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9 beauty ingredients to avoid when try to conceive, pregnant and breastfeeding

Many women start to question the ingredients in the products they’re accustomed to using day in and day out when they start a family, worrying about the effects they may have on their fertility, themselves and their developing children. Additionally, the hormonal changes we experience when pregnant and breastfeeding can cause big changes in our skin, sweat, and hair - promoting many of us to look for new solutions in our beauty routine.  

It’s important to evaluate and research what ingredients may be lurking in our deodorant, skin care, bubble bath or nail polish.

We’ve compiled a list of 8 ingredients to reconsider below:


  • What they are: Parabens are used as preservatives in many products including cosmetics, food and drugs.
  • Safety concerns: According to the Environmental Working Group, there is concern that some parabens may mimic estrogen, causing fertility issues and breast cancer.
  • What they’re used in: makeup, moisturizers, shampoos and conditioners, shaving creams and soaps
  • What to look for on labels: Parabens can most often be found under the following names: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparabe


  • What they are: Phthalates are chemicals most commonly known for making plastics more flexible. However, in beauty and household products, they’re used to help dissolve the raw materials used in fragrances in order to make the scent stronger.
  • Safety concerns: There is concern that phthalates may be linked toendocrine disruption, meaning they mimic hormones and may affect fertility and fetal development.
  • What they’re used in: perfumes and beauty products that contain fragrance
  • What to look for on labels: diethyl phthalate

Pro tip: Ensure you look at labels for “fragrance”. There are no regulations around listing the ingredients in fragrance, and many products claiming that they’re “natural” contain synthetic and engineered fragrances that include chemicals like phthalates.


  • What it is: formaldehyde is a strong smelling gas that can be either added directly to products or can it can be released from chemicals that are used as preservatives (more common)
  • Safety concerns: Formaldehyde is recognized as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization and may be linked to fertility concerns and miscarriage.
  • What it’s used for: nail polishes, nail glue, fake eyelashes, hair gel, hair smoothing products, shampoos and conditioners, baby shampoo
  • What to look for on labels: Formaldehyde, Diazolidinyl urea, 3-diol Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM Hydantoin, Quaternium-15, Nitorpropane-1, Formalin, Methanal, Methyl Aldehyde, Methylene Oxide.


  • What it is: Toluene is a strong smelling chemical used in everything from gasoline to rubber to nail polishes. In paints and nail polishes, it’s used as a solvent and gives a nice smooth appearance.
  • Safety concern: Toluene is a suspected carcinogen and there is evidence that is can cause reproductive and developmental issues.
  • What it’s used for: nail polish, hair dyes
  • What to look for on labels: benzene, methylbenzene, phenylmethane and tolulene


  • What they are: Retinoids are a synthetic form of Vitamin A and are lauded for their effect in minimizing fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Safety concerns: There’s concern that excessive amounts of Vitamin A can cause serious birth defects.
  • What they’re used in: anti-aging skincare products, such as moisturizers and serums
  • What to look for on labels: retinol, retinyl palmitate


  • What it is: Hydroquinone is a lightening agent commonly used to lighten the skin.
  • Safety concerns: Hydroquinone hasn’t been well studied, but the concern is the high absorption rate.
  • What it’s used for: skin lightening products to help with dark spots (melasma)
  • What to look for on labels: hydroquinone, idrochinone and quinol/1-4 dihydroxy benzene/1-4 hydroxy benzene


  • What it is: Triclosan is often used as a preservative to prevent bacteria, fungus and mold from forming. While it’s been widely discontinued from most products due to safety concerns and a subsequent FDA ban in 2017, it’s still allowed to be used in products like hand sanitizer.
  • Safety concern: There have been studies suggesting that Triclosan contributes to anibiotic resistance. In addition to this, there are concerns that it may affect thyroid function, fertility and fetal development.
  • What it’s used for: hand sanitizers, antibacterial soaps
  • What to look for on labels: triclosan


  • What it is: a chemical filter that is absorbed into the skin to help filter out UV rays
  • Safety concern: a recent study linked the use of oxybenzone with a congenital disorder called Hirschsprung’s disease, where parts of the nerve cells are missing from a child’s bowel. Like many of the other ingredients above, there are also concerns that it may cause reproductive and other hormone-related health effects. Oxybenzone has also come under fire for bleaching coral reefs.
  • What it’s used for: sunscreen
  • What to look for on labels: oxybenzone

Pro Tip: To play it safe, avoid chemical blockers, like oxybenzone and octinoxate. Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin, and there is some concern about many of the chemicals included in these sunscreens. Instead, look for a sunscreen that is a physical blocker, such as zinc oxide. Rather than being absorbed into the skin, these physical blockers sit on top of the skin while still protecting you from UVA and UVB rays!

All of the research into ingredients and labels can be overwhelming and confusing, but it’s especially important to be aware of what you’re putting into your body when you’re trying to conceive, pregnant or nursing a child. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep app can help make this process easier, allowing you to search by ingredient or product.

If you’re interested in making the switch to a natural deodorant, you can shop from 8 scents below.