ecomii - a better way
June 18, 2018  |  Login
Pampering Yourself: Personal Care During Pregnancy
By Dr. Alan Greene

During pregnancy most women enjoy the wonderful array of hygiene and beauty products available today—soaps to cleanse and nourish the body, skin creams to soothe and moisturize, shampoos and conditioners to enhance and enrich their hair. Others are drawn to new perfumes and makeup that help them feel just a bit pampered.

If you have a sizable collection of personal hygiene and beauty products, this is the perfect time to take a closer look at their ingredients and trade in some of your products for healthier and greener versions.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the average American’s daily use of shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, skin lotions, nail polishes, perfumes, hair gels, mousse, hair sprays, lip balms, and sunscreens deposits small amounts of 126 different chemicals on the skin every day. And unlike food ingredients, these chemicals are not always listed on the product label in a way that can be clearly and totally understood. So this is one more daily situation where you have the power to do something good for you and your baby by being informed and proactive.

Before you buy your next bottle of skin lotion, body bath, or even eyeliner, take a look at “Skin Deep,” the searchable database offered by the EWG at It rates products in terms of safety and toxicity, specifically for pregnant women. You might also want to jump ahead to Chapter Five, where I go into greater detail about beauty and personal care products

Coloring Your Hair

Women often wonder whether they can continue with all their usual beauty routines during pregnancy. There’s some question, for example, about whether hair dye is safe to use. Almost all hair dyes contain small amounts of chemicals called aromatic amines—well known to cause cancer in animals. (Dark-colored dyes tend to contain more.) Some studies have found a direct association between personal hair dye use in women and cancers of the bladder, breast, ovaries, and brain, and lymphomas and leukemias.1 However, there are also good studies that have not found a problem.

The risk appears to depend on dye permanence, dye color, cumulative lifetime use, and the user’s genetically determined ability to detoxify these damaging chemicals.2 Regardless of whether hair dyes prove safe or not, I strongly recommend that expectant women avoid any type of hair coloring during pregnancy or while nursing. The EPA has concluded that carcinogens are on average ten times more potent for babies than for adults; some chemicals are up to sixty-five times more powerful.3 We don’t yet know much about hair dyes and babies, but I wouldn’t want to experiment.

Safer Sunscreens

Many mothers slather on sunscreen to protect their skin and their bodies from damaging UV rays. Unfortunately, many sunscreens contain not only phthalates but also estrogen-like compounds as major ingredients. So stay away from this type of sunscreen lotion and instead use physical barrier lotions, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide products, which are not absorbed into the skin (unless they contain nanoparticles).


1. Gago-Dominguez, M., and others. “Use of Permanent Hair Dyes and Bladder-Cancer Risk.” International Journal of Cancer, 2001, 91,  pp. 575–579. 

Gago-Dominguez, M., and others. “Permanent Hair Dyes and Bladder Cancer: Risk Modification by Cytochrome P4501A2 and N-acetyltransferases 1 and 2.” Carcinogenesis, 2003, 24, pp. 483–489.

Gago-Dominguez, M., and others. “Permanent Hair Dyes and Bladder Cancer: Risk Modification by Cytochrome P4501A2 and N-acetyltransferases 1 and 2.” Carcinogenesis, 2003, 24, pp. 483–489.

Bluhm, E., and others. “Personal Hair Dye Use and Risks of Glioma, Meningioma, and Acoustic Neuroma Among Adults.” American Journal of Epidemiology, 2007, 165(1), pp. 63–71.

Petro-Nustas, W., Norton, M. E., and al-Masarweh, I. “Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Jordanian Women.” Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 2002, 34, pp. 19–25.

Ahlbom, A., and others. “Nonoccupational Risk Indicators for Astrocytomas in Adults.” American Journal of Epidemiology, 1986, 124,
pp. 334–337.

Burch, J. D., and others. “An Exploratory Case-Control Study of Brain Tumors in Adults.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1987, 78, pp. 601–609.

Zahm, S. H., and others. “Use of Hair Coloring Products and the Risk of Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.” American Journal of Public Health, 1992, 82, pp. 990–997.

Cantor, K. P., and others. “Hair Dye Use and Risk of Leukemia and Lymphoma.” American Journal of Public Health, 1988, 78, pp. 570–571.

Zhang, Y., and others. “Hair-Coloring Product Use and Risk of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: A Population-Based Case-Control Study in Connecticut.” American Journal of Epidemiology, 2004, 159, pp. 148–154.

2. Gago-Dominguez, M., and others, 2003.

3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Supplemental Guidance for Assessing Susceptibility from Early-Life Exposures to Carcinogens. EPA Risk Assessment Forum. EPA/630/R-03/003F. Mar. 2005.



ecomii featured poll

Vote for your Favorite Charity



the ecomii eight
1 Winter Squash   5 Pistachio Stuffing
2 Chestnuts   6 Cap & Trade
3 Carbon Footprint   7 Pecan Pie
4 Supplements   8 Parenting
ecomii resources
ecomii Tips Newsletter 

Sign up today to receive a weekly tip for living greener

Get in Touch

Got suggestions? Want to write for us? See something we could improve? Let us know!