Safer cosmetics for pregnancy and breastfeeding are a must, considering the lack of regulation in the beauty industry.
You know that overwhelming sense of responsibility that you get when you first become a mom? For me, it happened almost instantly after I found out I was pregnant with my first baby.
I suddenly had a strong need to give my babies the very best. MY best (not anyone else’s). It was like a calling to become a better version of myself. My mama bear instincts kicked into full gear as I tracked my baby’s growth during pregnancy, and from the very moment I first saw his face and held him in my arms. The same applies for my second baby boy.
To me, health and wellness are a huge part of this responsibility, and that includes being conscious about what I consume and which personal-care products I use. Before I got pregnant with my oldest, I was still pretty new to the idea of prioritizing my health and well-being. There wasn’t really any “pregnancy-safe makeup” on the market at the time. But, thankfully I knew enough to stop using a ton of makeup and personal care products.
Changing My Beauty Routine for Pregnancy
Prior to getting pregnant, my go-to beauty routine included Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer or Bare Minerals Powder Foundation, Tarte Mascara, Lancôme Eyeliner, NARS Orgasm Blush, and lipsticks and glosses in different shades from MAC and Chanel. My nails were usually polished with a neutral shade from OPI or Essie. (Ballet Slippers was my go-to.) I would never leave the house without eyeliner and mascara (still won’t) and I loved the feeling of being glamorous and put-together (still do).
After finding out that I was pregnant, I stopped using most of these products and kept a minimal routine using only blush, mascara, and eyeliner.
Still, I knew deep down that this wasn’t quite good enough. I sensed that the makeup brands I was using weren’t very healthy. At the time, there weren’t many natural or non-toxic makeup lines available. Tarte was pretty new to the market and their options were limited. I was also pretty exhausted and overwhelmed with my pregnancy and putting together my non-toxic baby registry, so researching makeup ingredients never became a priority.
Now, a few years later I am happy to report there are some amazing alternatives to drugstore and department store beauty brands. Pregnant and nursing moms no longer have to worry about the cosmetics they use to bring out their natural beauty (or to stop using them altogether)! There are safer cosmetics for pregnancy and nursing, and I am excited to tell you about them.
First, let’s talk about some of the harmful and toxic substances found in a number of mainstream personal care products.
Which Toxic Chemicals are Used in Personal Care Products?
The laws governing cosmetics and personal care products are so limited that known cancer-causing chemicals are legally allowed in personal care products. – Campaign for Safer Cosmetics
There hasn’t been a major law passed in the United States to regulate the safety of personal care products since 1938. If you use makeup on a daily basis, your body absorbs up to 5 lbs. of chemicals from your makeup and personal-care products each year — so these ingredients matter. 
Here are just a few of the harmful and toxic substances that are often used or found as contaminants in mainstream personal care products. 
- 1,4 Dioxane: A carcinogen found in shampoo and liquid soaps
- Formaldehyde: This carcinogen is often found in shampoos and liquid soaps (as are formaldehyde-releasing preservatives)
- Heavy Metals: Dangerous levels of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic have been found in several products including lipsticks, eyeliner, and nail polishes
- Parabens: These widely used preservatives are hormone disrupting chemicals.
- Petrolatum: Though it is highly refined, petrolatum (and other petroleum-based ingredients such as mineral oil or parrafin) is made from a byproduct of of the oil refining process and runs the risk of being contaminated
- Phthalates: These chemicals are widely used in personal care products and fragrances, and have been linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and endocrine disruption
- Triclosan and Triclocarban: These bioaccumulative endocrine disrupters are antimicrobial agents that are used in a variety of products to kill bacteria and fungus, and reduce odors
And this is just a handful of them! These are just some of the ones what we want to avoid.
The shocking truth is that the United States has only banned 30 chemicals from being used in personal care products, and a huge loophole in our legal system allows manufacturers to use phthalates and other hazardous chemicals without even disclosing them to consumers.
Why Do We Need Safer Cosmetics While Pregnant and Nursing?
