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Extra Picky: Explaining Our Pregnancy-Safe Skincare Filter

Why should you care about pregnancy-safe skincare?

Pregnancy-safe skincare has become an important buzzword among expectant mommies. Women entering pregnancy experience significant hormonal changes in their body that may also manifest visibly on their skin. While some women have said that they have suffered from breakouts, sensitivity and dry skin during their pregnancy, other moms have instead reported a #pregnancyglow and have enjoyed marked improvements in their overall skin condition.

Regardless of whether your skin experiences positive or negative changes during pregnancy, what is important is the realization that what you put on your face during this critical period takes on a heightened importance. As the systemic blood flow in the body increases due to pregnancy, this leads to greater absorption through the skin, causing certain ingredients (that may not have been so easily absorbed before pregnancy) to potentially pass through the skin layer and into the blood stream. Once in circulation, these ingredients may cross the placenta and come into contact with the developing fetus. This biological development is the key reason why experts have cautioned expectant mothers against being lax in their everyday skin care routine, and to pay attention to the ingredients that go into their products.

How does Picky identify ingredients that are unsafe for pregnancy?

In order to ensure that our pregnant users can access the largest database of pregnancy-safe skin care products, the Picky team has referred to a wide range of authoritative sources in healthcare, and have even considered opinions from leading pregnancy communities, including pregnant women and mommy support groups, to curate an extensive list of ingredients that have been deemed to be risky or even detrimental to the wellbeing of pregnant women and their unborn children. These ingredients include the following:

  • “Problematic” ingredients, or ingredients marked as Category C by the FDAThese are ingredients tested through animal reproduction studies, and have shown an adverse effect on the fetus. While there is a lack of equivalent studies on humans, and that potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks, pregnant women and even medical professionals alike generally advise against the use of such ingredients unless absolutely necessary. For the reason, Picky excludes all products containing ingredients in this category. This is on top of other category D and X ingredients marked by the FDA, which have been proven to cause substantial risk to developing fetuses.
    • Retinol (or Vitamin A)
    While retinol is one of the most widely used and most effective ingredients for anti-aging and acne-fighting, you may want to reconsider incorporating this ingredient into your skin care regimen during pregnancy. Excessive vitamin A has been known to result in birth defects. While some studies have suggested that topical applications of vitamin A on the skin is less risky than physical intake, the general consensus amongst health practitioners and consumers alike is to err on the safe side of caution and to exclude products with this ingredient during pregnancy.
    • Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in most acne-fighting products. While most studies advising against the use of salicylic acid have been focused on physical intake of the ingredient through aspirin, many medical professionals nevertheless draw links to the potential risks involved in the topical application of salicylic acid, and advocate against the use of skin care products containing significant dosages of salicylic acid (no more than 2%) during pregnancy. As a conservative measure, Picky completely excludes this ingredient in our pregnancy-safe filter.

  • Other risky ingredients

Unlike the above ingredients, these ingredients have not been categorically flagged as risky by the FDA. However, studies that advocate for these ingredients as pregnancy-safe have faced criticism. For example, some may have conducted studies on sample sizes that are too small to be conclusive. Others have not accumulated enough supporting evidence to establish a case for generalization to the rest of the pregnant community. In this context, Picky has decided to flag these ingredients in our pregnancy-safe skincare filter. This is to ensure that expectant mothers can have complete peace of mind when browsing on our platform.

  • Formaldehyde

Though not included in the FDA categorical recommendations for pregnancy, formaldehyde is an ingredient that Picky has included as an important flag in our pregnancy-safe skincare filter. Many ob-gyns and dermatologists will advise pregnant women to limit their exposure to the ingredient, due to previous known cases of formaldehyde potentially increasing the chances of fertility problems, miscarriage or even cancer. In the past, formaldehyde used to be the most popular ingredient for preserving cosmetic products to extend their shelf lives. While this is no longer common, there might still be manufacturers that continue to use it for cheap preservation. It’s very rare – from our database so far, no product on Picky is reported to use formaldehyde as an ingredient.

  • Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is used to treat conditions such as skin conditions such as chloasma and melasma. It is also often used as a skin-whitening agent in skin care products. While there has been no known increase in risk posed towards the fetus following topical application of the ingredient by the expectant mother, the high absorbency of the ingredient through the skin into the human body (35%-45%) makes it advisable to minimize exposure until further, more extensive studies have been conducted to confirm its safety.

  • Paraben

A highly debated ingredient – paraben is very widely used as preservatives in skin care products such as toners and essences. While the FDA’s position is that there has not been enough research to establish paraben as a confirmed threat to pregnancy safety, there have been a significant number of studies highlighting the risks of parabens. For example, parabens have been linked to gestational diabetes mellitus in expectant mothers. It has also been singled out as a contributing factor to inducing premature birth in expectant mothers. Due to the contested nature of this ingredient, it has been excluded from our list of pregnancy-safe skincare ingredients.

  • Phthalates

Phthalates are chemicals added into plastics to increase inherent properties like flexibility and durability. Because plastic packaging are so widely used in the production of products, is nearly impossible to avoid this ingredient entirely. The problem with phthalates is that they can impact hormones and interfere with male genital development. Additionally, some reports also suggest a possibility of phthalates tampering with the development of motor skills and even speech development.

Our full list of ingredients posing a risk to pregnancy are available only on Picky through the pregnancy-safe filter. Email us at [email protected] if you have any questions about how we define our pregancy-safe list.

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