There is a lot of uncertainty concerning safe skincare for expectant and breastfeeding mothers, as well as those trying to conceive. However, there is now an increasing body of research pointing to the fact that exposure to chemicals and in particular endocrine-disrupting chemical ingredients may pose a risk to normal development and may increase a child’s risk of disease later in life.
As the body’s largest organ, your skin absorbs up to 60% of what you put on it. For this reason, it’s especially important to be careful with your skincare and make up when pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive. It can be just as important for a growing baby as what you are eating. Women receive advice to stop smoking and alcohol consumption and eat a healthy, balanced diet during pregnancy. We think women should also be advised to clean their beauty routine.
In the first 20 weeks of pregnancy your baby is especially vulnerable to toxins, so it is advisable to limit any possible exposure. It is also advisable to limit such exposure in the three months prior to conception. Despite this, there is little emphasis placed on the unsafe skincare and makeup ingredients that women should avoid during these delicate times.
We asked super mum and clean skincare entrepreneur, Heidi Timms from Ora Wellbeing to share with us her skincare essentials to ensure optimal skin health while looking after your growing baby.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how the Ora Wellbeing range was created.
I was always the girl who made concoctions out of flowers and mud as a child. My Mother was the "hippy Mum" who treated me with only herbs and oils growing up, so being surrounded by this was my "normal". This naturally lead to studying as an aesthetician, training in skincare formulation and immersing myself in all kinds of workshops and training in holistic practices over the past 18 years. I worked in stunning Byron Bay and South Australia running Day Spas with some top professional organic beauty brands at this time but never felt truly satisfied with the efficacy and purity of the products. So, Ora Wellbeing was born after I had my second child. My focus has always been on creating a range harnessing organic botanicals, New Zealand native extracts, vibrational medicine from crystals and flower essences and handcrafting everything with authenticity and intention from start to finish.
What skincare routine did you adopt when you were pregnant?
I believe in simple yet effective skincare that creates a daily self-love ritual and this is especially important when you're pregnant. I focused on my lymphatic system as I had a lot of congestion around my neck as a result from the change in hormones. I used a Gua Sha tool to help move the stagnant lymph and this created space for better drainage and in turn the appearance of my skin coupled with Ora Wellbeing skincare.
Did you experience any skin issues when you were pregnant? If so, what were they and how did you alleviate them?
When I was pregnant with all 3 babies, my skin was having a hormonal party...so I needed to adapt to the changes through changing my skincare routine. Along with this, my sense of smell was like a bloodhound so nearly everything made me feel nauseous. Listening to what your skin is telling you is incredibly powerful in finding what works. I knew I was doing everything my end to keep my skin clear and healthy but was very aware that it was the change in hormones that were creating these issues I was experiencing and knew it was an inside job. So I consulted a Naturopath and she gave me some great insight and advice along with some supportive supplements which helped immensely. Taking an external and internal approach is, in my opinion, the most holistic approach to supporting your wellbeing during this beautiful time.
What are some of the common pregnancy skin issues and changes you have encountered in your practice? Does pregnancy tend to worsen existing skin problems?
Congestion from the change in hormones is the major concern I see as a Facialist then postnatal hyperpigmentation it is generally the second concern. Pre-existing conditions can improve or exacerbate during pregnancy also.
What is your advice for women trying to conceive? What skincare products or ingredients should be avoided? Should these also be avoided while pregnant?
Generally speaking, there are ingredients that should be avoided when you are trying to conceive and pregnant. Systemic retinoids like roaccutane, used in acne treatments, are a big no-no during pregnancy. Retinol derivatives are not recommended, that means you should be looking on the ingredients list for things like retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, retinyl palmitate and retinyl propionate often found in anti-ageing or acne treatments and whitening products containing hydroquinone and/or corticosteroids. I also strongly recommend avoid using AHAs, benzoyl peroxide, parabens, fragrances, chemical sunscreens ( go for the physical sunscreens instead) Botox, phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfate and deodorants containing aluminum. I get asked a lot about what essential oils are safe during pregnancy and generally speaking lavender, chamomile and orange are typically safe in microdoses (and I'm talking 1 or 2 drops) when blended with an appropriate carrier oil as a base. I had terrible nausea during my entire pregnancy and inhaling a few drops of ginger essential oil on a cotton ball really helped. You can use a diffuser with a very small amount of essential oils that are safe but only have it going in your space for no longer than an hour at a time. All of this sounds like a huge list but it's actually very easy when you adopt a conscious clean beauty mindset.
