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Everything I’ve Learned as a Pregnant Beauty Lover: Rethinking My Relationship With Beauty

I’ve always been adventurous with beauty and skincare. Chemicals and pricey serums don’t scare me, and I truly enjoy testing out all sorts of products and treatments. A few months ago, my life completely changed when I found out I was pregnant. I was thrilled, a little nervous, but mostly excited for this journey to begin. After the initial shock wore off, one of my first thoughts was, damn, I just bought a really expensive serum that I probably can’t use anymore.

I scoured the internet to figure out what was safe and potentially unsafe for my growing baby, and I found that I’d have to temporarily give up so many of my beloved skincare and beauty products. The salicylic acid in my acne-fighting products was a big no-no, and I’d have to say goodbye to retinol for at least 9 months. To some expectant mothers, this change might not be a big deal. But for me – a beauty writer and product junkie – it was tough. Don’t worry, I gave up those products immediately, but it made me think a lot about why I love beauty, and how my relationship with beauty will change once I’m a mom.

I started to wonder if I was vain for being so obsessed with beauty in the first place, or if it was selfish to worry about makeup when my magical woman body was actively creating a human being. I quickly got those negative thoughts out of my head, and I’m not here to write a dissertation on internalized misogyny, but it did make me take a step back and think. Having a child changes everything, and my focus will now be on the baby and not my hyperpigmentation – but I can eventually strive for some balance. I can be a mom and a skincare lover, even if I have to switch up my beauty regimen. Of course, I’ve had to make other sacrifices too. I can’t have a glass of wine with dinner but believe me when I say I miss BHAs far more than Pinot Grigio.

Finding pregnancy-safe products was challenging in the beginning, but I’ve found some amazing alternatives that are safe for the baby. With pregnancy, you really can’t predict how your body will change. Some women get stretch marks or see an increase in acne, and some don’t. We all hope to get that “pregnancy glow”, but unfortunately it doesn’t happen to everyone. When I decided to look for new products I wanted them to be as clean as possible since ingredients like parabens and phthalates are bad for the baby, and I obviously wanted them to be effective. While you should always consult with your doctor before trying new things when pregnant, these are the products I’m loving so far and definitely recommend.

In the past, I wanted my facewash strong and effective. I’ve always used products with salicylic acid to fight acne, so I was worried that a gentle cleanser without it would be a huge letdown. Luckily, Cetaphil’s Daily Facial Cleanser has been great, and it’s made me realize I don’t need to use super strong products on my face. If you have sensitive skin, the Gentle Skin Cleanser is just as safe and effective.

After realizing I couldn’t use products with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, I was so relieved to find a brand that is specifically for pregnant women. Belli Beauty has tons of great products, but I like their Acne Control Spot treatment, which uses colloidal sulfur to fight acne and prevent future breakouts.

Since I’m still waiting for that pregnancy glow, I needed something to exfoliate and brighten my skin without harsh chemicals. I remembered reading that one of the founders of Summer Fridays was pregnant while developing their popular products, so I knew it was a safe choice. The Overtime Mask contains pumpkin, apricot seed powder, oat kernel, and vitamin e to exfoliate and moisturize, and it smells amazing. I love treating myself to a safe face mask that actually decongests my skin and gives it a healthy glow.

I love testing out new foundations, but I realized that a lot of my recently purchased products contained chemicals that my doctor would NOT approve of. One high-end foundation contained a chemical sunscreen that could be dangerous for pregnant women, and some of my drugstore faves had parabens and other harmful ingredients. Luckily, I found this foundation by Laura Geller, which contains clean ingredients and provides the perfect amount of coverage.

Picking the right sunscreen can be tough, even when you aren’t pregnant. There are so many choices, but I learned that to keep my baby safe I need a physical sunscreen. This really limited my options, since most sunscreens contain potentially harmful ingredients like homosalate and oxybenzone. On my search for a physical sunscreen, I was pleased to find this one from Neutrogena. It uses zinc oxide to protect your skin from the sun, and is totally gentle and recommended for people with sensitive skin.

There’s obviously a lot more to pregnancy than revamping your skincare routine, but this was a big change for me. You know, aside from the even bigger change of having a freaking baby. It’s a boy by the way, and I can’t wait to teach him the importance of moisturizing.

by Clare Saxton
cover photo: Slick Woods for Elle UK