There's no shortage of advice detailing what you should and shouldn't do during pregnancy, from food to flying. Ultimately, expectant parents will generally make decisions on these things based on what's best for their baby and themselves, in conjunction with their doctor or caregiver. One change that many women feel confident to make on their own, however, is a transition towards a natural beauty routine.
The fact is, there are but a handful of skincare ingredients proven to be unsafe for pregnant women to use. That said, it's unusual for studies of this kind to be conducted on expectant mothers (for obvious reasons), so many err on the side of caution. Also, for some, the thought of slathering on an unknown cocktail of chemicals frankly isn't appealing.
To find out how to clean up your beauty routine when you're with child, we reached out to natural skincare therapist Jeannie Bourke. Bourke's Sydney-based salon, Venustus is a haven of calming, holistic treatments, and a frequent haunt for pregnant women looking for relief. (FYI, Byrdie Australia's senior beauty editor Lisa says the spa's prenatal massage is "worth being pregnant for".) Ahead, Bourke dishes out her best advice on everything from ingredients to consider avoiding, to the one body serum every mum-to-be should own.
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Byrdie Australia: What is your stance on the use of skincare in pregnancy?
Jeannie Bourke: Skincare during pregnancy is where you need an expert. This is the time to get advice from those who have studied, trained, and have experience in prenatal skincare. Many of my clients move to organic skincare during pregnancy so I'm always testing out new treatments, and finding ways to improve upon on my own pregnancy-safe products.
I recommend if you're pregnant, you tell anyone you see for a treatment beforehand to ensure it's safe for you. I think having facials is fine, however, with massage, I recommend waiting until after the first trimester. After that, prenatal-specific massage is great.
B: Which skincare ingredients should be avoided in pregnancy?
JB: There are ingredients that should be avoided, and then there are those we don't have enough information on to know that they're definitively safe. Many experts advise cutting out retin A, retinoids and vitamin A (these three are definite nos), but some also count hydroxy acids, DHA (the active found in fake tan), salicylates, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, hyaluronic acid, parabens and chemical sunscreens. It is also very important to be mindful of using aromatherapy oils during pregnancy. I suggest reading The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia for information.
I always recommend women speak to their obstetrician, doctor, or midwife for a definitive list on what not to use at the time you are pregnant, or even if you are wanting to fall pregnant.
B: Why is it important to clean up your skincare routine while pregnant?
JB: Intuitively you may want to do this—many women want to clean up lots of areas in their lives. It's a good time to get as many safe ingredients in and as many toxic chemical ingredients out, as possible. You're also going to want to completely focus on your beautiful new baby-to-be, so you may want your skincare to be simple, effective, and minimal.
B: When do you recommend pregnant women start looking at cleaning up their skincare?
JB: It's up to the individual and when they're ready. I would suggest researching and/or asking your doctor or trusted experts about ingredients straight away. Some of my clients have done full blood work before even trying to fall pregnant. This is also a good time to clean as many chemicals as you can from out of your house. And when you're shopping, swap out regular products for the organic version. There are some online resources that can help with this—I like The Environmental Working Group.
B: What skincare products make the most difference during prenatal skincare?
JB: For the best visual results, it's exfoliants, serums and moisturisers.
B: Any tips on how to transition to natural and organic skincare on a budget?
JB: It's not about having an entire range of products, it can be just finding three or four great things that work for you and are ideal for your skin type. I'm always open to clients coming in and discussing skincare that meets their budget.
B: What is one skincare product every woman needs during pregnancy?
JB: Serums. They penetrate the deepest, and can really make a difference. They are also the most active when it comes to ingredients. Organic Blessed Pre-Natal Body Serum is a great one to keep the whole body moisturised. It also works to prevent stretch marks. You can apply it every day after the first trimester, or, if your skin feels tight you can use it twice daily. Keep using it after the baby is born as your body will return to shape over time—some women actually get stretch marks at this stage.
B: What other advice would you give to pregnant women so that they feel their best during their pregnancy?
JB: We are seeing unprecedented stress now more than ever, so make sure you know how to calm yourself, and make a conscious effort to relax. Being connected at all hours of the day with no boundaries between work and home means we are really disconnected. Unplug and connect with yourself and your loved ones. I believe we all know intuitively what we need. Listen to this and do what's right for you.