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Health & Beauty Treatments During Pregnancy

Author: Dr Colin Walsh, Obstetrician and Maternal Foetal Medicine Specialist at North Shore Private Hospital.

I’m often asked about the safety of different beauty treatments during pregnancy.  Happily, you can keep going with most of your favourite treatments; however, there are a handful of things to avoid.

The following advice is only general – always check with your own doctor.


Question: Can I keep using my usual skincare products?

Answer: Most over-the-counter skincare and makeup products are safe in pregnancy. Only use reputable brands with a known ingredient list. Duac gel and creams that contain a low dose steroid can also be safely continued.

Question: What about sunscreen?

Answer: In the words of the song, wear sunscreen! Buy a good quality sunscreen like the Australian Cancer Council brand. Not only is it safe in pregnancy, it’s recommended!

Question: What skin ingredients should I AVOID during pregnancy?

Answer: The following ingredients are UNSAFE in pregnancy and should be avoided:

  • Botox (Botulinum toxin) has only been used by a handful of pregnant women (mostly by accident). We simply do not know if Botox is safe, so do not use it in pregnancy.
  • Minoxidil (for eyebrow and eyelash growth) has been linked to fetal abnormalities including Werewolf Syndrome.
  • Hydroquinone for dark spots and to lighten skin. Large amounts are absorbed into your system and could pass to the baby.
  • Retinoids (Vitamin A derivatives)
    • Oral retinoids in tablet form, e.g. Roaccutane or Oratane, are prescribed for acne.  They cause severe birth defects. Pregnant women must never use oral retinoids.
    • Topical retinoids are often found in anti-ageing skincare. Birth defects were seen in a handful of patients who used one type of topical retinoid. The potential for serious harm means you should avoid topical retinoids in pregnancy.


Question: Can I keep colouring my hair?

Answer: Yes! You can safely continue to colour your hair. Millions of women have coloured their hair during pregnancy and there’s no evidence that it causes any harm to the baby.  Bleaching, highlights, in-salon colour and home-dye kits from the pharmacy are all ok.


Question: Can I have a massage?
Answer: Massage is safe, but try to avoid prolonged periods lying flat on your back in the third trimester (this can make you feel faint). You should also avoid firm massage over your belly.

Question: What about hot tubs and saunas?

Answer: Overall, it’s best to avoid hot tubs and saunas during pregnancy. You’re more likely to experience dehydration and fainting. There also might be an association between high body temperature and miscarriage, but the science is unclear.

Normal household baths are perfectly fine.

Question: Should I postpone my laser hair removal?

Answer: Laser hair removal is unlikely to harm your baby, but it hasn’t been provento be safe.  A common sense approach is to avoid the abdomen/bikini area just in case.

Also, pregnancy hormones tend to make laser hair removal more painful, less effective and more likely to cause skin reactions.  Many laser clinics won’t treat pregnant women for these reasons.

Question: What about fake tan?

Answer: Tanning creams are fine but you should avoid commercial spray tans.

Fake tans use DHA to darken the outermost layer of skin. Very little gets absorbed through your skin. In contrast, during a spray tan the mist can be inhaled. We don’t know if it’s safe to inhale DHA during pregnancy.

Tanning tablets often use high doses of potentially toxic substances and should never be taken, whether you are pregnant or not!

Dr Colin Walsh, Obstetrician and Maternal Foetal Medicine Specialist at North Shore Private Hospital.

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