Glow For It
Let's face it: Despite the joy and anticipation of bringing a new life into the world, pregnancy can make you feel downright dowdy. Besides your expanding waistline, your appearance takes a hit in lots of other ways. The mélange of hormones your body has cooked up to promote your baby's growth can wreak havoc with your complexion, cause your skin to discolor, and trigger hair growth in places you've never seen it before. It's only natural that you'd want to remove those unsightly strands, have your nails done, or try a new hair color. But could that dye or depilatory be risky to your developing fetus?
Unfortunately, it's not always clear if a product or treatment is baby-safe. "We have lots of questions, but not too many answers," says Gerald Briggs, a clinical pharmacist at Women's Hospital, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, and coauthor of Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation. "There are virtually no studies done during pregnancy."
Yet researchers have gleaned much about the safety of cosmetics from animal studies and the thousands of pregnancies each year that are unplanned -- some 50 percent of all pregnancies. "Women may be taking a medication or getting exposed to a chemical weeks before they learn they are pregnant. The follow-up of those cases can yield important information," explains Gideon Koren, M.D., a professor of pediatrics, pharmacology, and medicine and medical genetics at the University of Toronto and director of Motherisk, a service providing information about substances that cause birth defects (teratogens), at the Hospital for Sick Children, in Toronto.
In fact, "with proper caution and common sense, you can maintain your looks throughout pregnancy," says Barbara Reed, M.D., a dermatologist at the Denver Skin Clinic who specializes in the safety of dermatology drugs during pregnancy. "I think it's important not to deny yourself something just because you are pregnant."
Here's what researchers have uncovered about the hair, skin, teeth, and body treatments you may be pondering to perk up your pregnancy. (When in doubt about any product or treatment, consult with your physician.)
Beth Howard is based in Asheville, North Carolina.