A baby lavished with all-organic products is bound to be a healthy baby, right?
Organic skin products are not equal, and those applied to little ones should be even more carefully monitored, says Dr. Jason Rubin, physician and founder of Belli Specialty Skin Care Solutions.
"All organic does not mean safer," says Rubin. After his wife Annette, who served executive positions with Clinique (STOCK QUOTE: EL) and May Companies, became pregnant the couple discovered there were no skin product lines with a mom-to-be in mind. They then founded Belli Specialty Skin Care Solutions in 2002.
Francesca Olivieri, who in 2006 co-founded Sage Baby, a baby products website, also advocates safe, gentle skin care for moms-to-be and babies. "My aha! moment occurred when I was sent home with my first born," says Olivieri. She was given a sample bag with Johnson and Johnson (STOCK QUOTE: JNJ) products. The baby products reminded her of childhood. But, Olivieri says, she was "horrified" when she began to look up their ingredients.
Because of the confusion that mom's like Olivieri experience, Rubin wants his patients and clients to understand the science behind his mommy safe skin care line, which includes minimizing toxic exposure, natural or otherwise.
"As plants evolve, they take on natural defense mechanisms to prevent animals from eating them," he says. So while some plants have evolved with natural toxins to fend off extinction, Rubin notes that others are replete with manmade pesticides.
Skin Care and Pregnancy: Fact and Myth
For years, women have been warned that they should not get their hair colored during pregnancy. Is this true? Dr. Rubin suggests that streaking hair is ok; however, applying hair color directly to the scalp becomes more risky. Keep in mind that when applying a lotion, make up or any cosmetic product, as soon as you apply said product, chemicals enter the bloodstream. And the placental barrier is not as strong as once thought. According to Rubin, the placental barrier blocks bacteria, but not the chemicals commonly found in skin care products.
The Price of Safety: Finding the Hidden Dangers
Safer skin care products are not cheap to produce: Dr. Rubin scours the world's published studies to locate any significant research indicating that an ingredient could cause a birth defect. Here are red flagged ingredients that Dr. Rubin and his team exclude from his prenatal skin care products:
•Vitamin A (animal-derived only, Beta carotene is ok): Malformations of the head, heart, brain and spinal cord.
•Salicylic Acid: Problems with blood clotting in the mother, premature closure of the ductus arteriosis in the fetus.
•Oxybenzone: Low birth weight. (Studies are inconclusive, but all recommend that children and moms-to-be avoid this chemical.)
•Glycolic Acid: An alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) used in retinol products and fruit peels, this naturally-occurring compound is not as volatile as other Retin-A products, still, studies are inconclusive. A concentration of less than 10% is most commonly recommended. (obgyn.net, babycenter.com)
•Benzoyl Peroxide: Though there are reports of problems in nursing babies, many studies indicate that it will not cause problems when used to treat acne during pregnancy.
•Aloe Vera: Can cause cramping, vomiting and diarrhea in the mother, as well as premature uterine contractions. Safe in lotions, but not to be taken internally.
•Caffeine: Low-birth weight, premature birth, miscarriage, elevated fetal heart rate.
•Rosemary: Miscarriage, bleeding.
PROBLEMS: Mom's Pregnancy Complaints
Acne - When might a mother use a product that could be dangerous? Mothers often appeal to their doctors about new acne that occurs during pregnancy. "Acne increases in the first trimester as a result of the surge and fluctuation of hormones," says Rubin. "Alpha hydroxy acid clears pores of sebum." However, commonly prescribed acne treatments, unfortunately comprise red flagged ingredients, according to Rubin.
Brown Spots - Brown spots can be referred to as the "mask of pregnancy." Chloasm or Melasma is the darkened pigmentation particularly seen in olive complexioned women. And, chloasm is completely preventable, so slather on the sunscreen. However, women need to be sure to wear sunscreen that does not contain estrogenic oxybenzone. Also avoid soy products which contain estrogenic compounds, as well as oil of bergamot, as these can exacerbate discoloration.
SOLUTIONS: Some Low-Cost Alternatives
Susan Gluck-Pappajohn, who co-founded sagebaby.com with Olivieri, underscores safe skin care products for her clientele. Gluck-Pappajohn explains that there are many all-natural products on the market. However, all-natural (like organic) connotes a short shelf life, less stable ingredients, smaller amount of product and sometimes a prohibitive price.
For the mom-to-be with a more limited budget, there are several resources danger-free products. A few suggestions:
Aveeno (Many baby-safe products, though their products for adults do contain soy; so make sure to read the label!)