At Healthy Mom&Baby, we’re all about health. And just like you, we like to look good, too. So, when it came time to write about the lotions and potions we use on our skin, we asked women’s health nurse-midwife expert and ingredient advocate, Charlette Withers, CNM, RN.

Withers is passionate about why we need to care about the products we put on our skin: “What we put onto our skin is so important, because our skin is the gateway to what goes into our bodies and our system as a whole.”

Why should we be concerned about what ingredients are in our skin care products?

Withers: Knowing what ingredients are used, and what potential side effects those ingredients can cause can help us understand the issues and complications we have going on with our health and with our bodies.

Many skin care products contain endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemical compounds that can interfere with your body’s normal hormonal function. Some of these can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.

Oh, wow! You’re telling me my face cream can cause my baby to have birth defects?

Withers: Yes. Some of the ingredients can absolutely cause harm in that way, such as BPA and phthalates. There is also evidence that some ingredients may contribute to infertility and to early menopause.

What ingredients should we be concerned about?

Withers: Lead, for one. It’s very common in lipsticks. And you should also be on the lookout for formaldehyde, parabens, and PEG as well. They’re all common ingredients in beauty products.

What do we need to know to protect ourselves from hidden ingredients? We’re not ready to give up our lipstick, we like to look good!

Withers: Me neither! What you need to do is choose products that are as clean as possible. What I mean when I talk about clean beauty is products that are void of anything harsh or toxic like those ingredients I just mentioned, as well as alcohols, hydroquinone, and synthetic flavors or fragrances.

But so many lip balms have flavors. I remember wearing cherry flavored lip gloss when I was a teenager. It makes me so sad to think that all that time I was putting something onto my lips that might have caused harm. How can we protect ourselves and our families? 

Withers: I highly recommend checking out Beautycounter’s The Never List™, which is a list of ingredients to watch out for. Another helpful tool is the Environmental Working Group’s EWG Healthy Living App, a free app that allows you to actively scan products at home or before you buy them. After all, knowledge is power, and power is beautiful!

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By Paris Maloof-Bury, MSN, CNM, RNC-OB, IBCLC


Paris Maloof-Bury, CNM, RNC-OB, IBCLC is a certified nurse-midwife and lactation consultant at Sutter Health in Davis, CA.

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