Pregnancy is a time of choices. Giving up those grueling five-mile runs: Easy. Giving up those Italian combos at your fave deli: Hard! These things tend to be on most expecting moms' radar. But there are other, less obvious choices to consider during pregnancy, too — like whether or not to shelve your current shampoo and conditioner for the next nine months. Believe it or not, some shampoos and conditioners contain ingredients that could be potentially harmful to a growing baby. Notes Maura Henninger, a naturopathic doctor practicing in New York City, "An expecting mother must absolutely educate herself, or ask her doctor, about what ingredients to look out for; everyday products like shampoo and conditioner are chief offenders when it comes to toxic ingredients, so re-stocking the bathroom shelves with safe, organic beauty products is one of the first things a mom-to-be must do."
Ingredients to Avoid
Reading the ingredient list on a shampoo or conditioner is probably the last thing you feel like doing now that you're a mama-to-be: After all, it's tiring growing a baby, and you probably just want to grab your tried-and-true brand and get home so you can put your feet up! But there are ingredients in certain shampoos and conditioners that are red flags, says Henninger, and if you see them, your best bet is to put the bottle back on the shelf. The first are parabens (also listed as sodium methylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben). Warns Henninger, "They prevent bacterial growth in products so they can maintain shelf-life, but research shows that they may disrupt hormone balance and are thus a danger to the proper development of the fetus." She also suggests avoiding products with vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), because too much can cause cranial defects in growing fetuses. Lastly, Henninger recommends steering clear of shampoos and conditioners with sodium lauryl sulfate, which has been linked to birth defects in animal studies, and phthalates, which are known endocrine disrupters.
The fab news is there are plenty of natural shampoos and conditioners that will keep your locks luscious and combat some of the yucky hair effects of pregnancy, like breakage and hair loss, without all the risk. "Good ingredients to look out for are shea butter, which prevents hair from losing moisture and thus prevents breakage," says Henninger. "Coconut oil is another wonderful ingredient for sealing in moisture to the hair follicle. Aloe vera gel helps with hair loss; this can be mixed in with shampoo and conditioners. Jojoba oil is a great natural humectant because it's very similar to the hair's own natural oils. Avocado oil has tons of great vitamins including D, E and potassium, which are essential for hair health."
Before you study the back of every shampoo and conditioner in the aisle, these recommendations from Henninger can give you a starting point in your quest for waiting-for-baby-safe hair products. She suggests trying John Masters Organics Bare Shampoo, because it doesn't contain any dangerous ingredients, is fragrance-free, and is infused with chamomile and jojoba. Henninger also likes Nine Naturals Oh Baby Shampoo, which is also completely safe and has soothing ingredients like aloe vera and olive oil. Lastly, she is a proponent of Molton Brown Cassia Energy Hair and Body Wash because it has very few ingredients -- only calcium oxide, cassia (cinnamon scent), rosemary oil and lemon -- and it doubles as a body wash.
Don't forget about combing out those tangles. "I love Nine Naturals conditioners," says Henninger. "They have 'Citrus and Mint' and 'Mandarin and Ginger.' Yum! John Masters also makes a Bare conditioner/detangler that is fantastic, fragrance-free and has great natural ingredients like calendula and white tea." For a deep-conditioning treatment, Henninger recommends a mask of egg, yogurt and olive oil once a week, or coconut oil applied to the ends of hair.