified organic skincare that was free from harsh chemicals, artificial fragrances, sulphates and parabens.

The line includes the Moisture Rich Belly Butter, Nourishing Nipple Balm and a drawstring canvas bucket bag that doubles as a nappy bag. There is also a Mother & Baby collection, which includes all these products plus a Gentle Bath & Body Wash, Gentle Baby Lotion, Protecting Barrier Balm and Calming Sleep Mist. The baby products have all been specially formulated for delicate baby skin.

The Mum To Be range retails for $50, while the Mother & Baby range costs $155.

Where to buy:

2. Earth Mama Organics

Earth Mama Organics skincare

Created by mum and nurse Melinda Olson, Earth Mama Organics is a brand dedicated to producing clean and safe herbal products. All of Earth Mama's products are completely toxin-free and are created with all-natural ingredients. The products have also been created to ensure that all new mums are catered for, with different ranges available for each of the pregnancy, postpartum and breastfeeding stages.

You can also find organic deodorants, sunscreen and herbal teas from Earth Mama Organics, along with a range of products that are safe for both babies and children.

The range is very accessible, with most products sitting at around the $10-$25 mark.

Where to buy:

3. Palmer's Stretch Marks range

Palmer's Stretch Marks range

Crafted from natural ingredients such as argan, cocoa butter and shea butter, Palmer's Stretch Marks range is made especially for pregnant women. Each of the products has been created to deeply hydrate skin for up to 48 hours in order to help with the appearance of stretch marks.

The range includes a massage lotion, massage cream, massage oil and tummy butter.

Each of the products in the range retails for around $15.

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4. Edible Beauty

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Australian luxury skincare brand Edible Beauty was created by naturopath Anna Mitsios, who previously worked at a fertility clinic. Using her knowledge of pregnancy and natural ingredients, Mitsios created a range of toxin-free and hormone-friendly skincare.

Rather than being pregnancy-specific, the Edible Beauty range includes staple skincare products such as cleansing milk, serums and face oils, meaning that you can continue with your usual facial routine stress-free.

Individual products range between $18 and $83.

Where to buy:

5. Motherlove

Motherlove cream

Motherlove is another all-natural brand that has created a range of organic products for both pregnant and postpartum women. Each product formula is made from certified organic herbs and other pure ingredients.

Some products on offer include the Nipple Cream and Pregnant Belly Salve, as well as the Diaper Balm and other baby products.

Motherlove skincare items usually retail for between $15 and $27.

Where to buy:

6. Bio-Oil

Pregnant woman with Bio-Oil

Bio-Oil has long been a cult-favourite skincare product among pregnant and postpartum women. The natural formula, made from a combination of plant extracts and vitamins, helps to both reduce the appearance of stretch marks and even out skin tone.

The product has undergone extensive testing to be deemed both safe and effective, with 92% of the women tested in a clinical trial reporting improvement in scarring after 8 weeks.

Bio-Oil typically retails for around $15 for a 60mL bottle.

Where to buy:

Which ingredients should you avoid while pregnant?

While there is no conclusive list of ingredients that will cause harm during pregnancy, there are some ingredients that doctors and skincare professionals recommend avoiding:

  • Parabens and phthalates. Parabens and phthalates can act as endocrine disruptors, meaning that they can disrupt hormone function. Endocrine disruptors have been known to cause cancerous tumours, birth defects and other developmental disorders, and they should ultimately be avoided by everyone, not just those who are pregnant. Unfortunately, the word "paraben" isn't always the one that appears on the ingredients list. When checking the back of your favourite skin and beauty products, look for butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben, which are the most commonly found types of parabens in skincare.
  • SLS and SLES. Skin can become more sensitive during pregnancy, meaning that ingredients that may not have bothered you before can start to become irritating. SLS and SLES are surfactants, which are often irritating to the skin anyway and they are likely to become even more irritating during pregnancy.
  • Vitamin A and retinols. Currently, there is inadequate research around whether vitamin A and retinol products are harmful during pregnancy. However, there is some evidence that they can affect the development of a foetus at high concentrations, so you may want to avoid them if you can.
  • Fragrances. As well as being a potential irritant to sensitive skin, women can become very sensitive to smells during pregnancy. If you're suffering from nausea, you may want to steer clear of any perfumed products.

