Beauty basics with SHAHNAZ HUSAIN
The nine months of pregnancy are full of wonder and joy but can also spring a few unpleasant surprises on your face and body. Pregnant women face many skin problems like frequent breakouts of acne, itchy skin and pigmentation. These are caused by hormonal changes. Research suggests that some ingredients in your regular beauty products can be potentially harmful to you and your baby’s health during pregnancy. Some ingredients can penetrate into your bloodstream, having a systemic effect on the body that may pose a threat to a developing faetus, and others have to be avoided postpartum since they can pass into breastmilk.
While all women respond differently to skincare ingredients depending on individual factors like skin type and sensitivities, there are some rules about what to avoid during pregnancy. Chemicals in many cosmetics harm the skin and scalp. They disrupt the pH balance (acid-alkaline balance) of the skin and scalp, cause allergies, itching, rashes and eruptions. As already mentioned, they cause a build-up of toxins in the system over a period of time and damage internal organs. For instance, fragrances are mostly made of harmful chemicals like aldehydes, benzene derivatives, parabens and other chemicals that are linked to cancer and nervous system problems. They can cause irritation and redness of the skin. Hence, use a fragrance-free beauty product.
Mineral oil is a very common ingredient in skincare cosmetics. As we know, mineral oil is derived from petroleum. It may not cause any immediate reaction, but over a period of time, it can give rise to allergic reactions and irritation. Camphor, peppermint extract and mint oil should be avoided during pregnancy, especially for those late in pregnancy or those with an increased risk of miscarriage.
We must use natural oils and moisturisers, like aloe vera, honey, flowers, date etc on skin during pregnancy. Aloe vera is a powerful natural moisturiser and retains moisture. It also softens dead skin cells and helps their removal, leaving the skin smoother and brighter. In fact, it helps the normal functions of the skin by improving its capacity to retain moisture. Aloe vera gel or juice can also be applied directly on the skin to moisturise it and relieve dryness, without any harmful effects.
Parabens are chemical preservatives used in the cosmetic industry. Recently, there has been a great deal of research concerning parabens and their harmful effects. The controversy is that the chemical structure of parabens actually mimics the oestrogen hormone and may increase the risk of cancer and reproductive problems in women. Repeated use of parabens can cause a build-up in the body leading to allergic reactions and health issues. The concern is also with skin irritation and skin sensitivity.
Pregnant women should also see that there is no mercury in the products they are using. Mercury is a bleaching agent. It can damage the skin and internal organs. Many herbal cosmetic companies use natural ingredients like saffron, turmeric, almonds, bearberry, carrot seed, powder of pearls, etc., in anti-blemish creams.
Hydrogen peroxide is also a skin bleaching agent. It can cause skin irritation on the area where it is used. In high concentrate, it can even cause burns. It should be avoided during pregnancy. Many natural ingredients, like lemon, turmeric, ripe papaya, yogurt, cucumber and saffron can help remove tan and lighten skin colour.
Although we are talking of skin care ingredients, we need to consider chemical hair dyes too. The scalp is an extension of the skin and can absorb harmful ingredients. Chemical hair dyes contain coal tar, ammonia and other ingredients which not only cause an accumulation of toxins in the system, but can also lead to severe allergic reactions and even damage internal organs.
Ammonia is chemical dyes can also cause damage to the scalp and even the hair. Therefore, pregnant women should stay away from chemical dyes. Natural colours that are 100% free from chemicals are available.