Skincare Ingredients To Use With Caution

Thanks to the various cosmetic and personal care products we use every day, our bodies have become repositories for dozens of toxic chemicals. Recent studies have shown that the average female may have up to 200 synthetic chemicals in their bodies and new chemicals are being added to the mix every year. Scientists know virtually nothing about the long-term effects of many of these pollutants, especially when they act in combination with each other. The limited studies that are available reveal links to an alarming array of diseases. Click here for a list of the most toxic ingredients found in personal care products that should be completely avoided during pregnancy.

As a result, it is important that we exercise caution and steer clear of potentially harmful ingredients, particularly during pregnancy. Below is a list of some synthetic chemicals that have not yet been proven to be toxic, but more and more studies are starting to raise some concerns with their use, especially during pregnancy.

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During pregnancy, it is advisable to avoid the use of synthetic fragrances as manufacturers are protected by trade secret laws and are not required by law to disclose the ingredients in fragrances or perfumes. Thus the term "fragrance" or "perfume" on a cosmetic ingredients list usually represents a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. 

A study on 17 widely recognized brand-name perfumes and colognes conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics revealed the use of unknown chemicals, sensitizers (chemicals that cause an allergic reaction), potential hormone disruptors and other various chemicals that had not undergone any safety assessments.

The major findings of this study were as follows:

  1. Secret Chemicals (found in testing, not on label): Laboratory tests revealed 38 secret chemicals in 17 name-brand products, with an average of 14 secret chemicals per product.

  2. Multiple Allergens: The 17 products tested contained an average of 10 chemicals that are known to be sensitizers that can trigger allergic reactions, such as asthma, wheezing, headaches and contact dermatitis.

  3. Multiple Hormone Disruptors: There was a total of 12 different hormone-disrupting chemicals found in the 17 products, with an average of 4 in each product. For example, Diethyl Phthalate (DEP), is widely used in cosmetic fragrances as a solvent and has been associated with adverse effects on the development of the reproductive system. Even at small doses, exposure to hormonal disruptors, such as DEP, can have drastic consequences for your health later in life. Scientists are also primarily concerned about the impact of hormone-disrupting chemicals during critical windows of development, such as fetal development. Hormone-disrupting chemicals are linked to a wide range of health problems, including an increased risk of cancers, adverse effects on sexual function and fertility in adults, adverse effects on developing fetus, increase in early puberty and a predisposition to metabolic diseases such as thyroid problems or obesity. Some hormone disruptors can also affect the optimum thyroid levels crucial to healthy brain development and growth in the fetus, infants, and young children.

  4. Use of chemicals that have not been assessed for safety: The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) had performed safety assessments on only 19 of the 91 ingredients in the 17 products. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) had only performed safety assessment on only 27 of the 91 ingredients in the 17 products.


Beta Hydroxy Acids, such as Salicylic Acid, are incorporated in a number of skin products to treat certain skin disorders, including acne. Salicylic acid is classified as pregnancy category C, meaning that there is a possible risk associated with its use during pregnancy. There are no studies of topical salicylic acid use by humans during pregnancy, though malformations in rat embryos have resulted from oral salicylic acid (aspirin) administration during pregnancy. Widespread application of high-concentration salicylic acid on skin has resulted in cases of salicylate toxicity, but there are no known cases associated with acne products. Risk during pregnancy is considered low if use is restricted to local areas for a limited duration. Make sure your doctor knows you are pregnant if you intend to use a salicylic acid on your body.


Benzoyl peroxide is used in various skincare products such as cleansers, toners, lotions and masks to treat certain skin disorders, including acne. Benzoyl peroxide falls into the pregnancy Category C, meaning that there is a risk associated with its use during pregnancy. Unfortunately there are currently no adequate and/or well-controlled studies in humans. About 5% of each topical dose is absorbed systemically and it is completely metabolized into benzoic acid, a commonly used food additive. Because of rapid renal clearance, no systemic toxicity is expected, and the risk of congenital malformations is theoretically small. Regardless, make sure you consult with your doctor about using benzoyl peroxide safely.


Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is a common ingredient found in fake/self-tanning products. When applied to your skin, DHA reacts with your dead skin cells and produces a brown pigment. It was previously thought that this reaction was only limited the dead cells in the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin), however, a report by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now theorizes that about 11% of the applied DHA could be penetrating through the skin. This report is concerning as previous studies performed on cultured mouse cells showed DHA induces DNA damage, hinders DNA replication and cause apoptosis (death) in living cells, all of which could potential have a serious effect on fetal development. 

The FDA has approved DHA for topical application on the skin only; contact with non-skin areas, such as the eyes, ears, inside the nose, inside the mouth, lips, the urethral opening and the anus should be avoided. As such, DHA is not approved for use in spray bottles and spray tanning booths, even when taking precautions, as it can potentially be inhaled into the lungs or sprayed in the eyes. The safest form of self-tanning products are the cream and lotion based varieties. 

Unfortunately, long-term studies that specifically assess the safety of DHA on a developing fetus are lacking. Thus it is advisable to be cautious when using DHA during pregnancy. 


Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) is commonly used as the basis of many skin creams, vaginal lubricants, toothpaste, and laxatives. Depending on the manufacturing process, PEG may become contaminated with measurable amounts of 1,4-dioxane which has been classified as a possible human carcinogen (agent directly involved in causing cancer) with some evidence of it also being a mutagen (an agent that changes the genetic material, usually DNA, of an organism).

In a study of 100 personal care products marketed as "natural" or "organic", but not certified by any independent standards body, researchers found 1,4-dioxane as a contaminant in 46 of the 100 products analyzed.

As 1,4-dioxane is still currently listed a "possible" human carcinogen, the risk associated with the use of products containing PEG is assumed to be very low, however, caution is advised.


Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) are used in cosmetics as cheap cleansing agents (surfactants) and also to make products bubble and foam. They are common in shampoos, shower gels, and facial cleansers, as well as in household cleaning products. They are also used as an emulsifier (bonding agent between oil and waterin old-fashioned lotions and aqueous creams. As with PEG's, SLES is an "ethoxylated" ingredient, which may be contaminated with measurable amounts of 1,4-dioxane. 

Both SLS and SLES are known skin irritants, in fact, the cosmetic industry uses a 1% SLS solution as a positive irritant control in skin irritant patch tests. Despite this, these ingredients are still found in leave on preparations such as lotions and creams. 


Are there any ingredients that I haven't mentioned that you think we should all be avoiding during pregnancy? Let me know in the comments below.

Our products are specially formulated for use during pregnancy as they are free of toxins and ingredients that are considered harmful to your little one and contain only natural ingredients, made from the highest quality.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or queries please feel free to leave a comment below. For more tips and advice on maternity skin care check out the Expert Advice section of the Natralogic website.

All the best

Lauren Lamont - Natralogic Founder
MSc Chemistry, Dip.Cos.Sci (SA)

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