As you can imagine, this is troubling regardless of whether you are pregnant or nursing. But, this is especially concerning when the health and well-being of a developing baby is also involved.
In 2005, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a study that found toxic chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies.
The umbilical cord carries not only the building blocks of life, but also a steady stream of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides that cross the placenta as readily as residues from cigarettes and alcohol. This is the human “body burden” — the pollution in people that permeates everyone in the world, including babies in the womb. -Environmental Working Group, “Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns”
The study screened for more than 400 chemicals and detected 287 in the fetal blood. Of the chemicals that were detected, 180 are known carcinogens, 217 are neurotoxins, and 208 have been shown to cause birth defects or abnormal development in animals. These included flame retardant chemicals, pollutants and byproducts from the plastic manufacturing process, stain- and grease-resistant coatings like Teflon and Scotchguard, pesticides, and heavy metals. In cord blood. 
Your skin is your largest organ, and it absorbs everything it comes in contact with; within seconds, anything you apply to your skin will end up in your bloodstream. And if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, this has a direct impact on your baby.
Children’s vulnerability derives from both rapid development and incomplete defense systems: A developing child’s chemical exposures are greater pound-for-pound than those of adults; an immature, porous blood-brain barrier allows greater chemical exposures to the developing brain; children have lower levels of some chemical-binding proteins, allowing more of a chemical to reach “target organs”; a baby’s organs and systems are rapidly developing, and thus are often more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposure; and systems that detoxify and excrete industrial chemicals are not fully developed. – Environmental Working Group, “Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns”
What’s in Your Makeup Bag?
These findings are especially dangerous when it comes to cosmetics because many popular makeup brands have been found to contain known carcinogens and endocrine disrupters, and even dangerous levels of heavy metals.
For example, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that over 61% of lipsticks tested contained lead.  After much consumer pressure, the FDA conducted their own testing and found levels as high as 7.19 parts per million (which is very high!).
“The recent science indicates there is no safe level of lead exposure. Lead is a neurotoxin and can be dangerous at small doses,” writes the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Medical experts are clear that any level of lead exposure is unhealthy.”
The top-10 lead contaminated lipstick brands included Maybelline, L’Oreal, NARS, Covergirl, Stargazer, Revlon, Sonia Kashuk, Avon, Fashion Fair, and Burt’s Bees. Lancôme and MAC were also pretty high up on the list.
Safer Cosmetics for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Of course, the safest route while pregnant or breastfeeding is to not wear any makeup at all and to limit your use of personal-care products to an absolute minimum. But, that may not be realistic for everyone all the time. Though I am pretty conservative with what I use, I feel it’s unrealistic for me to go out into the world completely bare-faced!
For the best coverage, I like Crunchi’s Beautifully Flawless Foundation. It’s probably the closest to any mainstream foundation that you’ll find. It goes on so very smoothly and you can enhance the application by using Crunchi’s primer. Like most of their makeup products, the foundation and primer come in glass bottles.
I used to love my Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer because it felt so light on my skin but still provided good coverage. If you’re a tinted moisturizer kind of gal, I would recommend Beautycounter’s Tint Skin Hydrating Foundation or Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer. Tint Skin is a lightweight tinted moisturizer that is very popular. I use it when I’m looking for really lightweight coverage. Dew Skin is a tinted moisturizer with SPF, so this makes it convenient to use on days when you’ll be outside or exposed to the sun a lot. For days when you might need extra coverage, you can layer Dew Skin over Tint Skin.
Non-toxic mascara is everything. I will never leave the house without wearing mascara and the best brands I’ve found are Honest Beauty, Lily Lilo, and 100% Pure – in that order. W3LL People’s mascara is another big favorite with my readers but I haven’t tried it yet. Honest Beauty’s mascara has a primer that gives me longer lashes and really thickens my lashes, so that’s what I use on a daily basis. You also can’t beat the price point! Otherwise Lily Lilo’s mascara is great and long-lasting and 100% Pure’s mascara also worked well for me (though I found it a little on the thick and clumpy side). I prefer Honest Beauty’s mascara.