How important is it to be mindful of what skincare products are used when a woman is breastfeeding? What impact can certain products have on the baby – both via the skin and the breast milk?
What I have listed above I would apply the same list of ingredients to avoid whilst your breastfeeding also. Your skin is your largest organ that absorbs what substances you apply to it, so avoiding any potentially harmful ingredients that could make it's way into your breastmilk is a good philosophy to adopt. Your baby's and your health are imperative during this magical time so keeping to a clean beauty routine will only benefit everyone.
What’s the most common myth you have heard around pregnancy-safe skincare?
Mineral oil...in stretchmark products (don't get me started...)
Are stretchmarks (as wonderful as they are) preventable or treatable?
There are some well-known products out there that are marketed as "stretchmark products" but when you read the ingredients in them it's very scary! They have invested heavily in marketing, not health. This I see as misleading to women. As soon as I found out I was pregnant I started to massage oils I had blended into my belly. It was a beautiful time to connect with my body and talk to my baby growing in there. I made a blend of oils up from calendula, apricot kernel oil, argan oil, almond oil, wheatgerm oil and some beautiful safe essential oils....and I never got one stretchmark! Simple and clean is always best.
Many women experience dry and flaky skin when pregnant. Which Ora Wellbeing products are best to combat this?
I would always recommend trying some samples to see how your skin ( and your nose) will respond while you're pregnant first. Then I would start with the Jasmine Synergy Cleansing Balm, double cleansing in the evening to remove dirt, pollution, and makeup followed by the Rose Quartz Botanical Mist to rehydrate and soften the epidermis than the Illuminating Face Oil to regenerate, lock in moisture and stimulate healthy collagen production. Then I would recommend using the Active Glow Mud once or twice per week as a treatment. Introducing a Facial Roller or Gua Sha ( which is my personal favourite) every second day, will drain built-up fluid, move stagnation and increase blood flow and not to mention smoothing out those fine lines!
Which Ora Wellbeing products would you suggest for pregnant women experiencing acne or hyperpigmentation?
Again, I recommend trying samples first. During pregnancy, it feels like our skin can turn back to those teenage years where it's doing all sorts of crazy hormonal things... I personally had huge amounts of congestion around my neck and jawline and seeing clients for facials to guide them on their skin health journey, I felt conscious about making sure my skin was always feeling and looking it's best. I had to experiment to find what worked for me daily as my skin was changing constantly! So my savior was the Active Glow Mud for it's ability to be multi-purpose. You can use it as a cleanser, exfoliant and mask. It's highly anti-inflammatory as this was my main focus when formulating this product. It can be blended with the Jasmine Synergy Cleansing Balm to act as a hydrating cleanser and used as a spot treatment on problem areas. Then the Rose Quartz Botanical Mist as it contains colloidal silver for its antibacterial properties followed but the Sea Buckthorn and Star Lily Moisturiser. The Sea Buckthorn plant actually contains up to a massive 12 times the amount of Vitamin C in oranges, this makes it great for helping to brighten the skin and evening out pigmentation.
Is it necessary for women to check with their lead maternity carer before adopting a clean skincare routine when pregnant or breastfeeding?
If you are switching from products that contain a bunch of chemicals to a clean natural range of skincare then I don't believe so but if you are unsure it's always advisable to check with your lead maternity carer. Remember, we women have been birthing for eons and our bodies are perfectly designed to do just that, so trust it.