Top Cosmetic Chemicals To Avoid During Pregnancy

A dash of makeup can be the perfect pick-me-up when you’re pregnant, but are the products you’re using safe for you and your baby? Women who use makeup daily absorb about five pounds of cosmetics through their skin every year, so it’s a good idea to make sure women know what they’re using. A growing number of studies raise concerns about the potential cancer-causing and hormone-disrupting effects of the most common chemicals in cosmetics and their effects on developing fetuses.

Using Nine Naturals pregnancy safe haircare and bodycare products is an easy way to cut these chemicals out of your beauty regimen! To help you avoid these worrisome chemicals in your makeup too we’ve rounded up a list of the worst offenders.


  1. What Are They: Parabens are the most widely used preservative in cosmetics, intended to stop the growth of bacteria in your products. An estimated 75-90% of cosmetics contain them in low doses, but they build up in your body over time and with frequency of use. Parabens are endrocrine disruptors (chemicals that act like hormones and disrupt the reproductive system) and may cause reproductive disorders in babies as well.
  2. How To Spot On Labels: Parabens are listed with a prefixes such as propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, methyl-, ethyl- and isobutylparabens. Parabens are also lumped under the vague term fragrance as well (see below).
  3. Common Products: Make-up, moisturizers, hair care and shaving products.


  1. What Are They: Phthalates are a common chemical plasticizer used as preservatives and fragrance-enhancers in over 72% of beauty products. Phthalates are considered a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  2. How To Spot On Labels: Phthalates are hard to identify, but look in ingredient lists for phthalates listed as DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate) and fragrance/parfum.
  3. Common Products: Nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes and cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions.


  1. What Are They: Scents added to products. To protect trade secrets, companies are permitted by the FDA to withhold fragrance ingredients, so consumers can’t rely on labels to know what hazardous chemicals comprise these “fragrance” or “parfum” ingredients.
  2. How To Spot On Labels: Easy to spot, check ingredient lists for the terms fragrance or parfum.
  3. Common Products: Fragrance is in almost all personal care products, including cosmetics, skin care, hair care, deodorant, and more.

1,4-Dioxane (can be listed as itself or included in PEG Compounds)

  1. What Are They: A chemical carcinogen, 1,4-dioxane is created when ingredients are processed with petroleum-derived ethylene oxide.
  2. How To Spot: Avoid products with the following ingredients: sulfates, myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth (or any other -eth), polyethylene, polyethylene glycol (or PEG), polyoxyethylene, or oxynol, or phenoxyethanol.
  3. Common Products: Products that create suds (such as shampoo, liquid soap, bubble bath), hair relaxers, others.

PEG & PPG Compounds

  1. What Are They: PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers, commonly used as cosmetic cream bases. They also often contain the carcinogenic compound 1,4-dioxane (see above).
  2. How To Spot: Look for ingredients such as PEG, PPG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol, phenoxyethanol, myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth
  3. Common Products: Cream bases, foundations, moisturizers, hair products.

Coal Tar Dyes

  1. What Are They: The most common synthetic colors in cosmetics and hair dye are made from coal tar. P-phenylenediamine is a particular coal tar dye used in many hair dyes. Darker hair dyes tend to contain more phenylenediamine than lighter hair dyes.
  2. How To Spot: Coal tar dyes will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color (C.I) and a 5-digit number, such as CI 75000. Also look for aminophenol, diaminobenzene, phenylenediamine.
  3. Common Products: Lipstick, eye shadows, and any brightly colored cosmetics.

Petroleum & Petroleum Distillates

  1. What Are They: Petroleum, aka crude oil, and its derivatives are in many of the cosmetic products we use every day. Mineral oil, petroleum jelly, and petrolatum are all common by-products and are all fossil-fuel-derived substances that make their way onto our medicine cabinet shelves.
  2. How To Spot: Look for ingredients such as Petroleum, petrolatum, mineral oil, petroleum oil jelly, propylene glycol, and isopropyl alcohol as well as Fragrance/Parfum (see above).
  3. Common Products: Lip gloss, lipsticks, foundations, mascaras, moisturizers, cleansers, shampoos, and hidden in Fragrance/Parfum in many others.

DMDM Hydantoin & Bronopol

  1. What Are They: DMDM Hydantoin & Bronopol are cosmetics preservatives that decompose and release formaldehyde, which the International Agency on Research on Cancer lists as a known human carcinogen. Other applications of formaldehyde include production of resins used in wood products, vinyl flooring and other plastics, permanent-press fabric, and toilet bowl cleaners.
  2. How To Spot: Look for DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quarternium-15, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.
  3. Common Products: Makeup bases, foundations, moisturizers, shampoos, hair conditioners, skin care products, moisturizers, bath products.


  1. What Are They: These silicone-based compounds are used in cosmetics to soften, smooth, and moisten. Siloxanes are classified as endocrine-disruptors and potential reproductive toxicants.
  2. How To Spot: Look for ingredients ending in “-siloxane” or “-methicone.”
  3. Common Products: Lipsticks, lotions, hair care products.

DEA-Related Ingredients

  1. What Are They: DEA (diethanolamine) and DEA-compounds are used to make cosmetics creamy or sudsy. Since one form of DEA (cocamide DEA) is mixed with coconut oil, some brands claim it’s a “natural ingredient,” but it is not. DEA is also used in oil refineries to “scrub” hydrogen sulphide from process gas emissions.
  2. How To Spot: Look for DEA (diethanolamine), cocamide DEA, lauramide DEA, MEA (monoethanolamide) and TEA (triethanolamine), coco diethanolamide, coconut oil amide of diethanolamine, lauramide DEA, lauric diethanolamide, lauroyl diethanolamide, and lauryl diethanolamide.
  3. Common Products: DEA is mainly found in creamy foundations, moisturizers, sunscreens. Cocamide and lauramide DEA are found in soaps, cleansers, and shampoos.

Retinyl Palmitate & Retinol (Vitamin A)

  1. What Are They: These powerful substances, found in some antiaging moisturizers, are lauded for helping reduce wrinkles and improve skin tone.  Excessive amounts of Vitamin A can cause severe birth defects if women are exposed during pregnancy.  New evidence shows that when applied to sun-exposed skin, these compounds can break down and produce free radicals that can damage DNA and cause skin cancer.
  2. How To Spot: Scan labels for Retinyl palmitate and Retinol.
  3. Common Products: Lip products, foundations, daytime moisturizers, sunscreens.

To look-up the safety of specific products, the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetics guide is an invaluable resource.