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The One Small Step That Can Make A Huge Difference For Your Baby’s Health 

March 25, 2019
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Image by Tom Lew / Contributor
March 25, 2019

A lot of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our body and bloodstream. Lotions, sunscreens, hand wash, makeup, detergents, cleaning products…the list goes on. And it's true for anything a pregnant woman's body takes in: Their precious growing baby is absorbing it, too.

It was once thought that an expecting mother's placenta acted as a shield to her developing baby, guarding against any chemicals in the products she used. While the placenta can, in fact, act as a filter when it comes to protecting baby against certain infections and maternal diseases, it can't filter out everything. Studies have shown that harmful chemicals from cosmetics, detergents, and household products have been found in newborn babies' umbilical cord blood—meaning that babies can be born with these toxins in their system. For moms and moms-to-be, this is a total eye-opener.

Why I'm mindful of ALL the products I use on my body.

Image by Tom Lew / Contributor

About four years ago, I started educating myself on the ingredients that are commonly found in the products we use day-to-day. I was very concerned when I made the connection that I was willingly smearing some pretty nasty chemicals onto my skin. So, I started doing the ditch-and-switch and made a commitment to using nontoxic products.

Now that I'm a mother—I have a daughter who's almost 2 and another baby girl on the way—my quest to create a healthy home and a safe environment for my family is so much more magnified. This includes being extra careful about what I'm putting in and on my body: I try to limit my sugar intake, eat an organic green salad every day, and I am extremely mindful about what goes on my skin. Using clean products is a simple but powerful way to protect my growing baby and keep her healthy. 

My pregnancy skin care nonnegotiables.

I have a pretty basic and clean routine with the addition of some products that help for pregnancy. At this stage of my pregnancy, my body is expanding every day, and pregnancy hormones have been a little rough on my skin. Everything needs a little TLC with all of the changes my body is going through. 

One product I absolutely cannot live without is sunscreen. Growing up, my mother always exclaimed, "The sun is not your friend!" She has aged beautifully, and I believe her commitment to sun protection is one of the reasons why. I apply sunscreen to my face, neck, and chest every day to avoid aging and sunspots. 

Now, going into the spring and summer months, I don't leave the apartment without applying sunscreen on my daughter from head to toe. We always make sure to use a zinc sunscreen that's non-nano (which means that the molecules are too large to be absorbed into the bloodstream, making it safer for use on our skin) and contains natural and organic ingredients. A chemical sunscreen, on the other hand, may include harmful ingredients like oxybenzone, which can be absorbed into the skin—not to mention chemicals like these are damaging to the reef as well. What I love about the non-nano mineral sunscreen lotion from Earth Mama is its short ingredient list (always a bonus in my book!). It's free of any artificial fragrances and chemicals and contains organic ingredients, like red raspberry seed oil, which has the highest naturally occurring SPF value in the plant world, and colloidal oatmeal to help calm rashy skin. 

Image by Tom Lew / Contributor

Since finding out about this second pregnancy, a new step in my skin care regimen is using an oil on my belly to maintain moisturization, in turn helping support the skin's natural elasticity as it stretches and grows. I went back to a favorite from my first pregnancy, Earth Mama's Belly Oil, and apply it twice a day. So far, I have barely any stretch marks from both pregnancies.   

My "no" list.

I've now spent four years recognizing ingredients that I want to avoid, so it's become fairly easy to spot nasty chemicals on the back of products. In general, steer clear of these ingredients in your skin care and makeup: 

  • fragrance
  • sulfates
  • BHA
  • triclosan
  • parabens
  • PEGs
  • retinol
  • petroleum distillates
  • oxybenzone
  • formaldehyde 
  • hydroquinone

What I look for instead.

For a quick and easy way to know whether or not a product is safe, the EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is a trusted resource in the personal care products space. You can see the safety rating for tens of thousands of products (based on their ingredients) by searching the online database or scanning the product's bar code through the app. On EWG's scale, a rating of ONE is the lowest hazard rating a product can receive.

Image by Tom Lew / Contributor

The more we know, the better off we are to make healthy decisions. Honestly, it's not about being perfect and never using a product with nasty chemicals or eating strictly organic food while pregnant. It's all about balance. But a little research goes a long way, and making informed choices is worth it for your pregnancy and your family's health.

Capen Evans author page.
Capen Evans

Capen Evans Stanham (@capenevans) is a content creator and the voice behind her personal motherhood blog, Collectively Capen. Capen is based in Brooklyn, NY and is a mama to one with another on the way. She spends her days focused on motherhood and documenting, sharing, connecting with other women and families.