Cosmetics, sunscreen, hair dye, laser hair removal, hot tubs, tanning salons—do any of these pose a risk during pregnancy?
Although many body care products can be used safely during pregnancy, some cosmetics may pose risks to you and your baby because of the ingredients they contain.
Throughout your pregnancy, you may continue to use makeup and moisturize your skin with face, hand, and body creams. However, if you use products that contain medicinal ingredients or essential oils, ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can continue to use them during your pregnancy. The active ingredients in these products could pose a risk to you or the fetus, even if they’re over-the-counter products.
Likewise, avoid skin products that contain retinoids (chemical compounds of vitamin A), especially tretinoids, as they are associated with birth defects. Retinoids are found mainly in anti-wrinkle creams, acne treatments, and tanning products.
Even if you’re pregnant, you should continue to protect your skin from the sun’s rays, especially your face. Wearing sunscreen can, for instance, help minimize the look of pregnancy mask, which can appear on the forehead, temples, cheeks, nose, and upper lip.
Make sure your cream has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and that it protects you from UVA and UVB rays.
You can use hair styling products and treatments (e.g., dyes, colour-depositing shampoos, highlights, and perms) during your pregnancy without worry, as they pose no risk. However, daily use of these products may not be recommended. If you work in a hair salon, tell your doctor or midwife.
Laser hair removal and electrolysis
To date, no scientific studies have examined the risks of electrolysis and laser hair removal for pregnant women and the fetus. It’s therefore best not to use them during your pregnancy.
Tanning salons, hot tubs, and saunas
It’s not advisable to go to a tanning salon or use a hot tub or sauna while pregnant.
Even if the heat doesn’t bother you, it can raise your body temperature. A significant increase in body temperature during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, can be harmful to fetal development. Studies have shown a link between increased body temperature and the risk of miscarriage or neural tube defects.
However, a 2018 study found that even when a pregnant woman uses a hot tub or sauna, her body temperature does not exceed 36.9°C and 37.6°C respectively. According to the authors, these temperatures fall below what is considered dangerous.
If you choose to use a hot tub while pregnant, take the following precautions:
Limit your time in the hot tub to 10 minutes or less.
Avoid hot tubs with temperatures over 39°C.
Avoid using a hot tub more than once a week.
Get out of the hot tub if you are sweating, if you feel dizzy or think you are going to pass out, if you feel numbness in your feet, if you have a stomachache, or if your heart is beating faster or irregularly.
Make sure you are accompanied by another adult.
As for tanning salons, they are not recommended whether you’re pregnant or not. In addition to increasing body temperature, tanning booths cause prolonged exposure to UV rays, which increases skin aging and the risk of developing skin cancer.
To find out if other products should be avoided during pregnancy, see our Pregnancy: Chemical products and X-rays fact sheet (French only).
Things to keep in mind
It’s a good idea to check with a doctor or pharmacist before using any skin product, whether it’s over-the-counter or not.
Hair products are generally safe for occasional use.
It’s best to avoid tanning salons, hot tubs, and saunas.
Scientific review: Valérie Samson, Nursing Executive at the Centre of Excellence in Maternal-Fetal-Maternal Medicine, CHU Sainte-Justine
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: December 2019
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Bozzo, Pina, et al. “Safety of skin care products during pregnancy.” Canadian Family Physician, vol. 57, no. 6, 2011, pp. 665-667.
Mayo Clinic. “Is it safe to use a hot tub during pregnancy?” www.mayoclinic.org
Doré, Nicole, and Danielle Le Hénaff. From Tiny Tot to Toddler: A practical guide for parents from pregnancy to age two. Quebec City, Institut national de santé publique du Québec. www.inspq.qc.ca
Institut national de santé publique. Le portail d’information prénatale. infoprenatale.inspq.qc.ca
Ravanelli, Nicholas, et al. “Heat stress and fetal risk. Environmental limits for exercise and passive heat stress during pregnancy: A systematic review with best evidence synthesis.” British Journal of Sport Medicine, vol. 53, no. 13, 2018.