If you do have any concerns around skincare, it's best to talk to your health care provider or a skincare specialist. Together, you can weigh up any potential risks and come up with the best solution for you and your skincare needs.

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Pregnancy skincare FAQs

To answer some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding pregnancy-safe skincare, we caught up with leading Australian research scientist, Dr Hayley Dickinson. Now working as a scientific adviser for luxury day spa endota, she answered everything we wanted to know about pre- and postnatal beauty.

1. How does the skin change during pregnancy?

In terms of skin, some women will experience changes, such as more pimples. That's because of some increased activity in the sebaceous glands that can occur because of that increased progesterone during pregnancy. It doesn't happen to everybody and there are a lot of lifestyle factors that are wrapped around all of these things for women. If women are careful about their diet and think about the things that they're putting on their skin as well, they can have some control over these skin concerns. But for some women, it is just hormonal.

There can also be changes to the pigmentation of women's skin. For some women, it can be in totally random places. Some women will get what's described as the "mask of pregnancy", which is a pigmentation across their face. Some women get it across the strip of the abdomen, the linea alba. Again, like with most things during pregnancy, once those hormones settle down after birth, that will fade and, in most cases, go away completely.

2. Can products you put on your skin during pregnancy affect the foetus?

The things that we put on and in our bodies can affect our babies, no doubt. Our skin is designed as a barrier, so not everything that we apply to our skin crosses all of the different layers of our skin and enters our circulation. It's actually very difficult for chemicals to do that because our skin is designed to protect us from that. But cosmetic products can be formulated in such a way to overcome that barrier, for some, that's the primary objective – to get the product as far into the skin as it can.

Within the pregnancy environment, there is a placenta that provides nutrients for the baby and removes waste for the foetus because its organs are still developing. But it's not a completely effective barrier. There's only one layer of cells between the mum's blood and the baby's blood, so things can get through. Some things can't – bigger things can't – but there are spaces between those cells and some things can. So it's important for women to think about what they're putting on their skin. It's certainly not a free passage across the skin, but there are some things that we should try to avoid.

3. Is it safe to use fake tan while pregnant?

I think the evidence would say that if you've been using fake tan without any problems in the time before you were pregnant, and you continue to behave the same way and use the same fake tan, your risks are probably pretty low. Fake tan isn't designed to get all the way into your skin, it's designed to create that darkening up on the top. It's not created for deep penetration into the layers of the skin. So we're not looking at the risk of things getting into the circulation, it's more about that topical irritation. So, if the woman is experiencing increased sensitivity during her pregnancy in her skin, she may be more likely to have a reaction using her fake tan.

4. How about hair dye?

If you have been dying your hair with the same hairdresser or the same kit at home for a while and you've not had any issues, you're unlikely to start having issues during pregnancy. Again, the only issue that might arise would be around that sensitivity of your scalp skin. There can be some less-than-ideal chemicals in a hair dye, but the amount of those that are in contact with your hair and your scalp skin – and the duration of that exposure – is so low that the risks are also incredibly low. Again, your skin might become more sensitive because you're pregnant, so you might find that what was normally a perfectly comfortable hair dying experience may be a little bit more irritating.

5. Which types of sunscreen are safe to use while pregnant?

Physical sunscreen sits on the surface of the skin, while chemical sunscreen goes in a little further. Because of what we've discussed in terms of products crossing the skin's barrier, physical would be my recommendation during pregnancy. In saying that, I am not familiar with any research that has compared the rate of absorption between the types or their effect during pregnancy. Just because the science isn't there doesn't mean something is or isn't safe, we just don't know. But physical would be my recommendation.

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