I’ve been using Beautycounter’s Color Outline Eye Pencil for years now and still love it. It has completely replaced my pencil eyeliner from Lancome. If you prefer liquid eyeliner, try 100% Pure Long-Last Liquid Eye Liner. And another option is this Creamy Long-Last Eye Liner from 100% Pure.
When it comes to eyeshadow and other powder products, I firmly believe that you should avoid using anything that contains talc. For this reason, while I love Beautycounter’s gorgeous eye shadow pallettes, I prefer not to use them anymore. I am now using Crunchi’s eyeshadows, which do not contain any talc.
Similarly, I no longer use any blush that contains Talc. So while I used to love Beautycounter’s blush I’m not using Crunchi’s blush and vegan blush brush. Crunchi’s vegan powder blushes are made with virgin organic argan oil and are completely talc-free. It comes in four subtle shades and I wear it in Crave and feel like this is a good replacement for Nars’ Orgasm blush. Their blush has a slight shimmer to it too, which adds a nice touch of brightness. The most popular shade is Crave but Palm Beachy is a close second.
I was never a highlighter girl before but I’ve been using it and am hooked. It’s a great way to accentuate your features and add a little bit of glow in the right places. I go between using RMS Beauty’s Luminizer in Living (I also love their Luminizer in Magic) and Crunchi’s powder highlighter in Afterglow. RMS’s luminizers also come in a compact if you’d like to try all four shades.
For lipstick, I recommend Crunchi’s lipstick (Blissful is my favorite shade). I also wear Beautycounter’s sheer lipstick (Pearl and Terra are super popular). Though I haven’t tried them I would also trust Lily Lilo’s lipstick as well as 100% Pure lipstick. If you’re looking for a super light lipstick, you might like 100% Pure’s Lip Glazes. They remind me of Clinique’s Almost Lipsticks.
For lip gloss, Crunchi’s lip gloss comes in a few great shades. I am obsessed with their lipgloss in Summer Nights and it reminds me of an old shade of Chanel lip gloss that I used to use. I also love 100% Pure’s lip gloss as well as the lip serums made by FitGlow Beauty (which are really hydrating and contain vegan collagen to add a little extra plump to your lips). Beautycounter also makes great lip glosses in 12 different shades, and I like that they test their color cosmetics for heavy metals.
I am generally pretty tan so I don’t use bronzer very often, but when I do I like Crunchi’s Brilliant Bronzer. If you prefer a liquid bronzer, you might like 100% Pure’s All Over Glow (and I do have my eye on their powder bronzer too).
If you’re looking to set your makeup and control shine throughout the day, using a pressed powder might help. (Though to be honest this is one of those products I don’t use very much while pregnant or breastfeeding.) Crunchi’s translucent powder is a huge favorite and W3LL People’s Invisible Powder is popular too and it gives a nice, light coverage.
For the most part I prefer Crunchi’s My Alibi concealer but I have also heard great things about RMS Beauty’s Uncover Up Concealer and FitGlow Beauty Conceal. Beautycounter’s Touchup Skin Concealer Pen is also pretty popular.
I am a big believer in filling in your brows! I use Beautycounter’s Color Define Brow Pencil and love it but Crunchi also has a Nutrient Brow Pomade that people are seeing really great results with (and I intend to try soon!). Apply it with Crunchi’s No. 10 angled brush for a flawless application. Beautycounter also makes a brow gel if you like to tame and style your brows.
I generally avoid using nail polish during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. It’s hard and sometimes I long for pretty painted nails, but I think it’s worth it. While you can find 10-free nail polish, the truth is that it will still contain harmful chemicals and there is little to no regulation regarding what the terms 5-free, 7-free, and 10-free really mean. But if you have a special event or need your nails done on occasion, I would recommend the following brands of cleaner nail polish: 100% Pure, Sparitual, Zoya, Côte (which you can also buy through Beautycounter), or Peacci. Another option is Piggy Paint, a kid’s nail polish line, if you don’t mind bright colors.
For nail polish remover, I’ve had luck with Pure Vitality (but it did take a little extra effort to remove my polish).